FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady got all the help he needed to get the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl.
Thank you, Billy Cundiff.
The Baltimore Ravens kicker missed a 32-yard field goal with 11 seconds left and the Patriots escaped with a 23-20 victory in the AFC championship game on Sunday.
Usually, vintage Brady doesn’t need much assistance in championship settings, but the Patriots much-maligned defense came through, and Brady’s 1-yard touchdown dive with 11:29 left proved to be the winning points.
“Well, I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us,” Brady said after throwing for 239 yards, with two interceptions and, for the first time in 36 games, no TD passes. “I’m going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple of weeks, but I’m proud of this team, my teammates.”
Brady waited out the final tense minutes on the sideline, and then celebrated with the rest of his team when Cundiff’s attempt went wide left.
The Ravens looked on in stunned horror.
Next up as the Patriots (15-3) chase their fourth Super Bowl trophy in Brady’s and coach Bill Belichick’s tenure in New England are the New York Giants,winners of Sunday’s NFC championship game.
The Super Bowl is Feb. 5 in Indianapolis.
On his touchdown, Brady took a huge hit from Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis, then emphatically spiked the ball as he walked away. Earlier, Brady showed his fire by barking at Lewis following a hard tackle on a 4-yard run.
Before Cundiff missed, the Ravens had a chance to go ahead two plays
earlier, but wide receiver Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone by backup cornerback Sterling Moore.
When Cundiff misfired, and the Patriots stormed off their sideline in celebration as the chilled crowd roared.
“It’s a kick I’ve kicked probably a thousand times in my career,” Cundiff said. “I went out there and didn’t convert. That’s the way things go. There’s really no excuse for it.”