What a game. With 1 minute left to go essentially, I thought the Ravens would drive down and score a game winning TD, and I would still be in my bed, without eating anything, reflecting on what could of been. What should of been. With two key pass deflections, my anxiety was lifted, and I thought it wouldn't be bad if we go into overtime, even if Flacco was having momentum against our defense. Even so, Me and my step dad were chanting "Botch it! Wide right! Miss!" and every other variation. Once he kicked that ball, and I saw it sail to the left, I thought to myself Is it possible? Did he botch it?. I was waiting to hear the announcer's voice and the field goal judges to see if it was true. "Wide Left! Wide Left! I hear, and at around 6:00 PM, our house was the loudest ever since.... well forever. It was glorious. Botched field goal, Patriots going to the superbowl.
With my recollections aside, there is more to this win than just the missed field goal. I made a keys to the Ravens post earlier last week, and it's time to review how they turned out.
Contain the Run-This is quite an obvious one. Ray Rice is one of the best RBs in the game today, and he is backed up by a capable, and familiar face, in Ricky WIlliams. Ray Rice is a contributor in both the run, AND the pass. he can catch the ball very well, so limiting Ray Rice will be key for the pats this game. Spikes, Mayo, and Love that form our interior triangle will have to be stout, And Chung will have to display his vision against the run if Rice were to go onto the outside. Which also brings me to Ninko and Anderson. While I don't think Baltimore's tackles are anything spectacular, they will still have to square up against them and contain the edge from Rice, and force him into our interior triangle. If we stop Rice, we make Baltimore more one-dimensional, and that will be huge for the pats since their passing game is inconsistent.
Ray Rice. 21 touches. 67 yards. Make no mistake, he got a few big runs, as well as Ricky Williams, but the pats overall has shutdown pretty much the 2nd best RB in the game. We have done a solid job sealing the edge, and making Rice run inside right into Love, Wilfork, and Deadrick. All who had great games, wilfork especially. I like what Im seeing in Deadrick too. Ever since he subbed in for Ty Warren last year (rather rotated in with Brace as well) I liked how he was able to shed blocks to move outside or inside. We didn't necessarily make Baltimore one dimensional though, as they did keep themselves balanced, but in the end they did have to pass the ball to drive down the field when we were up by 3.
Contain the deep threat- This is something the pats Defense has been inconsistent at all season. While having Chung and McCourty back there instead of Nate Jones(ugh...) and Ihedigbo(ugh...) is a major upgrade to our secondary making it much much tougher, Guys like Boldin, Smith, and another familiar face in Lee Evans, are as tough as anyone in the league, and they are skilled. Our safeties will have to put up their A game, and get rid of the deep passes. Flacco has an incredible arm, and as long as we put him into 3rd and long situations and our deep pass coverage does their job, our offense will get out onto the field, and we will have more chances to score points.
Yeah. They were sort of inconsistent today as well. One deep pass to torrey smith was thankfully overthrown. However Anquan Boldin reeled in a couple deep passes, Torrey smith reeled in a deep passes that went for a TD, and Lee Evans I believe reeled in a deep pass. Flacco was able to pick on Edelman (why the heck is he covering Boldin? Well they didn't have anyone else I guess when Arrington was injured and all) and arrington most of the game. Flacco had a great day, with some downs to it too. Did we contain the deep threat? A bit. Remember the Torrey Smith TD was from a short yardage pass and a missed tackle. One of Boldin's receptions were from a 10 yard-ish pass, and he got YAC (which he is very good at getting in the first place. Tough guy to bring down). But we are thankfull that Flacco was hit on that deep pass to Torrey. I think the pats did okay in this department. Actually, the correct word is inconsistent. We need to get better at this, especially since we are facing 3 WRs who can all go deep next game. More on that in my keys to the giants though.
Interior line must be ready- On their front 3, they got Redding, Cody, and Ngata. We all know about Ngata, but Cody is bigger (plays about 50% of the snaps as far as I have been told), and Redding can push the pocket. baltimore has the best front 3 in the NFL. Who is our interior line? Mankins, Wendel, and Waters. Waters and Mankins are both great players, but Wendel is going to have his hands very much full this game. Brady tends to get antsy more often when pressure comes from the middle. Their DL is bigger than ours, so is we can somehow slow them enough to give Brady 3-5 seconds, we should be fine.
For the DL that the Ravens boast, this is a huge win for the pats. The interior Lone played great today, especially Wendell (or was it Connely that played), and all created a good pocket for Brady for the majority of the game. But Brady was still antsy. Hopefully he'll shake it off next game.
Stay away from Ed Reed- I don't care if he is not that healthy. He is the best safety in the game, and we need to show respect. He will be roaming the field, probably to where Gronk will be since I believe he is now Brady's favorite target. Or Hernadez. Either way, stay away from him, and try to get mismatches through their LBs and CBs. I expect Hernandez to come out at RB again this time, but not really to run it, but just become another option. If we have Herndo as our RB, we can have Gronk, and 3 other WRs on the field. Tell me that will not keep a defense guessing? I do expect Herndo to get in a couple runs, but not off the bat. We need to create mismatches with everyone else, and let Reed go wherever he feels like. Try to not pass it deep so much either. Reed has tremendous closing speed and concentration. If this all fails, Brady will probably throw 2-3 INTs, and we will lose. I cannot stress how important it is to stay AWAY from Reed, and create mismatches elsewhere.
I was pretty much right about everything except the "we will lose" part. One field goal away from overtime though....
Anyways, Ed Reed may have had an injury, but he was certainly effective last game, just by his presence and calling audibles against the pass. Brady thrown ONE INT throwing DEEP (two INTs overall), and overall he was antsy. Herndo ran a couple times, but BB obviously decided not to let him run again after. lol Reed was able to get 4 tackles and 2 pass deflections. Its clear Brady stayed away from him, which is a good thing, and attacked the LBs and surprsingly Webb (although Welker was just getting open).
They will blitz. Be prepared.- Ravens are an attacking team on defense. I think Harbaugh knows as well as anyone that in order to beat the pats offense, pressure must be made on Tom Brady. I already touched upon the interior line, but their LB core is very strong as well, and both Suggs and Johnson can pass rush. Light and Solder have blanketed and took out pass rushers like nobody's business this season, but I'm not going to sit back and feel relaxed about those guys. Raw Lewis will even rush up the middle I believe, or at least the other guy McClain would. I fully expect draw plays, and screen passes. I also expect Gronk and Herndo to help Block on occasion as well. A safe Brady, is a happy Brady I always say.
They did blitz occasionally, and Light and Solder and the interior line kept Brady up-right for most of the game. We saw a screen pass or two this game but we saw plenty of draw plays and delayed handoffs to BJGE and Woody. Patriots were prepared for the blitzes which is awesome. :)
Pressure the hell out of Flacco- Whenever I see flacco in the pocket, he looks like a statue. Unable to move, not afraid to get hit. The pats also boast a strong front seven, with our front 3 being Deadrick, Love, and WIlfork. But also, our LB core of Anderson (a very good pass rusher), Mayo (Fast to the ball. Tough. Great vision), Spikes (strong enough to knock the socks off of Brandon Jacobs. Vision. Tough), and NInko (solid all around player. A poor man's Vrabel, that can set the edge alright, and pass rush). I don't fully know how good Baltimore's OL is, but we must pressure Flacco, and put them into 3rd and long situations. Getting a strip sack would be awesome here too. We cannot let Flacco stand as a statue, while our secondary is doing their dammest to keep their receivers at bay. This should be the 2nd most important key here.
Flacco was anything but a statue today. he moved around well, and even ran the ball outward. But we got some nice pressure today, along with 3 sacks from WIlfork, Ihedigbo, and Anderson. And all that moving around is a result of pressure from the middle from wilfork and love mostly. Although Flacco felt more comfortable as the game went along, and the OL got better with pass protection. We need to get consistent pressure on QBs, and we are going to face the best QB who knows how to throw under pressure next with eli manning (the stat will be included in my keys to the giants within the week or next week).
Also according to advance nfl stats, Sterling Moore is so far the top CB in the playoffs: http://wp.advancednflstats.com/defenderstats.php?year=2011&pos=CB&season=po
I will be making a keys to the giants post at some point during the week. Stay tuned my fellow fans.