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It's the morning after, or perhaps it's better to say that New England Patriots fans are mourning after a disappointing 33-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the NFL playoffs at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
The Ravens stunned the Pats and their fans with 24 points in the first quarter, which put the Pats in a hole that was just too deep.
"Probably physicality," said Mike Reiss, of ESPNBoston.com, when asked about the biggest factor in New England's loss. "On the first play of the game Ravens running back Ray Rice runs 83 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens totaled 234 rushing yards, and it's very unusual to see the Patriots get pushed around the football field like that."
Rice's opening-play punch rocked the Patriots, and set the tone for the afternoon.
"In the playoffs when you're playing at home, that's supposed to be an advantage," said Reiss. "They got the crowd all worked up, they had Wes Welker on crutches out for the opening coin toss. There was a lot of energy in the stadium and then, all of a sudden, it was like letting air out of the balloon. The place was dead."
Subsequently, the Patriots' play did nothing to revive the crowd, and Reiss indicated that such a performance started with Tom Brady.
"Let's start with the quarterback. This was probably [Brady's] worst performance of his career," said Reiss, noting that Sunday's game was the first time the Patriots lost a home playoff game since 1978. "Tom Brady had a couple of costly mistakes, interceptions, early in the game."
Head coach Bill Belichick was more expansive in his post-game criticism.
"There really isn't much to say," said Belichick. "They were the better team today. They outscored us, outplayed us. They did everything better than we did. That's why they're moving on."
Also after the game, it was reported that former Patriot and current Ravens receiver Kelley Washington shouted, "the era is over" on the field.
"The Patriots have fallen back to the pack," Reiss said, somewhat agreeing with Washington. "The idea of them being the elite team from 2007 when they were going through that undefeated season — the magical season — those days are obviously over. But when you look around the National Football League, it's clear the Patriots are still one of the top teams in a third of the league. And now they need to make some tweaks. Every team goes through changes and the Patriots are going to have their fair share of them as well."
For the fans who witnessed the blowout in Foxborough, it was a long afternoon.
"A lot of people were leaving early," said one fan. "You never see that at a Patriots game, for sure. It's a sad day for Patriots nation; we're so sad. It's an embarrassment... I just want to go home. I'm cold and tired."
This program aired on January 11, 2010.
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