FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Not even the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year could bring the New England Patriots back from the deficit they faced yesterday.
Two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, seemingly poised for another postseason run after missing almost all of last season with a torn-up knee, threw three interceptions and also fumbled the ball away in a first-round playoff game against Baltimore as the Ravens opened a 24-point first-quarter lead en route to a 33-14 victory.
"We got off to a terrible start in the first quarter and never really got back into the game," Brady said. "Playing the way we played today, we weren't going to beat anybody."
The Patriots have now lost consecutive postseason games for the first time in the Brady era, a decade of dominance that included three Super Bowl titles and a 16-0 record in the 2007 regular season that was tainted only by a thrilling last-minute loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl.
But this year's run never got going.
Ray Rice ran 83 yards for a touchdown on Baltimore's first play from scrimmage, and three plays later, Terrell Suggs strip-sacked Brady deep in Patriots territory to set up another touchdown that made it 14-0 less than five minutes in.
"We got him a little bit. The main focus was to get him off his spot," Suggs said. "We didn't want him comfortable because he is one of the greatest in the game. We did a pretty good job."
A perfect 8-0 in the regular season at Gillette Stadium, where Brady had never lost a playoff game, the Patriots heard the hometown fans booing just six minutes in after they went three-and-out on their second possession and then gave up a 34-yard punt return.
On their next two possessions, Brady threw interceptions that led to 10 more Baltimore points.
"We made too many mistakes in the game to win, and that's obvious," coach Bill Belichick said when asked about Brady's performance. "We just didn't do very well as a team in any area."
Brady was 23-for-42 for 154 yards and two touchdowns. The three interceptions - two of them went off receivers' hands - tied a career playoff high; the other two times he was picked off three times, the Patriots won.
Brady suffered a season-ending injury in the first quarter of the first game last season, and the Patriots missed the playoffs despite an 11-5 record. Rumors swirled around him this year about broken fingers and ribs, but he declined to confirm them and noted he didn't miss any playing time because of injuries.
"I'm able to walk off the field - something I didn't do last year. That's a blessing for any player," he said, pointing out that receiver Wes Welker was hurt in the regular-season finale and was on the sideline on crutches yesterday.
"It certainly didn't keep me from playing, whatever my injuries are. I was able to play 16 games, and that's something I was proud to do," he said. "I think injuries are a bunch of bull. When you're out there playing, you've got to play at the level your team expects."
Brady and the Patriots never did yesterday.