FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It had not been a particularly sterling game for Patriots cornerback Sterling Moore.
But New England is heading back to the Super Bowl, and Sterling Moore had a hand in sending the Patriots to Indianapolis, courtesy of their nail-biting 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game in Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
Moore, an undrafted rookie, actually had a large hand in the dramatic win, as in his right hand, which he used to punch the ball out of the grasp of the Ravens’ Lee Evans in the end zone with 27 seconds left.
And while the Patriots ultimately survived because Baltimore’s Billy Cundiff hooked a potential game-tying 32-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining, it was Moore’s play that ensured New England would, at the very least, remain alive heading into overtime.
The big play not only helped propel the Pats into Super Bowl XLVI, but it also provided a little redemption for Moore, who missed a tackle in the open field, allowing Torrey Smith to get away and scamper into the end zone for a 29-yard scoring strike in the third quarter that gave the Ravens their first lead, at 17-16.
For a second, he thought Evans had scored the winning touchdown on a 14-yard strike from Joe Flacco on second down.
“I definitely thought he caught the ball,” admitted Moore. “But I just tried to get my hand in there and get the ball out. That’s what we’re always doing in practice and in games. I just kept fighting, trying to get the ball out as good as I could. I’m always going to try to scratch at the ball until the whistle blows.
“It wasn’t in my mind to slap the ball out (as the play was unfolding), it was just a split-second decision and I’m glad it worked out. We do that drill (stripping the ball) every day in practice but it was the first time I had to use it in a game. I just took what I learned in practice into the game,” added Moore.