The Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl after a thrilling 23-20 AFC Championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots survived a late Ravens drive deep into their territory that resulted in a Billy Cundiff missed 32-yard field goal. The Patriots head to their fifth Super Bowl in the past 11 seasons after the stunning win over the Ravens.
The Patriots came into the game on a roll offensively, but struggled mightily against the Ravens' staunch defense. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw two interceptions and zero touchdowns and admitted after the game that he sucked.
New England was able to overcome Brady's poor game due to an incredibly impressive performance by nose tackle Vince Wilfork and the rest of the defense. Wilford had one sack, three tackles for a loss and was consistently a force in getting into the Ravens backfield.
The defense came into the game with a much-maligned defense, but was able to match up well with the better-regarded Ravens defense. Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore came up huge at the end of the game when he knocked the ball out of Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans hands in what would have been a touchdown.
Evans would say postgame that he felt he let everyone down by allowing the ball to slip through his hands. The touchdown would have likely sent the Ravens to their first Super Bowl since 2000, but instead led to Cundiff's missed field goal.
The loss will be a tough pill for the Ravens to swallow. Embattled quarterback Joe Flacco played terrifically minus one bad interception, but it ended up not being enough to get the Ravens to Indianapolis on Feb. 5th for the Super Bowl. It's the Ravens second AFC Championship game loss in the last four years and the window to win is likely dwindling.
The Ravens defense continues to age -- Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are both on the way out soon -- and questions still remain whether Flacco can ever guide the organization to a championship.
New England will take on the winner of Sunday night's NFC Championship game between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants. The Patriots previously lost to the Giants in the 2007 Super Bowl.