for this game

Brady keeps Patriots' unbeaten season alive

Dec 4, 2007 - 6:14 AM BALTIMORE (Ticker) -- Tom Brady added to his legacy, earned a spot in the history books and kept alive his team's bid to do the same.

Brady threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds to play as the New England Patriots kept their undefeated season alive with a pulsating 27-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday.

"I saw Jab (Gaffney) out of the corner of my eye and just laid it up there," Brady said. "I told him it was the best catch of his career. It was a (heck) of a time to do it."

The dramatic finish allowed the Patriots to become only the sixth team in history to start a season with a 12-0 record. The last team to do it was the Indianapolis Colts in 2005.

Taking over at their own 27-yard line with 3:30 to play, the Patriots drove 73 yards for the winning touchdown, twice converting a pair of bizarre fourth-down plays.

It was the 21st game-winning drive led by Brady since 2001 - a league high - and came on a night when the two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player became just the fourth quarterback in league history to throw 40 touchdowns in a season.

One week after rallying in the fourth quarter to overcome the Philadelphia Eagles, 31-28, New England was pushed to the limit by the inspired Ravens, who outplayed the Patriots for most of the night in a game played in gusting, swirling winds.

"That's the way it is every week in the NFL," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "The teams we play, we expect to get their best and we expect to be our best. That's what we prepare for.

"This is the third time in four weeks that we've come from behind in the fourth quarter. It wasn't perfect. I was proud of the way they played when it was on the line."

Brady finished a mere 18-of-38 for 257 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but he showed his mettle when it counted - helped greatly by a couple of gaffes by the Ravens, who endured their sixth consecutive loss.

The Ravens seemingly had the game won when they stuffed Brady on a 4th-and-goal with 1:48 to play, only to have the play negated when Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called a timeout just before the snap.

"We didn't feel like we were in the right configuration," Ravens coach Brian Billick said in explaining the timeout. "We felt we needed a better (defensive) call."

After Brady scrambled 17 yards on 4th-and-6 to keep the Patriots moving, the Ravens again looked to have ended it when Brady's fourth-down pass in the end zone fell incomplete. This time New England was saved by a defensive holding call in the end zone on cornerback Jamaine Winborne.

That gave the Patriots a 1st-and-goal at the 8-yard line with 50 ticks remaining and this time they converted, with Brady finding Gaffney in the left corner of the end zone.

"It was a long drive, which came down to third and fourth downs," Brady said. "We executed when we needed to. A lot of those calls definitely helped us out. It was a great game and give credit to the Ravens. We made a lot of plays under pressure and that's what we need down the stretch."

Still, Baltimore (4-8) almost pulled out a stunning win when Mark Clayton pulled in a Hail Mary pass from Kyle Boller at the 2-yard line but was dragged down as time ran out.

"We lost. That's the bottom line," Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said. "There's no consolation in second place for us."

Willis McGahee rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries for the Ravens, who entered the game as 20-point underdogs, the biggest margin for a home team in league history.

It was the highest rushing total against the Patriots since McGahee ran for 136 yards as a member of the Buffalo Bills on October 30, 2005.

"We ran the ball very, very well against an outstanding football team," Billick said.

Boller was 15-of-23 for 210 yards, two TDs and one costly interception at the goal line with 10 1/2 minutes to play and the Ravens holding a 24-17 lead.

With the scored tied at 10-10 at halftime, the Ravens took the second-half kickoff and marched 73 yards in eight plays behind the running of McGahee, who rambled in from 17 yards for a 17-10 lead with 10:05 left in the third.

McGahee rushed for 48 yards on six carries on the drive and finished it by dragging a pair of would-be tacklers into the end zone.

"No doubt about it, we moved the ball running and passing," McGahee said. "(But) the loss takes away everything. We played our hearts out tonight, we had some bogus calls, but you know, it is what it is. It's tough."

Brady brought the Patriots back on the ensuing possession, completing all four passing attempts for 51 yards. He hit Randy Moss from 3 yards out to deadlock it at 17-17.

It was the 40th TD pass of the season for Brady, who became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to reach that milestone. Peyton Manning (2004) of the Indianapolis Colts, ex-St. Louis Rams QB Kurt Warner (1999) and former Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino (1984, 1986) are the others.

The Ravens stormed right back behind the running of McGahee and Musa Smith and forged ahead, 24-17, on Daniel Wilcox's 1-yard reception just 35 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Baltimore was on the move again on its next drive, but Boller was picked off at the 1-yard line by free safety James Sanders, who returned it 42 yards.

That led to a 38-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski that drew New England within 24-20 with 8:41 left to play.

"This was the first time all year we got bullied," Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said. "Tonight's game showed we have a lot of problems and we're going to look at film and make corrections before we play Pittsburgh."