For the Baltimore Ravens, all was somber and dreary as they left Gillette Stadium defeated and weary.
As night blanketed the New England sky, Ray Lewis and company must have felt lost in a bad dream which bordered on the surreal.
Indeed, the game had unfolded nicely for the Ravens, laying a path for a fairytale ending that would have resulted in a trip to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI.
But in a bizarre play of events, the Ravens lost a game that, on paper, looked like a victory.
Consider this: the Ravens offense had more total net yards (398) than the Patriots offense (330). Stephen Gostkowski, not Rob Gronkowski, was the Pats' biggest offensive weapon. And Tom Brady had more rushing touchdowns (one) than passing (zero).
Finally, to top off the strangeness of the night, Joe Flacco and Tom Brady had identical completions and attempts (22 of 36), with Flacco coming out ahead (at least statistically) with two touchdown passes to Brady's goose egg.
Yes, this was a game that the Ravens wanted, yet were unable to capture due to the return of an unwelcomed guest—the Patriot Way.
The Patriot Way is best described as a system where all parts work toward a common goal. Through the synchronized movement of all of pieces, the Patriot body can win in a multitude of ways.
Although the Patriot Way had been waylaid the past few years by misguided organizational ambitions, it surfaced in full regalia against the Ravens in their AFC championship matchup.
It was Brady diving over the line to score a touchdown.
It was Brandon Spikes making a crucial interception of Flacco.
It was Vince Wilfork forcing the Ravens out of field-goal range.
And it was Sterling Moore knocking the ball out of Lee Evans' hands in the end zone.
Therefore, before the heavy beating of Billy Cundiff's tell-tale heart foretold a shank, the return of the Patriot Way made victory possible.
So, as the Ravens walked slowly through the locker room door, the Patriot Way whispered into their ears, "You will play—nevermore."