BALTIMORE The New England Patriots are still perfect, but looking mighty vulnerable.
New England pulled off its greatest escape thus far to become the sixth team in NFL history to start a season with 12 victories. For the second straight week, it was a struggle against a losing team, but the incredibly resourceful Patriots got Tom Brady's 8-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left to beat the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 Monday night.
The winning drive in the final minutes covered 73 yards and required two fourth-down conversions, one on a defensive holding penalty 6 seconds before Gaffney beat Dawan Landry in the left corner of the end zone.
Driven to distraction by a Baltimore defense at times reminiscent of the 2000 unit that led the Ravens (4-8) to a Super Bowl victory, Brady came through late as he always seems to.
Eight days after edging Philadelphia 31-28, the Patriots barely kept alive their pursuit of the only unblemished record in NFL history, Miami's 17-0 in 1972.
With Pittsburgh (9-3) up next, the Patriots must recapture some of their record-setting ways from earlier in the season to keep their flawless record intact.
As the biggest road favorite in a non-replacement game (19 points), the Patriots nearly laid a dud in swirling winds and occasional snow flurries. They trailed for much of the game, but Brady relentlessly guided them downfield for the winning score and his 41st touchdown pass of the season. He's eight short of Peyton Manning's record with four games left.
And New England is four wins shy of the only 16-0 regular season ever. Remaining after the Steelers are the weak Dolphins and Jets, and a Saturday night visit to the New York Giants.
That the Ravens, losers of five straight, would test the Patriots so severely was stunning. Indeed, if not for untimely penalties and a fumble of an interception return by Ed Reed, the Ravens might have pulled off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.
Baltimore got a brilliant effort from Willis McGahee, who rushed for 138 yards and a touchdown. Boller threw for two scores, and the Ravens managed three sacks.
But they couldn't manage to hang on.