Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/21/13
A key play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game cost the New England Patriots both the ball and the services of running back Stevan Ridley. Ridley was ruled to have fumbled after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Ravens safety Bernard Pollard early in the fourth quarter, and Baltimore's Arthur Jones came away with the ball. Ridley was on the ground for more than a minute, as he apparently was knocked out. He eventually walked off the field on his own, though he didn't return to action. The fumble was upheld after a challenge by the replay official. Ridley lowered his head and appeared to initiate the contact. As he was going to the ground, his right knee knocked the ball from his hands. It was a very close call whether his backside or his calf hit the ground before the ball came loose. Referee Bill Leavy told a pool reporter: "What I saw was the receiver was going to the ground, had both legs off the ground, no body part was on the ground. The ball hit his knee and dislodged from his hand before the rest of his body hit the ground, therefore it was a fumble and we confirmed it." Asked his thoughts on the play, New England coach Bill Belichick said, "It's their call. They ruled it a turnover, so it's an official review. It's not anything I can do." The play gave the Ravens the ball at the New England 47-yard line. Four plays later, Joe Flacco hit Anquan Boldin with an 11-yard touchdown pass that gave Baltimore a 28-13 lead. Neither team scored again. Pollard has long been viewed as a villain in New England. He blew out the knee of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the 2008 season opener, an injury that cost Brady the rest of the season. He also hurt receiver Wes Welker's knee while playing for the Houston Texans in 2009, and he injured Rob Gronkowski's ankle in last year's AFC Championship Game as a member of the Ravens. Of Ridley's injury, Pollard told USA Today, "It's just a tackle. It's football. He broke a hole and we filled. That's fine. That's football. I hope he's OK. We're competitive in the moment. But when everything calms down, you want that guy to be OK."
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