FOXBOROUGH, Mass. >> Tom Brady’s pass deflected high into the air before floating gently downfield and into the arms of Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
The ball — and the rematch — went to the Ravens.
A year after the New England Patriots took advantage of a dropped touchdown and a missed Baltimore field goal to advance to their fifth Super Bowl in 11 seasons, the Ravens held on for a 28-13 victory on Sunday in the AFC championship game.
“You have the opportunity to win the game and we came up short,” Brady said. “There’s frustration in that we wish we could have done better. But they’re not going to give it to you. We didn’t earn it; they earned it. They played a good game.”
The Ravens and Patriots also met in the 2010 wild-card round, when Baltimore won 33-14. Last year, the Patriots won when Lee Evans dropped a potential game-winning touchdown in the end zone with 27 seconds left and then missed a 32-yard field goal that would have forced overtime.
“It seems like every year, it’s us and them always fighting at the end,” Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. “You’re looking at two good organizations, two good football teams, so I’m not going to downplay them one bit. They’re a great football team. You know, the best team won tonight.”
The Patriots took a 13-7 lead on a 25-yard field goal right before the half, but Baltimore took advantage of injuries that depleted the New England pass defense to outscore New England 21-0 in the second half.
Joe Flacco, who had just 81 yards passing at halftime, led Baltimore on a 10-play, 87-yard drive in the third quarter to take the lead. He then added a pair of touchdown passes to Anquan Boldin on back-to-back possessions to start the fourth.
Brady led New England down the field, completing six of seven passes in one stretch, before three straight incompletions turned the ball over on downs. After forcing a three and out, Brady connected with Wes Welker for a 36-yard catch-and-run, but his next pass was tipped into the air by lineman Pernell McGee.
Ellerbe waited for it to come down and then cradled it in his arms as he went voluntarily to the turf, surrounded by a pair of celebrating teammates.
Baltimore ran 41⁄2 minutes off the clock — while gaining just 27 yards — before punting the ball back to the Patriots with 2:05 left to play. Brady brought New England to the Baltimore 22 before his pass into the end zone was intercepted by Cary Williams with 66 seconds left.
“Everybody just stuck together and stayed positive and continued to play the way we normally do,” Williams said. “Eventually, Tom Brady made a couple of mistakes and we were able to capitalize on them.”