New England Patriots logoNew England Patriots

Tom Brady and 5 Players Most Responsible for New England Patriots' AFC Title Win

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on with teammates against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Kraig LundbergAnalyst IIIJanuary 28, 2012

After beating the Baltimore Ravens 23-20 in the AFC Championship game, the New England Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl yet again under quarterback Tom Brady.

The Patriots didn't win the game how you would have expected, though.

The Patriots have won most of their games this year by outscoring the opponents with outstanding offense despite very shaky defensive play. Against the Ravens, however, Tom Brady did not have a great game through the air, completing 22 of 39 passes for 239 yards and two interceptions, and the defenders ended up being the heroes of the game.

Despite the efforts of both teams as a whole, there are three players who are most responsible for New England's triumph.

The first and most obvious is one Billy Cundiff, the Ravens' kicker that missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game into overtime. Cundiff reportedly received death threats for the miss, which is altogether unnecessary and ridiculous, but the bottom line is that kick has to be made in that situation.

Still, if Ravens receiver Lee Evans hadn't dropped a touchdown pass just a couple of plays earlier to secure a win for the road team, Cundiff never would have had to be put in that pressure situation. As much as Evans needed to make that catch, credit young defensive back Sterling Moore for coming up big and knocking the ball out as Evans was trying to secure it.

Another player who deserves a ton of credit is defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who was plowing into Baltimore's backfield all day and was a big reason why Ray Rice had just 67 yards on 21 carries. Wilfork finished the game with six total tackles and a sack.

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots dives into the end zone to score a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Mas
Elsa/Getty Images

Despite all of those efforts, though, the biggest reason for New England's win was Tom Brady.

Brady may not have had a great day passing, but the bottom line is, he is the one player that holds this team together. New England without Tom Brady is like Indianapolis without Peyton Manning (and we all know how that worked out for the Colts this year). Brady is a fighter, and despite his off passing day, he helped keep his team in the game and even put his health on the line by somersaulting over the pile to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 4th-and-goal.

So blame Cundiff and Evans, credit Moore and Wilfork; they all ultimately deserve that much. But would the Pats have won this game without Brady? I doubt it. I guess that's why he has three rings.

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
get the App on the App Storeget the App on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices