Patriots fall flat against Super Bowl-bound Ravens
FOXBOROUGH, Massachusetts (Reuters) - The New England Patriots tasted defeat for the first time at home when a Super Bowl berth was on the line and had no excuses after the 28-13 thumping at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Patriots entered Sunday's title game with an imposing 7-1 record in conference championship tilts, including a 4-0 mark at home but came up short.
"Obviously a disappointing end to an overall pretty positive season," said New England coach Bill Belichick, whose team won the AFC East title with a 12-4 record. "Tonight we just didn't do enough things well enough to win. Give the Ravens credit.
"I don't think anything was really as good as it needed to be tonight. (We) gave up too many points, didn't score enough. I'd say we probably came up a little short in every area."
Baltimore turned the tables on the Patriots, who led 13-7 at halftime before a 21-0 second-half whitewashing silenced the Gillette Stadium home crowd.
"I think we obviously didn't play very well and if you don't play very well against a good team, it's not even very competitive," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said.
"It's unfortunate. We just couldn't make any critical plays when we needed to,"
Brady achieved a personal milestone as his 320 yards passing moved him past Brett Favre into first place on the NFL's all-time list for passing yarding in the postseason, with 5,949.
"We just couldn't string enough good plays together to get the ball in the end zone," added Brady, who had to stitch together short passing plays given a lack of deep threats with dangerous tight end Rob Gronkowski out with broken forearm.
"They're a good defense and they kept the pressure on and we just didn't really stand up to the challenge."
"We felt pretty good about where we were at halftime, but we just didn't come out in the second half and execute very well," said Brady, who threw a pair of second-half interceptions and whose running back Stevan Ridley lost a fumble.
New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, a five-time Pro Bowler, tried to be philosophical in defeat, but his burning competitiveness shone through.
"Somebody has to win and lose," Wilfork said. "Tonight we just didn't make enough plays. They made more plays than we did.
"It's very disappointing, but we have a hell of a team. We know what it takes to win," added the beefy defensive lineman, whose team had reached five of the previous 11 Super Bowls.
"We're going to fight our tails off in the offseason. We're going to get back to playing the way we want to play. We'll be back here."
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Julian Linden)