The dream season of 2011-2012 kept rolling this past weekend, and in the most surprisingly way imaginable.
Having rewatched the game in full twice now and the past few minutes even more times, I still feel the same sense of dread and doom when the Ravens are marching down the field on their last drive. I know what the outcome was (is), and I know that Sterling Moore defended that pass against Lee Evans.
But I didn't know when I was watching. I forgot to breathe for the last 2 minutes of the game, while I was watching the Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin connection dominate Julian Edelman. I've gone back and forth on this, but I really don't think Edelman can be blamed. He was a step slow in coverage, but consistently closed the gap to make the tackle. And what if the fumble he caused had stayed in bounds?
- I'm obviously an Edelman fan, because I've unsuccessfully predicted that he would have his first career sack for the past two games. Even though he didn't register a sack in either, what he did against Baltimore speaks volumes to his versatility- playing an incredible 27 snaps on both sides of the ball. That's 54 total for the mathematically challenged. In an era where every player is a specialist in even their own position, Julian is a throwback to the old days of football. He's the symbol of this year's Patriots team buying in Bill Belichick's coaching.
- I'm also tired of hearing how poorly Tom Brady played. Yes, he threw two interceptions- one of which came at the worst possible time, after Brandon Spikes had reeled in his own interception on the tips of his fingers. But when the team needed Brady the most- when the game, season, and a trip to the Super Bowl were on the line- Tom sacrificed himself and dove into the heart of the Ravens' defense to gain a half-yard. There's no telling what the outcome of the game is if Brady doesn't uncharacteristically choose to go over the defense; however, despite all of his touchdowns to Gronkowski and Randy, and his 50 touchdown season in 2007, that play was the single greatest play I've ever seen Tom make.
- Ed Reed is apparently a Joe Flacco whisperer, because for lack of a better word Joe played magnificently on Sunday. He was confident in the pocket, and exhibited great accuracy and arm strength several times throughout the game. He nearly had 320 yards and 3 touchdowns in an AFC championship, despite being under duress the entire game. No matter the outcome, Joe proved that he deserves a contract, and a starting job for the Ravens for years to come. In his biggest moment, Flacco answered the call.
More condensed notes after the jump
- If I would have told you prior to the game that the Ravens would only score passing touchdowns and the Patriots only rushing touchdowns, would you have believed me?
-By the same token, if I would have told you that the Patriots would lose the turnover battle 3 to 1, and Tom Brady would not record a single touchdown pass in the game, would you have given New England any chance to win?
-Brandon Spikes is truly a difference-maker on the defensive side of the ball. He sometimes makes boneheaded decisions (punching an opposing player or flopping like an Italian soccer player), but he constantly collapses the pocket on run blitzes, and is showing an increased awareness in zone coverage. Had Brady not thrown his second interception and had the Patriots decided to try to run down the clock a little, Spikes most likely would have been the hero, not Sterling Moore
-One of my favorite defensive alignments in this game was Vince Wilfork and Mark Anderson splitting the center/left guard gap. Vince would bullrush the gap, and Anderson would come behind and choose which side of Vince to pursue. This was a play that resulted in a huge TFL late in the fourth quarter.
-No matter how it happened, and who was to fault, the Patriots held the Ravens scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The two weeks between the divisional championship and the Super Bowl feel like months if your favorite team is involved. New England fans should know this better than anyone, as we've gone through this routine 5 times in the last decade.
For the next week and a half, I am going to savor the most improbable win of this year. No amount of speculation or prognostication is going to make this period go faster- and yet, even knowing this, I will not stop listening, watching, or reading anything related to the Super Bowl rematch.