The New England Patriots held on desperately to a three-point lead as the Baltimore Ravens closed in on the end zone in the waning seconds of the AFC Championship game. Then after making a play to deny a sure touchdown two plays earlier, the Patriots celebrated wildly after Baltimore kicker Billy Cundiff pulled the game-tying field goal attempt wide left, sending the Patriots to Indianapolis with a 23-20 win and another AFC championship.
Sweet schadenfreude for Cleveland Browns' fans not interested in ever seeing the rival Ravens reach another Super Bowl.
As expected, this hard-fought game was close throughout as both teams took turns with the lead. Baltimore appeared to have control of the game late in the third quarter but couldn't quite take advantage of the situation to put the game away. After taking a 17-16 lead, New England kick returner Danny Woodhead fumbled the ensuing kickoff. After the ball escaped the grasp of several Patriots, the Ravens recovered at the New England 28 yard line.
The Patriots defense stiffened and eventually forced the Ravens to settle for a 39-yard Cundiff field goal to go up 20-16. That would not be enough as Tom Brady took the ball on the next possession and moved the Patriots down the field before punching it in himself from the one-yard line.
After the teams swapped turnovers and possessions a couple of times, the Ravens were left at their own 21-yard line with just 1:44 remaining in the game. Quarterback Joe Flacco went to work connecting with Anquan Boldin four times to put the Ravens inside the red zone with two shots at a game-winning touchdown.
For a split second, it appeared the Ravens were headed to Indy when Flacco laid a pass in the arms of receiver Lee Evans in the end zone. But before Evans could get his second foot on the ground, New England defensive back Sterling Moore knocked the ball out of the loose grasp of Evans.
After Flacco couldn't find any options on third down, the game was left to Cundiff to extend into overtime, but his snap-hook kick ended Baltimore's season in an instant and set off a celebration on the New England sidelines.