<
>

Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the New England Patriots' 35-31 win over the Baltimore Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs:

What it means: Sensational game. These two teams usually bring out the best in one another, and this didn't disappoint. The Patriots fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter, then 28-14 in the third quarter, before roaring back. Tom Brady directed a 10-play, 74-yard, game-winning drive in the fourth quarter that culminated in a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell on an absolutely perfect throw down the left side, leading the receiver into the end zone. More Brady magic.

Trickery helped turn the tide: The Patriots had fallen behind 28-14 in the third quarter and used two forms of trickery to turn the tide. First, they ran a few formations with just four offensive linemen, declaring running back Shane Vereen and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui ineligible. That seemed to create some confusion for the Ravens' defense and fired up coach John Harbaugh, who was barking at the officials. That trickery sparked the touchdown drive to help the Patriots close to 28-21. Then came the razzle-dazzle, 51-yard touchdown pass from receiver Julian Edelman to fellow receiver Danny Amendola. Edelman's last pass attempt in either an NFL or NCAA game had come in a 24-21 win at Buffalo on Nov. 28, 2008. That game against Buffalo was not against the Bills, but the school.

Harmon unlikely hero: The defense was on its ropes for large stretches of this game, as the Ravens established the run and cashed in on three fourth-down gambles. But when a stop was needed late in the game, the unlikely hero was second-year safety Duron Harmon, who intercepted Joe Flacco on a poorly thrown ball in the end zone to seal the win.

Game ball: Amendola. With two touchdown catches -- one from Brady and the other from Edelman -- as well as a key third-down conversion on the game-winning drive, Amendola delivered maybe his best game as a Patriot.

Tough game for Revis: Cornerback Darrelle Revis, making his Patriots playoff debut, was on the wrong side of three key plays -- in coverage on Steve Smith's first-quarter touchdown, a pass interference penalty that ultimately led to a touchdown late in the second quarter and a defensive holding penalty that negated a strip sack and recovery late in the third quarter.

Injuries of note: Starting center Bryan Stork sustained a knee injury in the second quarter and didn't return. Cornerback Brandon Browner left the game in the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return.

Stat of note: Brady set the NFL record for postseason touchdown passes, with 46. The record had been held by Brady's boyhood idol, Joe Montana.

What's next: The Patriots advance to the AFC Championship Game, which will be played at Gillette Stadium at 6:40 p.m. ET next Sunday. The Patriots will face the winner of Sunday's game between the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos in Denver (4:40 p.m. ET).