Ravens, Patriots engage in classic

FOXBOROUGH -- Sunday's game between the Patriots and Ravens was one to appreciate: two top teams going toe to toe in a pad-crunching clash that had a little bit of everything.

Just when it seemed one team was taking control of the action -- boom! -- the momentum shifted.

It opened with a special teams turnover. Soon after, the offenses were controlling the action. Then the defenses flexed their muscles.

Mix in three roughing-the-passer penalties, one crucial, confusing replay review, three high-stakes fourth-down plays, a scary moment in which Ravens left tackle Jared Gaither was carted off the field, and a dramatic final drive that ended with a dropped pass, and it's no wonder the 68,756 who packed Gillette Stadium stayed until the clock flashed 0:00, and the sight of red break lights on a jam-packed Route 1 lit up the night hours after the Patriots' thrilling 27-21 victory.

"You couldn't ask for a better game," said Ravens receiver Derrick Mason. "Two very good teams just went out there and battled. One team takes the early lead. The other team comes back and fights. It was just one of those ebb and flow games."

"I am sure the NFL and the fans loved it," added Ravens defensive lineman Trevor Pryce. "The only people that are unhappy about this game are the guys in this locker room."

When such remarks are coming from the losing locker room, one that had players questioning some officiating calls, it's telling.

The feeling was mutual from the Patriots' perspective.

"I like blowouts a lot more, but when you win these kinds of games and look back on it, you appreciate the way things went and how both teams kept fighting to get into it," said left guard Logan Mankins.

"I appreciate it now," coach Bill Belichick added with a smile. "I don't know if I appreciated it then. It was a heck of a game -- hard hitting, tough, and physical."

The slugfest that unfolded over three hours, 26 minutes hit a turning point midway through the third quarter.

That's when Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, one of the toughest players in the NFL, stormed past Patriots left tackle Matt Light and rocked quarterback Tom Brady. The ball came free and when defensive lineman Dwan Edwards recovered it in the end zone, the Ravens had closed to 17-14 and had new life.

Suggs single-handedly changed the complexion of the game.

"You don't get the type of money he got by being an average guy," Mankins said. "He can make a lot of plays like that."

From there, two great teams slugged it out in what was a treat for the football-loving fan.

"Both teams played their hearts out," Ravens safety Ed Reed said. "They have great coaches over there, we have great coaches over here, and there are great players on both sides of the field. So that's what you expect."

After the Suggs turnover, the Patriots answered with a quick touchdown, making it look easy in covering 79 yards in six plays. The Ravens responded with their own touchdown, making it look just as easy in covering 80 yards in seven plays.

The Patriots then tacked on a field goal to make it 27-21, before coming up with a big stop of fourth down to get the ball back with a chance to run out the clock.

But the Ravens wouldn't go down that easily, rising up on defense to force a three-and-out. They got the ball at their 20 with 3:32 remaining, and had one timeout.

At one point, it looked like the last team that had the ball might win. If not for a Mark Clayton dropped pass on fourth-and-4 inside the Patriots' 10, the Ravens might have.

"I got open and just dropped the ball," Clayton said. "We gave ourselves an opportunity to win [and it was a] flat-out drop. It cost us the game."

A great game it was.

Mike Reiss is the Patriots blogger for ESPNBoston.com. You can reach Mike by leaving a message in his mailbag.