Let the conspiracy theories begin…

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But, WHERE TO begin, really, when the football gods and officials clearly pushed the envelope tonight at M&T Bank Stadium, with the damndest set of late-game calls I’ve ever seen.

I’m not looking for the “purple lining” in the cloud of 4-8 despair, but man, I really DID have some fun tonight!

Admittedly, I’m crushed by the loss. I’m sitting here an hour after the game, and it still hasn’t sunk in that they lost. And the way that they lost?

It was almost a criminal act, that officiating crew!

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And once the videotape of Samari Rolle gets going – he alleges that head linesman Phil McKinnely repeatedly called him “boy” and stood over him late in the game taunting him – this game is going to have some legs as a national sports story over the next 48 hours. The league will have some explaining to do, and the conspiracy theorists will begin conspiring about the Patriots and their quest for undefeated immortality.

Here’s another nugget that will come from tonight: the crazy timeout on the fourth down stop was NOT called by Brian Billick. I KNOW that to be true because I was standing 20 feet away when the play happened and Billick was in shock that a timeout was called. And the head coach is the only one allowed to call a timeout in that situation.

I think most of America thinks the Ravens got mugged, and NO ONE in America EVER wants to feel sorry for the Ravens. And certainly Billick bought himself no fans by blowing phantom kisses to Rodney Harrison on national television.

In the locker room after the game, many of the players mumbled under their breath about the officiating and the Patriots and pride. Most were honestly in some state of shock in regard to how they lost the game and the series of dubious calls that all went in the direction of the NFL’s golden “undefeated” dynasty in New England.

If I didn’t hate the Patriots enough before the game, I definitely do now. Tonight, they entered that rarefied air of the Steelers, Redskins and Colts. I hope they get their asses kicked in January!

It’s one thing to be great – and make no mistake, the Patriots are a great team – but what happened tonight bordered on whatever any and every conspiracy theorist would want to point toward in talking about weird gambling occurrences on a sporting event. It was beyond what any coincidence could possibly explain.

Meantime, Chris McAlister all but called the officiating crooked in the postgame. And he was just the one who talked about it with the cameras rolling.

Obviously, Bart Scott will be hearing from the folks in New York regarding a fine for his javelin style hurling of an official’s flag after the touchdown. He also threw his two cents in on the "boy"/name calling on the field.

It’s just a mess.

And, don’t forget. It’s a short work week and Peyton Manning brings his act and all of the Colts memories and the shiny Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl ring here in five short days.

Our crowd really made a difference tonight. The team fed off the energy of the purple masses, and several players freely discussed how great the crowd was in the postgame. Tonight was a pretty cool night, literally and figuratively.

Honestly, how much fun did YOU have tonight? It was a helluva game, one for the ages. Twenty years from now, you’ll remember tonight’s game the way my dad always told me about the phantom field goal and the Packers and Jim Tunney.

And if the Patriots continue to run the table and end up undefeated, many will remember the night they stole a game from the Ravens on national television with snowflakes swirling sideways.

But, right now I feel ill. The whole season has just been one big stinking nightmare!

P.S. Where are all of the people who picked the Ravens to lose 48-7?

Remember our city’s motto: BELIEVE!

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Baltimore Positive is the vision and the creative extension of four decades of sharing the love of local sports for this Dundalk native and University of Baltimore grad, who began his career as a sportswriter and music critic at The News American and The Baltimore Sun in the mid-1980s. Launched radio career in December 1991 with Kenny Albert after covering the AHL Skipjacks. Bought WNST-AM 1570 in July 1998, created WNST.net in 2007 and began diversifying conversations on radio, podcast and social media as Baltimore Positive in 2016. nes@baltimorepositive.com