FOXBORO -- Sterling Moore was in attendance for last year's Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas. But he was just a fan then.
In two weeks, the rookie will be playing in the big game, in large part because of his on-field play in Sunday's AFC Championship win over the Baltimore Ravens.
The story at Gillette Stadium was Billy Cundiff's missed 32-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left with 11 seconds remaining. But even if he had made the clutch kick, the game wouldn't have been over. It would have tied the game at 23-23, sending it to overtime.
It was Moore's heroic defensive efforts, prior to the missed kick, that truly saved the day.
Before the kick, Baltimore had the ball at New England's 14-yard line with one timeout remaining, and a chance to put it in the end zone for the win in regulation.
On 2nd-and-1, Flacco threw a perfect pass to Lee Evans in the back-right corner of the end zone. It hit Lee in the numbers, and looked as if he made the catch, which would have ended the game. But Moore quickly reacted by batting the ball out of Evans' hands, making for an incomplete pass, and bringing up a 3rd-and-1 from the 14.
"I saw him catch it," said Moore after the game. "Honestly, I saw him catch it, and I tried to do whatever I could to get the ball out. It was the first thing I did, so, I'm glad it worked.
"It wasn't even in my mind to slap the ball out. That was just a reaction."
That reactionary type of play came up again on the very next snap, as Flacco tried to find Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta with a throw to the right side, but that was also batted away by Moore, forcing the Ravens to attempt a game-tying 32-yard field goal.
We all know how that worked out.
If it wasn't for Moore's heroics in Baltimore's final set of downs, then it would be the Ravens celebrating a trip to the Super Bowl, not the Patriots.
"Sterling has done a good job or us here the last few weeks going back to the Buffalo game and then last week against Denver," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "He made some plays. Not perfect out there, but he competes hard and hes a tough kid. Hes got good ball skills. He gets around the ball."
Moore's game-saving plays showed that he was also able to put game-changing breakdowns behind him.
In the final minutes of the third quarter, Moore was beat by Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith after Smith caught a quick dump-off and spun up the right sideline. Moore couldn't make the tackle on Smith before he dove into the end zone, giving the Ravens their first lead of the game at 17-16.
"The biggest thing was just trying not to think about it," said Moore. "They just told me to put it behind you, and step up and make a play. And that's what I did."
And because of those big plays he eventually made up for his third-quarter mishap.
Moore entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent this season and was cut by the Oakland Raiders in late September. Now, he's one of the main reasons the Patriots are heading back to the Super Bowl.
"It shows just the mental toughness that he has, personally," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo. "He comes out every day and goes to work, and tries to show the coaches what he's capable of doing. He showed it today."
"Just the season that I've had, just to do it at this stage, is huge," said Moore. "Proving to everybody else that, you know, I can make these plays. I'm glad the Patriots gave me the opportunity. I deserve to be out there.
"I'm very fortunate, very blessed to be here," said Moore. "When I was released from the Raiders, who knew that I would be picked up. Who knew what team, when. I'm just glad to be here and have the opportunity that coach Belichick gave me."
On Sunday, Moore returned the favor.