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Ending kills Ravens

FOXBOROUGH — Perspective takes some time.

The Ravens could've thought about where they were four months ago — at the eye of one of the messiest storms the NFL has ever weathered — and where they were — a long shot in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs that had squeezed every last heartbeat out of a Patriots team that was again a favorite.

But after a 35-31 loss Saturday at Gillette Stadium, it was impossible to process immediately.

"We'll do that tomorrow," said Ravens defensive back Lardarius Webb. "We'll get together and kind of reminisce on the whole season and say, 'Look, we started here, but look where we finished.' But now it's kind of sad."

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There were too many plays to re-run in their minds.

The two fumbles the Patriots coughed up but the Ravens couldn't come up with. The trick play from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown.

The last-play Hail Mary from Joe Flacco that was batted in the air and hung painfully out of Torrey Smith's reach.

They could still see all their chances.

"A couple of guys feel like they gave up some plays, not feeling good," Webb said. "So we're just going to take it in. We know we fought our butts off, but it hurts just coming into Foxborough and taking an L. Great team, but we were supposed to win this game."

Even as a team that sneaked into the playoffs as a wild card, the Ravens came into Gillette with a justifiable belief that they were a threat.

They were 2-1 in Foxborough in the postseason and the last time they were here they punched their ticket to the Super Bowl in 2012.

"We're not scared to play anywhere," Smith said. "Just like we wouldn't expect them to be scared to come into Baltimore. That just comes with the game."

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When they marched down the field carving the Patriots up yard by yard on two straight touchdown drives to start the game, history was on their side.

Joe Flacco hit Kamar Aiken for a 19-yard score, then found Steve Smith for a 9-yard touchdown that hushed the crowd as quickly as possible. The Patriots never had climbed out of a hole bigger than 11 points in a playoff game.

When Brady responded by running one in himself from 4 yards, then hitting Amendola for a 15-yard score, the Ravens expected it, even if history said different.

And when the Ravens threw the Patriots back into a two-score ditch, going up, 28-14, on Flacco's fourth TD pass, and the Patriots came back again, the Ravens expected nothing less.

"You've got to give credit to them," Flacco said. "They have a good offense. These guys have been doing that for years. They don't panic, they just play the game and just keep at it, keep at it."

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco walked off the field during Saturday’s game.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco walked off the field during Saturday’s game.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

They had been in too many battles with the Patriots before.

"They've been a good team for a long time, so have we," Flacco said. "Since I've been a part of it, we've both had a lot of good players and a lot of talent and we've met in a lot of important games. It's a good matchup, we enjoy it. We're good teams facing off against each other in an important game and I think everybody steps up and brings their best and it makes for a good football game."

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The Ravens left the door open late, when a fourth-quarter drive stalled and all they could get was a 25-yard field goal from Justin Tucker for a 31-28 lead.

Brady put together the kind of drive that's been his calling card throughout his career, marching 74 yards in 10 plays and connecting with Brandon LaFell for a 23-yard score.

The Ravens found themselves in a situation where the big play was the only one they had left.

"At the end of the game, when you're trying to go take a lead and win a football game, you've got to do what you can to put the points on the board when you get a chance to do it," Flacco said.

On second and 5 from the New England 36 with 1:46 left, Flacco saw a new corner lined up on Torrey Smith, and knew he had a matchup he wanted. He spotted a safety cheating over, but he thought he might be able to sneak the ball in to steal some points and, in the process, the game.

"So I took my shot."

He fired the ball deep, so deep that it outran Smith. Patriots defensive back Duron Harmon camped under it. All Smith could do was throw himself at Harmon in the hopes that he'd knock the ball loose. But he couldn't.

The interception all but sealed it.

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Any immediate reflections would be brief, flashes of appreciation wafting through a room where a team was packing its season back into its bags before these players thought they would.

"It's definitely tough after losing a game like this," Flacco said. "But I couldn't be more proud to be on this team and to be in there with that group of guys.

"You get back in there [in the locker room] and you realize that this season has come to an end," Flacco said. "I think we fought all year, came together a bunch, did a lot of great things. We're not going to be there in the end, but we'll be back."


Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.