The Patriots were holding onto a slim 13-7 lead into the third quarter, and certaintly did have ample opportunities to build on that lead, but one key drop might very well have been the game changer and sealed their fate.
With the Patriots threatening on the Ravens 34-yard line, Tom Brady lofted a pass to Wes Welker, an easy catch, not like his Super Bowl drop last year. It was 3rd and 8; the catch would've kept the drive alive, well past the 1st down marker. The ball hit him right in his hands and then out of them, falling to the ground for a mind-boggling incompletion.
So long two score advantage, hello punt team. Their decision to punt while deep in Ravens territory is admittingly a head scratcher from a coach with one the league's biggest cajones when it comes to situations like that. But as they say, it is what it is.
The Ravens then took the ball and the lead, marching 72 yards down the field, capping it off with a 5-yard Dennis Pitta touchdown.
“It was just a missed opportunity,” Welker said via the Boston Globe.
In Welker's defense, he was the victim of a Bernard Pollard helmet-to-helmet hit three plays earlier, but Welker isn't making excuses, saying he was fine after the hit.
“Obviously they’re a good defense. They have good rushers, good defensive backs, good linebackers, so across the board they’re tough,” he said. “It’s always hard, you put a lot into it, all year-round, and you want to finish strong. We just didn’t do it.”
So Welker finishes his 2012 season under the franchise tag and faces uncertainty in the offseason. When asked about the possibility of the game being his last time in a Patriots uniform, he responded “I’m really not worried about it at all. It’s a tough loss, and [I’ll] just try to get over it at the moment.”