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Ravens vs. Patriots: 5 Things We Learned from Baltimore's 23-20 Loss

Raj PrashadCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2012

Ravens vs. Patriots: 5 Things We Learned from Baltimore's 23-20 Loss

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    The Baltimore Ravens lost in heartbreaking fashion to the New England Patriots, missing a chip-shot field goal, which would have tied the game with 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

    Baltimore failed to convert three separate opportunities in the final five minutes of the game, all ending inside the Ravens' 40-yard line.

    Ahead are five things we learned from Baltimore's emotional 23-20 loss Sunday afternoon.

Three Failed Drives Hampered Baltimore's Comeback Attempt

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    The Ravens drove the field three separate times in the final five minutes of the game, but couldn't convert a score on any of those attempts.

    Baltimore did exactly what it wanted to do, running clock in the fourth quarter as they drove the field, attempting to make the go-ahead score and keeping quarterback Tom Brady off the field.

    The Ravens pushed the ball down the field, running seven minutes off the clock as they moved past the 50-yard line. Flacco attempted to squeeze the ball in between New England linebackers to tight end Ed Dickson, but the ball was picked off by Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. 

    Tom Brady gave the ball back almost immediately, but the Ravens offense couldn't take advantage. Baltimore got inside the 35, but a minus-3-yard run on third down by running back Ray Rice led to a a failed fourth-down conversion.

    The Ravens would get one more shot at taking the lead with 1:44 left in the game. Anquan Boldin had three huge receptions, moving Baltimore into scoring position. Following a dropped touchdown by Lee Evans, kicker Billy Cundiff shanked a 32-yard kick that would have surely sent the game into overtime.

Baltimore's Defense Smothered Brady All Afternoon

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    You have to feel for the Ravens defense, who once again played lights out, but were unable to walk away with the victory and a trip to the Super Bowl. 

    Quarterback Tom Brady completed 22-of-36 passes but threw two picks and zero touchdowns. The Baltimore defense held the Patriots to two touchdowns, both rushes, and did not allow any fourth-quarter points. 

    Ray Lewis and Ed Reed have to be shaking their heads after such a close loss, but we'll get to them later.

Joe Flacco Didn't Lose the Game, but He Didn't Win It Either

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    Joe Flacco out-dueled Tom Brady, but somehow walked away with the loss.

    The Delaware product completed 22-of-36 passes, the same exact numbers as Brady, but had 306 yards passing, two touchdowns and one interception. 

    When the Ravens offense needed Flacco the most, he failed to produce. 

    Obviously the fourth-quarter interception hurt Baltimore's drive, but the turnover on downs sequence is where Flacco really struggled. 

    After losing three yards on a Ray Rice run, the Ravens were stuck at 4th-and-6 at the New England 33-yard line.

    With an opportunity to take the lead, Flacco dropped back and was pushed out of the pocket. Ray Rice looked to be open, running a flat route to the outside with the middle of the field open. Instead of trying to check down, Flacco threw an off-balanced throw across his body to the other side of the field, thus throwing the ball out of bounds and turning the ball over.

    The fourth-year quarterback played a solid game and should receive little criticism on a day when his running back, receiver and kicker failed to produce. 

Baltimore Found a Perfect Complement Receiver to Anquan Boldin

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    The lone bright spot in Baltimore's loss is rookie Torrey Smith's emergence as a go-to receiver.

    Smith has had an off-and-on year, producing one game, then disappearing the next. 

    The first-year player out of Maryland stepped up in a big way when the Ravens needed him the most. Smith caught three passes for 82 yards including a 29-yard pass-and-catch, which led to his acrobatic, diving touchdown.

    Lee Evans ended up not being the answer as a No. 2 receiver behind Anquan Boldin, but Smith's speed and catching should push him right into that position.

Could It Be the End of the Road for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed?

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    Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are two staples of the Baltimore Ravens defense.

    They are iconic figures to that organization, but after getting so close, their careers might be coming to a close. 

    Ed Reed, the ball-hawking safety from the U (University of Miami), considered retiring in 2010 after a heart-breaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but returned in hopes of getting the Super Bowl title that has eluded him throughout his career. He came back for the previous two years, but is on the tail end of his career and has struggled staying healthy.

    Ray Lewis, the smash mouth linebacker in the middle, has his ring, but wanted one more before hanging up his cleats. Lewis missed four games this season with injuries as well, but played at an extremely high level in the AFC Championship, registering 12 tackles. 

    If this is the last we've seen of the two veteran leaders, we should be considered lucky to have been able to watch these two defensive forces over the past 10 years.

    UPDATE: 

    According to ESPN.com, Ray Lewis will return for his 17th season.

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