BALTIMORE (AP) — The New England Patriots could have blasted the replacement officials, blaming them for some debatable calls at critical points in a see-saw game.
Instead, the Patriots mostly blamed themselves rather than a flurry of flags for a 31-30 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
"They made plays and we didn't, and that's what it came down to," safety Steve Gregory said. "In the end, we got to find a way to make a play to stop them and keep them from getting into field goal range to kick that ball. In the end, they just did a little bit better job than we did."
Ravens rookie Justin Tucker kicked a 27-yard field goal as time expired, creating a somber mood in the Patriots' locker room.
As the Ravens (2-1) rushed the field to celebrate Tucker's decisive kick, which barely squeezed inside the right upright, New England coach Bill Belichick ran to midfield and grabbed an official's arm as he tried to exit the field.
In his postgame meeting with reporters, Belichick deftly maneuvered around any questions that might lead to him criticizing the officiating crew, though it was clear he wasn't pleased.
"I'm not going to comment about that," he said when asked about his exchange at midfield. "You saw the game. What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?"
Actually 24 — including 14 against the Ravens.
Time and again, Belichick implored reporters to direct questions about the officiating to the officials.
"It's our job to control what we can control," he said. "Talk to the officials about the way they called the game. Talk to the league about the way they called it."
Much of the blame for the loss could be heaped upon a defense that yielded 503 yards.
"We didn't do what we needed to do to help our offense tonight," defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "And it (stinks), because coming into the game, I think we had a pretty good idea of how we wanted to play it. First quarter, it showed. It seems after that, we really couldn't get off the field. Offense played their tails off and we just left them out to dry. We can't do that."
The Patriots (1-2) led 13-0 after the first quarter and 30-21 with 14 minutes left before giving it away. Wilfork said the officials called a tight game, which made ii difficult for New England to employ its swarming defense.
"It's very frustrating," he said. "But can you do when you're an aggressive defense? It takes away from your aggressiveness, the things that you try to do."
Playing less than 24 hours after his younger brother died in a motorcycle accident, Baltimore wide receiver Torrey Smith scored two touchdowns and caught six passes for 127 yards. Only hours earlier, he wasn't even sure if he would suit up.
"It was tough. I didn't know until 4 o'clock if I was going to play," Smith said. "I only had like an hour of sleep. Emotionally, I didn't know how I was going to hold up."