Patriots vs. Ravens: Fan Notes from the AFC Championship Game

I'd like to think that, over this past season, I've kept it pretty professional here on Pats Pulpit. I know that I can be a little off-color and crude at times, and my unhealthy obsession with the New England Patriots must be comical to the casual observer, but I think for the most part I've conducted myself with as much maturity and sensibility as my tiny, emotionally stunted brain will allow. Checking my insanity and keeping these Fan Notes PG-13 has taken more restraint than I even knew I had, to be honest.

So, with that said, please excuse the following:

WE'RE GOING TO THE SUPERBOWL, PEOPLE! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH! NICE KICK, CUNDIFF! AAAAAAHAHAHAHA! WIDE LEFT! WIDE LEFT! AFC CHAMPIONS, SUCKAS! LET'S GO TO INDY! PEYTON, CLEAN OUT YOUR LOCKER CUZ TOMMY B IS MOVIN' IN! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I'm really sorry about that. But trust me - it needed to happen.

The Patriots won an absolute heart-stopper yesterday. I think we all aged 10 years and I looked in the mirror this morning to find my first gray hairs atop my prematurely balding dome, but that's alright. It was all worth it. The Pats are AFC Champions. The offense wasn't great, the defense was streaky, and New England lost the turnover battle, but none of that matters on this fine, fine morning. The only thing that matters right now is that once again, the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.

I should apologize for the brevity of these fan notes, but I won't. I know that every member of Patriots Nation spent the bulk of this game just as I did: pacing around like a maniac, sweating bullets, and yelling at the TV while trying to prevent an early onset heart attack. No fan in his or her right mind would have been able to sit still in front of a computer for the entirety of that game - so in retrospect, the fact that I even have any notes at all is pretty impressive.

Plus, the only way I was able to even hold it together from about noon yesterday until game time was to hold a very serious little powwow with my two good friends Samuel Adams and Jack Daniel. So I was a little hydrated by the time kickoff came around and wasn't as observant as I've been in weeks past.

I saw enough, though. Oh yes. I saw enough. Fan Notes after the jump.

  • I'd talk about how awful Steven Tyler looked during the National Anthem, but I feel like he has looked exactly like that since about 1984. Plus, that Patriots scarf he was rocking took most of the focus away from his face.
  • Yes! Ray Rice stopped right away! That put me immediately at ease. You have no idea how nervous I was that Rice was just going to bust it wide open again right off the bat.
  • NFL punters dive almost as much as soccer players do. Almost.
  • I was actually OK with New England's first drive. Protection looked fairly solid. I think Tommy B was just a little jittery and needed that first drive to settle.
  • Gronk showing off his skills as a blocking TE. That's why he's the best in the game.
  • Julian Edelman! Get those hands up, son! Great catch to keep a crucial first drive alive.
  • The 1st penalty for Baltimore in 180 plays was a pretty big one, saving a pick on a beautiful Wes Welker cut route that he probably would have caught if he wasn't bumped.
  • How open was Gronk on that seam route?? I may have invented six new profanities off that overthrow. You don't get Ed Reed and Ray Lewis to both bite on the same playaction very often.
  • The Ravens defense really is phenomenal in the red zone. Tremendous discipline and awareness.
  • Vince Wilfork has the game of his life yesterday, and it all started with him taking Ray Rice down in the backfield with one hand, holding onto his jersey like he was trying to get away with the last piece of pie at a Golden Corral Buffet.
  • Kind of hard to make a bigger statement than New England did on its first 3 defensive stops.
  • How is Domino's still in business? Does anyone actually order pizza from there? If nowhere else is open, there's nothing in my fridge, and I'm about as hydrated as it gets, I'll consider it. But otherwise, there are ALWAYS better options.
  • Tom Brady's first pick of the game didn't surprise me. He never quite managed to get into it, did he?
  • End of the first quarter, 3-0 Pats. Sure as hell beats 24-0 Ravens.
  • Wasn't really a fan of the "run 2 plays, show 3 minutes of commercials" format that CBS ran for most of the first half.
  • Benny! Keep on truckin', homie!
  • Brady's accuracy was definitely a little off for entire the first half. Several blown opportunities for points.
  • The good news is that the defense was solid enough to give Tommy B enough time to figure things out.
  • Baltimore's bump and run coverage did a great job throwing receivers off their routes - particularly Wes Welker. They were jamming him at the line all day.
  • Didn't stop him from getting it done though, did it. There are times when that little guy is simply uncoverable.
  • One of the best plays I've seen from Welker in a long time came on the BenJarvus Green-Ellis touchdown run. Brady checked out of the initial play into a Power In run when he saw six Ravens in the box. Wes faked an inside crossing route, forcing Ed Reed to hesitate, and then cut upfield to throw a phenomenal block on the safety (I think it was Pollard) to put Benny in the end zone. He's just such a complete receiver.
  • When Benny pointed to the MHK patch after that touchdown, I just got a feeling about this game. Granted, that feeling went away for a good portion of it - but he reminded me just how special this season is.
  • Great patience on that Benny TD run. See, Laurence Maroney? That's the difference between waiting for blocks to develop and dancing around behind the line of scrimmage like you reaaaallly have to go to the bathroom.
  • One of the most infuriating moments of the game: Ravens have a 3rd and less than a yard at the Pats 8 yard line, and the slow zoom camera panned over about 500 Pats fans just standing there, not cheering at all. What does this team need to do to get the crowd into it?
  • Flacco hits 7 in a row for 123 yards and a touchdown after 3 pitiful opening drives. I find it hard to believe that Joe Flacco figured out New England's defensive scheme- what went on there?
  • Impressed by Baltimore's tackling; very rarely did any Patriots gain too many YACs.
  • Thank God Kyle Love hit Flacco as he threw - Torrey Smith was wide open yet again on the deep route, and if Flacco had stepped into it he might have connected.
  • Nothing like taking a defensive timeout on 3rd and 14 so we can make sure the offense gets that ball back, only to give up 15 yards and a Baltimore 1st down.
  • Totally fine with kneeldowns to close out the half, even with some time and timeouts left. Halftime adjustments.
  • I blame Giselle for Brady's so-so performance. She either too much or not enough luvin'. Giselle, if you're reading this: whatever you did over this last week, do the exact opposite this time around.
  • Field goals in the red zone are not a recipe for championships. That needs to be corrected.
  • How many times do you think they've played Ray Rice's 2009 83 yard TD this past week? 100? 200?
  • I got a really bad feeling after the 3rd and 11 conversion in the 3rd quarter. Flacco seems to have found his groove.
  • The good news is that an entire season of making Matt Moore, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Rex Grossman look like all-stars is that I wasn't as upset about watching Joe Flacco light it up as I could have been.
  • This league has made the conscious decision to lessen the integrity of the game in order to increase player safety, right? There are several ridiculous rules in place that ensure people don't get hurt, correct? So let's add one more: Bernard Pollard can't play against the Patriots. What the hell did we ever do to this guy?
  • Gronk leaving the field just sucked the wind and the life right out of the entire stadium. It was shockingly palpable.
  • But if anyone thinks for one second that Rob Gronkowski won't be starting in two weeks, you clearly haven't been watching him play all year. He played on adrenaline for the rest of the game and he'll be out there even if it means cutting off his foot and making him play on a 18th Century wooden peg leg.
  • Seriously, what kind of injection do you think they gave Gronk in the locker room to get him back out there? Let's just say he ate a can of spinach and leave it at that.
  • That 4th and Goal Tommy B dive was the textbook definition of "making them earn every yard."
  • SPIKES! It was all part of the plan. Lure Flacco into a false sense of security by letting him pass up and down the field all day, and then pick him off when it matters most.
  • You know what probably wasn't part of the plan? Giving it right back on the next play.
  • Good Lord, what the hell was Tommy B was thinking on that INT? 1 first down would have likely put them in FG range and they were running the ball well. Run a few plays, try to get one first down, and take 3 points to force Baltimore to go for the TD a touchdown to get back in it.
  • Maybe if it was AC Slater, you throw it into double coverage. But Matthew Slater? Come on, Tommy.
  • Ohhhhh Vince, Ohhh Big Vince. What can I do to make you happy? I know I said it early, but no reason not to say it again. Wilfork had a MONSTER game yesterday.
  • Why was Edelman covering Anquan Boldin? Is that really the best option?
  • Is there a word to describe experiencing every emotion on the scale in less than a second? Because that's what happened on that broken up Lee Evans touchdown. Even thinking about it now is making my hands shake.
  • That's kind of the way it needed to be, though, isn't it? Looking at this defense and what they have had to go through all year, it's only fitting that Sterling Moore, an Oakland Raiders practice squad reject, saved our season. That pretty much sums it up for this team. Wow.
  • I don't know how to comment on the missed field goal. So much went into it: the huge stop on the play before, having to rush the field goal unit out onto the field, questioning whether or not to call a timeout, knowing how easy a 32-yard FG is supposed to be, trying to imagine what kind of pressure that must be. And it's honestly all kind of a blur for me and I haven't watched the game replay yet. I guess at the end of the day, every playoff team needs a little bit of magic to make it to the dance. New England hasn't had any in a long time, and we got it when we needed it most.
  • Maybe magic isn't the right word. I very well may have seen Myra Kraft rushing in off the edge to get a piece of that kick. Thank you, mamma.
  • That actually may be the last we ever see of Cundiff. He may just move down to Miami, get a sex change, and become a lieutenant for the Miami PD.
  • In all honesty -what are the odds that Billy Cundiff is going to spend the rest of his life at Shady Acres Mental Hospital just mumbling "Laces out, Koch! LACES OUT!" Ray Finkle knows what I'm talking about.
  • I'm definitely feeling Drew Bledsoe's coat at the AFC Trophy presentation. That guy just has style for days.
  • Tommy B wasn't happy with the way he played yesterday - that much was obvious. Good, I say. Get mad at yourself, Tom, and don't let that happen again.
  • Is it me, or does Bob Kraft sound absolutely hammered every time he talks?
  • The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.
  • That felt way too good to write. I need to do that again.
  • The New England Patriots are going to the Super Bowl.
  • THE NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS ARE GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL!!!!!

I have three pieces of advice for Patriots Nation as the Superbowl hype begins. First, and most importantly, let's enjoy this. We're back in the championship game for the fifth time in eleven years. That's absolutely remarkable, and we need to appreciate it. Second, let's embrace the David Tyree onslaught that every channel, website, newspaper, conversation, text message, ringtone, status update, magazine, and Tweet is going to violently and unapologetically cram down our throats for the next 336 hours. There is simply no way to escape it, so own it, love it, and feed off it.

And finally, let's not forget who we are and what we've done. It's not going to be easy to do, believe me. The abundant storylines going into this Superbowl all stem from what has happened in the past, and so that's the angle the media is going to take. But we need to remember: we are not the same team we were in 2007. We are not susceptible to the rumor mill. We will not fall victim to the haters who troll message boards talking about how the Ravens handed us this game and how lucky we get and how the refs favor our quarterback. We won't hear any of that. We all need to stay the course and focus our efforts on nothing more than being who we are.

And who are we? All together now:

We are the New England Patriots.

And we are once again on the verge of greatness.

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