Fourth quarter, 7:19: Stephen Gostkowski missed a 44-yard field goal wide to the right, eliminating the always-fun-to-watch onside-kick marathon to close this thing out.
Fourth quarter, 9:00: When all else fails, start a “Yankees suck” chant. That’s what the fans sitting beneath me have done.
Ravens 33, Patriots 14. Fourth quarter, 10:32: Don’t call it a comeback. Willis McGahee’s touchdown run has basically put this game out of reach, and the crowd is scrambling for the exits at Gillette. Put it this way. The Ravens did everything right in the first quarter, and it still took them 11:05 to put up 21 points. After watching the Patriots’ offense work in the game’s first 50 minutes, I can’t forecast any possible scenario in which they find a way to put up a 21-spot before the conclusion of this one.
Fourth quarter, 12:05: Interesting events going on here. Joe Flacco scrambled to his left on third down and was originally ruled out of bounds one yard shy of the first down. After the challenge, the Ravens were rightfully granted an extra yard, which placed the ball at the New England 6-yard line. Wouldn’t that mean the Ravens had already won the challenge? Apparently, that’s not so. Once the officials measured and awarded a first down, the Ravens successfully won the challenge. Seems a little strange to me, but it’s basically a moot point anyway.
End of third quarter. The Ravens converted on another third down — they’re 6 of 11 in the game — and they’ve got a first-and-10 at the New England 36 to start the fourth quarter. With the cold air and wind, the Ravens would need about another 10 yards to get into good field-goal position, and the Patriots have no choice but to pitch a shutout in these final 15 minutes.
Ravens 27, Patriots 14. Third quarter, 1:47: Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for another one-yard touchdown pass, and the Patriots are within two scores for the first time since the first quarter. Brady finally had some time to stand in the pocket and throw the ball, and he took advantage of it. Baltimore’s next drive will be a telling one. The Ravens haven’t given Joe Flacco a chance to throw it all that much, but they could really use one of those time-consuming knockout possessions right here. Since the Pats have tightened up their run defense, the only way I can see Baltimore having an extended possession would be if it employs a more balanced attack.
Third quarter, 6:07: The Patriots announced Shawn Springs has a head injury, and he is not expected to return.
Ravens 27, Patriots 7. Third quarter, 6:18: Billy Cundiff kicked a 23-yard field goal to extend the lead. Let’s be real here. The only way the Patriots have a chance here is if the Ravens hire Jim Zorn to call their plays and trade for JaMarcus Russel in the middle of the game to play quarterback. Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron aren’t taking any chances with the offense, and I don’t blame them. Until Tom Brady proves he can move the Patriots down the field, there’s no need for the Ravens to do anything but hand it off to Ray Rice.
Third quarter, 9:49: Gillette Stadium needs that failure music from “The Price Is Right.” Tom Brady threw his third interception of the day, which counted as his fourth turnover, and the Ravens have the ball at the New England 22.
Third quarter, 11:38: The Ravens followed suit with a three-and-out of their own, and the Patriots get the ball at their own 14 after the punt. You know what’s scary? In terms of quarterback rating, Tom Brady is having a far superior day to Joe Flacco.
Third quarter, 13:11: Another three-and-out for the Pats’ offense, and Baltimore takes possession at its own 32-yard line. Snore.
Start of third quarter: The Ravens started the game with an 83-yard touchdown run from Ray Rice. Since, they’ve taken advantage of three Patriots turnovers, driving 17 and 25 yards for their two touchdowns and gaining zero yards before kicking a field goal. Since Rice’s long run, the Ravens have gained 73 yards on 31 plays (2.4 yards per play).
Halftime. The Ravens converted on a pair of third-and-2 runs, and Joe Flacco never threw the ball on the last possession. Baltimore erased the last 2:07 of the clock, and the Patriots are still staring in the face of a 24-7 deficit. New England gets the ball to start the third quarter, and it will need a serious turnaround from its offense in the final 30 minutes.
Keep in mind, the Patriots have been far worse in the second half in their six losses this season, so they’ll need to buck a few trends if they want to pull off an historic comeback. Their offense has already been ineffective, gaining just 61 yards in the first half. Tom Brady is 8 of 17 for 38 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and one fumble. He has yet to throw a ball in the direction of Randy Moss, who has seen a good amount of single coverage in this game. (I was mistaken. Moss has been credited with two targets on the stat sheet, so a mea culpa is in order.)
Second quarter, 2:07: The Patriots had the ball for 3:26 and only managed to gain six yards on their last series, and Bill Belichick made a surprising decision to punt the ball away on a fourth-and-12 at the Baltimore 38. He’s got to be figuring the Ravens are just going to try to run the ball to get into the locker room, and there’s no way Joe Flacco will be throwing the ball. If the Patriots can sell out to stop Baltimore’s rushing attack, they can get the ball back in good field position with enough time left due to their three timeouts. That’s the plan. Let’s see the execution.
Second quarter, 5:33: Man, Julian Edelman really knows how to spark a crowd. The rookie returned Baltimore’s punt 28 yards to the Ravens’ 44-yard line, breaking tackles and fighting for every yard. The video boards showed Wes Welker, who has since moved to the luxury boxes, clapping after the play. By the way, the Patriots’ defense is playing pretty well, and Joe Flacco has looked awful during his limited chances to throw the ball. If the Patriots’ offense can back them up and punch this ball into the end zone, this game won’t be over just yet.
Second quarter, 7:38: Another three-and-out for the Patriots, who are really struggling on offense. Tom Brady was short on a throw to Kevin Faulk, and the quarterback didn’t even see an open Randy Moss a little further down the field. The Ravens’ defensive pressure is rattling Brady, who threw off of his back foot and that led to the short hop. Baltimore takes over on its 25 after Chris Hanson’s punt.
Second quarter, 9:14: Joe Flacco badly missed an open Todd Heap, and the pass was tipped by Leigh Bodden and intercepted by Tully Banta-Cain at the New England 36-yard line. Heap was wide open, but Flacco’s pass had too much air under it, which led to the batted ball.
Second quarter, 11:18: Brandon McGowan was flagged for the second time on a special teams play (an earlier offsides call was declined) for a facemask that set up the Ravens at their own 39 on the kickoff.
Ravens 24, Patriots 7. Second quarter, 11:23: Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for a six-yard touchdown pass to inject some spirit into this crowd. But wow, the Patriots have to work for everything they get. Baltimore’s defense is suffocating, and Edelman’s nice catch saved Bill Belichick from being forced to amke a difficult fourth-down decision.
Second quarter, 14:08: Hey, there’s a little bit of life here. The Ravens muffed a punt, and it was recovered by Kyle Arrington at the Baltimore 15-yard line. This is the break the Patriots needed. Granted, they need about five more of them, but one is a start.
End of first quarter. The Patriots have a third-and-20 from their own 28-yard line on the other side of the break, and the fans’ boos are getting louder with each mistake. In other news, there is a Robert Edwards and Terry Glenn jersey in the stands beneath me.
Ravens 24, Patriots 0. First quarter, 1:19: Billy Cundiff kicked a 27-yard field goal to extend Baltimore’s lead. The Ravens have 24 points, while the Patriots have seven yards.
First quarter, 2:57: Tom Brady was intercepted by Ed Reed, and the Ravens get the ball to the New England 9-yard line. The only way the Patriots can save face for this one is if they returned the fans’ ticket money.
Ravens 21, Patriots 0. First quarter, 3:55: This is getting embarrassing. The running joke in the press box right now is how the Patriots encouraged fans to show up early for this game. Ray Rice scored from one yard out for his second touchdown of the game, and the Ravens are laughing their way to a victory.
First quarter, 6:49: All of those season-ticket holders who didn’t buy playoff seats are breathing a sigh of relief right now. Tom Brady threw a terrible pass that got intercepted by Chris Carr and returned to the Pats’ 25. Carr was one of about three Ravens who had a chance to intercept the pass intended for Sam Aiken.
First quarter, 8:10: New England’s defense held up, and the Patriots get the ball back at their own 14 after the Baltimore punt. Obviously, Bill Belichick isn’t overly thrilled with his team’s 14-point deficit, but he’s got to be really steaming with this poor special teams performance. So far, they nearly gave the ball away on a kickoff, surrendered a 34-yard punt return and then Brandon McGowan was flagged for offsides on the Ravens’ recent punt. The penalty was declined, though.
First quarter, 8:58: The Patriots went three-and-out and then allowed a 34-yard punt return. Baltimore has the ball at New England’s 42-yard line with a 14-0 lead. The Patriots have run six plays and have surrendered two sacks and a turnover. The Ravens have run six plays and have two touchdowns. The Gillette crowd just booed the home team as loud as they have at any point this season, including the Carolina game last month.
First quarter, 10:27: Someone might want to wake up the Patriots. The kickoff just bounced between Matt Slater and Darius Butler, and they had to dive on it and pray that they didn’t turn it over for the second time in the first five minutes.
Ravens 14, Patriots 0. First quarter, 10:29: Le’Ron McClain scored from one yard out to double Baltimore’s lead at Gillette. The Patriots have been outscored, 35-0, in the last 14:12.
First quarter, 13:14: From bad to worse for the Patriots. Terrell Suggs abused Matt Light on the corner, got to Tom Brady, forced a fumble and then recovered it. Baltimore takes over at the New England 17.
First quarter, 14:38: Darius Butler returned the kickoff to the Patriots’ 27-yard line, and the Patriots get their turn on offense. By the way, Ray Rice’s 83-yard run was the longest of his career, and it was the second longest in playoff history, falling shy to Fred Taylor’s 90-yard run against the Dolphins in 1999.
Ravens 7, Patriots 0. First quarter, 14:43: That’s not really the start the Patriots were looking for. Ray Rice ran 83 yards for a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage, bursting through a wide hole in the offensive line and easily juking past Brandon Meriweather, who was the only Patriot who even had a chance to make the tackle.
First quarter, 14:56: Jalen Parmele returned the kickoff to the Baltimore 17-yard line after a great tackle by Matthew Slater and Sam Aiken.
1:01 p.m.: Nicely played by the Patriots. Wes Welker was named an honorary captain and went to midfield for the coin toss. The Ravens called heads and lost the toss, and the Patriots elected to kick off to start the game. It’s playoff time.
12:57 p.m.: There was a flyover before the game, which is always a nice touch. The stadium video boards just showed Wes Welker standing with crutches on the sideline shaking hands with his teammates.
12:50 p.m.: The Patriots and Ravens are 12 minutes from kickoff here at Gillette. I just went outside for 15 minutes to meet up with some family, and I can’t believe how cold it is out there. I also just heard from a friend who is in line trying to get into the stadium, and he was told the line will take up to a half hour due to security checks. The stadium is about halfway full right now, and it probably won’t get much better until midway through the first quarter.
11:41 a.m.: Dan Connolly (ankle) is the only inactive Patriot who was listed on the injury report this week, and it’s the first time he’s missed a game since the season opener. Ron Brace is out for the eighth time this season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is out for the fifth time. Mark LeVoir and Thomas Williams are each out for the first time. Rich Ohrnberger is out for the third consecutive week and the 14th time this season. Isaiah Stanback is out for the third time, and Terrence Wheatley is missing his sixth straight game and 12th overall.
Leigh Bodden, Kevin Faulk, Laurence Maroney, Ty Warren, Ryan Wendell and Vince Wilfork are all back in the lineup after missing last week’s game in Houston.
11:34 a.m.: The Patriots have announced their inactive list, and there aren’t any real surprises on it. Defensive lineman Ron Brace, offensive lineman Dan Connolly, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, offensive lineman Mark LeVoir, offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger, wide receiver Isaiah Stanback, cornerback Terrence Wheatley and linebacker Thomas Williams are all out against the Ravens. I’ll provide more detail in a few minutes.
10:38 a.m.: It is downright frigid here at Gillette Stadium, and the wind certainly isn’t helping the matter. It’s probably fitting, though, as the only other game the Patriots have played on this date was six years ago, when they outlasted the Titans, 17-14, in a game played in sub-zero temperatures with the wind chill. While it won’t get that cold Sunday, this still won’t be a day at the beach for everyone on the field.
9:43 a.m.: It’s time for the playoffs, when players become legends and teams become dynasties.
The Patriots’ drive for a fourth Super Bowl this decade begins Sunday at Gillette Stadium, where the Baltimore Ravens are waiting. If the Patriots win, they’ll head to San Diego next weekend, while the Ravens are hoping a victory will take them to Indianapolis.
Expect an intense, hard-hitting brawl between the Patriots and Ravens, and the winner truly might be the team with the last man standing. Stay with NESN.com throughout the day for all of the Patriots-Ravens analysis we can possibly fit on the Internet.