FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - Lee Evans had victory in his hands. Billy Cundiff had a tie game on his toe.
Evans was stripped after briefly hauling in Joe Flacco's pass in the back right corner of the end zone and, two plays later, Cundiff pushed a 32-yard field goal attempt wide left in Sunday's AFC championship game. The New England Patriots won 23-20 and the Ravens ended their season disappointed but not disgraced.
"We're grinders," said linebacker Ray Lewis, wiping his face with a towel in the quiet Ravens locker room. "We're coming home and we're coming home with smiles. But, most importantly, when we start back training, we're coming back (ticked) off. Why wouldn't we be?"
Plenty of time to at least tie the score.
"I feel like I had it, but it came out," Evans said. "I don't know how to put it into words. Honestly, it's the most disappointing part of all of this that I feel personally that I let everybody down.
"It hit me right where you would want to be hit. It was a great pass by Joe and a play not completed by me. Nobody else can take the fault."
"Obviously, in that situation I thought they would look at it," he said, "but they didn't. I have not talked to anybody, didn't get a chance to, so I don't know what the explanation is on that."
On the next play, needing a yard for a first down, Flacco threw toward Dennis Pitta. Again, Moore made a late move to knock the ball away.
Still, there was a chance to send the game into overtime. And Cundiff had kicked field goals of 48 and 44 yards a week earlier in a 20-13 win over the Houston Texans. He had made 10 of 12 field goals between 30 and 39 yards this season.
Not this time.
On the Ravens sideline, jaws dropped and heads sank. There was a look of shock that such a dependable kicker had missed such a makeable kick.
"The timing was just a little off," Cundiff said. "I'm disappointed. I let my teammates down."
His teammates didn't think so. The kick was one of dozens of plays that affected the outcome.
"Not one play won or lost this game," Lewis said. "There's no
Oh, Billy's the fault. Billy missed the (kick).' There's no freakingBilly missed the kick.' It happened. Move on."
"If I'm not playing in it, it doesn't matter to me," he said. "No matter who wins, I lose."
But Flacco couldn't find an open receiver, throwing the ball away and giving the Patriots possession with 2:46 remaining. The defense forced a punt, and Flacco began his final drive of the season with 1:44 left, 79 yards from the end zone.
He completed five of seven passes before the oh-so-close toss to Evans.
And his pass to Evans was right on target. The celebration on Baltimore's sideline already had started.
"If you weren't celebrating, you weren't a Raven fan," said Lewis, dressed in a brown pinstripe suit after removing his uniform for the last time this season. "That's the irony of sports. It's a game of inches."
Inches that make all the difference between a chance for a championship and a promise for next season.
"We fell 15 seconds from having it," Suggs said, "so, please believe, it won't happen again."