Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - First, the win and a Super Bowl berth was knocked out of Lee Evans' hands. Then, Billy Cundiff pulled the Ravens' chance to tie the game wide left.
Baltimore couldn't capitalize on two good scoring chances in the final minute, and the New England Patriots held on for a 23-20 victory in Sunday's AFC Championship Game.
Tom Brady's diving touchdown on fourth down early in the fourth quarter was the decisive score, and helped the Patriots advance to Super Bowl XLVI. They will play the winner of the NFC title game between the Giants and 49ers on February 5 in Indianapolis.
New England advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2007 season, when the Patriots were 18-0 before losing to the Giants.
Baltimore was playing in its first conference championship since the 2008 season, when it lost to Pittsburgh. It hasn't advanced to the Super Bowl since winning XXXV to conclude the 2000 season, and Sunday's failure ensured the Ravens will head into the offseason stunned.
Baltimore players were already visibly stunned when Cundiff missed the 32- yarder with 11 seconds to play. Mouths agape, they seemed to be in disbelief that the offense didn't cash in on such a sure thing.
But in reality, while Cundiff's failure was the Ravens' last, it wasn't their only one. They had multiple chances to score after Brady dove head-first over the pile with 11:29 left in the game, giving the Patriots a 23-20 lead, but came up short each time.
On the drive immediately after Brady's touchdown, the Ravens drove into New England territory before Joe Flacco was intercepted by Brandon Spikes on a pass over the middle.
Baltimore's defense then got the ball right back thanks to an acrobatic play by its secondary. Safety Bernard Pollard stretched out to tip a deep throw by Brady, and cornerback Jimmy Smith snared the ball just before it hit the ground in the end zone, rolling over to ensure possession.
Again, the Ravens reached New England's side of the field, but the Patriots forced Baltimore into a 4th-and-6 and Flacco threw the ball away under pressure.
Baltimore had one final opportunity after the Patriots punted, taking over at its own 21 with under two minutes to play.
Flacco and receiver Anquan Boldin turned the possession into a promising one, hooking up four times for significant gains. The biggest play was a short pass that Boldin turned into a 29-yard gain with a run up the left sideline. Flacco went back to Boldin on the next play for nine yards, and the receiver fumbled out of bounds to give the Ravens the ball at the New England 14 with 27 seconds remaining.
But, then, it all fell apart.
Flacco threaded a pass to the right side of the end zone for Evans, who had the ball in his hands but couldn't secure it before Sterling Moore knocked it out.
Moore defended Flacco's next pass, a rushed throw to Dennis Pitta on third down. But Flacco could make that throw with Cundiff waiting to make a relatively easy kick, a kick well within his range. He made 18-of-21 kicks of 30-to-39 yards over the last two seasons, and had made field goals of 20 and 39 yards earlier in Sunday's contest.
But the snap came and the hold wasn't perfect -- the laces faced to the right -- and Cundiff's kick sailed wide of the left goalpost.