Curran: Patriots let their opportunity slip away

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Curran: Patriots let their opportunity slip away

FOXBORO You watch sports long enough, you see all the different ways in which games are won or lost.

There is the early-game torrent in which matters are decided within minutes of the anthem ending, and the stunning reversal in which a team has things secured only to fall prey to an onslaught of late-game heroics.

Sunday night? The procrastinators special.

The Patriots kept putting it off, putting it off, putting it off and biding their time. Then slowly, imperceptibly, momentum changed because of New Englands inaction and the realization struck that, oops, times up.

The Patriots didnt hand the Ravens this game. They handed a game to John Harbaughs brother, Jim, about a month ago with four turnovers that helped put them in a 31-3 hole they couldnt fully climb out of.

No, this AFC Championship loss was more about a failure to seize. And you could almost feel it building. A first quarter the Patriots dominated ended with them ahead 3-0.

Hmm. Not gonna get away with that all night. Better finish some of those drives and cash in on that outstanding field position.

Second quarter? The Ravens score and the restless shifting begins in earnest. An answering touchdown from Tom Brady to Wes Welker allays concerns and when the Patriots orchestrate the clock nicely to get the ball back near the end of the half, they are poised to go ahead 17-7.

And then they butcher two opportunities to stop the clock and preserve chances to fire at the end zone and they settle for a field goal. Its 13-7. A matter of time before they start to bust out? Sure. But with the Ravens starting their first half drives on their own 13, 10, 8, 10 and 14? Shoulda been more.

But the second half. After some tinkering in the locker room, you figured an offense that converted 48.7 of its third downs would get things straightened out.

The Patriots got the stop they needed after the second half kickoff and took over looking to go up 20-7. From their own 9 to the Baltimore 36 where they had first down. Two plays later they had third-and-8 from the Ravens 34 and wound up with linebacker Paul Kruger trying to cover Wes Welker. And Welker dropped the pass that hit his hands.

Another punt and then the reins came off of Joe Flacco. He carved up the Patriots back-seven that had -- to that point -- mitigated the loss of Aqib Talib. A touchdown drive made it 14-13, Baltimore, but the Patriots know how to close. They always close. And the Ravens would be exhausted from their marathon in Denver the week before. Just a matter of time.

Backed up in their own end, the Patriots converted a third down with Danny Woodhead. But a hold meant a do-over on third-and-12 and the Patriots couldnt convert that either.

A punt. Another Ravens drive. Another touchdown. And suddenly, it was 20-14. And all the missed chances, and all the great field position wasted started to loom large. Not to mention the knowledge that Baltimore had found itself offensively.

The inevitability of New England continuing to be what its been all year -- more resilient, more efficient, undaunted -- dimmed.

A touchdown to start the fourth for Baltimore. A fumble by Stevan Ridley on a knockout hit by Bernard Pollard. Another touchdown four plays later and it was 28-13.

Too late? Too late. The tide had turned and it was doing what the tide will do -- engulfing the Patriots.

Suddenly, a team that hadnt lost by double-digits since the 2010 season -- a span of 44 games -- was on the ropes and in trouble.

The realization took hold. The Patriots ship had sailed for 2012. All the versatility of their offense, all the efficiency had gone away on this day. The Patriots didnt seize the AFC Championship game when it was there for the taking. And the Baltimore Ravens did.

Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

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Affleck offers passionate Brady defense when asked about Deflategate

When the topic of Deflategate was broached on HBO's Any Given Wednesday with Bill Simmons, which debuted this week, Ben Affleck became all kinds of fired up.

"What they did was suspend Tom Brady for four days for not giving them his [expletive] cellphone," Affleck said. "I would never give an organization as leak-prone as the NFL my [expletive] cellphone . . . so you can just look through my emails and listen to my voicemails?"

Affleck grew up in Cambridge, Mass. and is a passionate Patriots fan. He made no attempts to hide his fandom, and his appreciation for Brady, as he and Simmons (also a Patriots fan) discussed the football-deflation controversy that has now lasted well over a year. 

Affleck, who said he would want to cast himself as Brady if ever a Deflategate movie was made, harped on the fact that the league wanted Brady to turn over his phone. 

"Maybe Tom Brady is so [expletive] classy and such a [expletive] gentleman," Affleck said, "that he doesn’t want people to know that he may have reflected on his real opinion on some of his co-workers."

Brady is waiting for the Second Circuit to make a decision as to whether or not it will rehear his case against the NFL. Earlier this offseason, the Second Circuit reinstated Brady's four-game suspension issued by the league when a three-judge panel ruled in favor of the NFL, 2-1. 

Pro Football Talk wrote on Thursday that a decision from the Second Circuit could come at any time. If the rehearding request is denied, Brady could then take the case to the Supreme Court. Should the Second Circuit grant Brady a rehearing, his suspension would be delaed until the court reached a decision. In that case, Brady could potentially play the entire 2016 season before a decision came to pass. 

Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

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Brady posts high school essay to Facebook on living in his sisters' shadow

Tom Brady wasn't always the most famous person in his family. Growing up, his sisters were the accomplished athletes in the household. 

For his latest Throwback Thursday style Facebook post, Brady published a pair of photos of an old high school essay that he wrote in the fall of his senior year in 1994. It was titled "The way my sisters influenced me."

I found an essay I wrote in 1994... I love my big sisters! #tbt. Thanks for the good grade Mr Stark!

Posted by Tom Brady on Thursday, June 23, 2016

In it, he discusses some of the difficulties of growing up with three older sisters and no brothers. Because Maureen, Julie and Nancy Brady had achieved so much in softball, basketball and soccer, Brady -- or "Tommy," as he signed his paper -- had trouble getting noticed. 

Of course, it wouldn't be long before Brady was headed from San Mateo, California to Ann Arbor, Michigan in order to play football for the Wolverines. He probably had no trouble garnering attention by then. Still, it's funny to read about how he felt overlooked in his youth. 

He closed the essay explaining that he knew his sisters would always provide him support throughout his life, adding, "hopefully, just maybe, one day people will walk up to them and say, 'Aren't you Tommy's sister?' or 'Hey where is your brother?' Maybe . . . "

If the Brady sisters didn't get those kinds of comments by the time the baby of the family was given an 'A' for his English assignment, it probably didn't take long before they did. About seven years later, he took over as the starting quarterback of the Patriots.