(Note to readers: This post may/will be a bit of an over-reaction. I started writing it right after the game, and thus things haven't had a chance to sink in. It will also not be re-read for word choice and flow improvements, though hopefully I can get most of the spelling and grammar right on the first try. I may start doing a thread like this every week, as it seems kind of unfair to just do it after a loss.)
Not sure how I can start this off, other then to say that was probably the single worst game I've seen when it comes to officiating. There are questionable calls, and theres the occasional bullcrap call, but until now, theres been nothing like that. If I had flipped a coin each play to decide which team got penalized, I probably would have been more consistent then the replacement refs were tonight.
No matter which team lost, the other could reasonably claim the only reason they lost was because of penalties. The way the first quarter went, I believe if there hadn't been that incorrect penalty that gave the Ravens their first 1st down things would have ended up similar to the 45-3 game - Pats get off to a hot start, and the other team has to react rather then dictate. That penalty changed everything. Much later in the game, had the Ravens lost I'd say both the penalty on Harbaugh and the "illegal contact" would have had a big impact in it - both of which were questionable. The Ravens deserve tons of credit for keeping pace with and eventually passing the Pats, but these refs need to go. Win or lose, that was rage worthy.
As for the overall performance of the team, this is where longer-term problems spring up. On the bright side, Lloyd looks absolutely great. Those catches on 1st and 10 really are great for getting a drive going, and a catch on 3rd and 6 is more clutch then anything I've seen from any other Patriot receiver. Any time the momentum seems to be shifting towards the other team, Lloyd should be our go-to guy.
Instead, in situations such as that we seem to focus on the run game. I don't care who's idea it is or why we're doing it, it needs to stop. The ratio of run to pass in the first half should be no more then 1:2, and ideally 1:3+. Only once in the entire night did I see a run of 10+ yards, where as the aerial attack seemed to be getting a first down on every other play. No matter the situation or opponent, yards are good. As mentioned above Lloyd is great, and the losses of Hernandez and Edelman really show how dominant our passing attack is - take out those two, give Branch a bad day and force Gronk to stay back and block and we still have a performance that could have won us the game. Brady has tolerated greater pressure then this and seemed in rhythm for most of the game - absolutely no reason what-so-ever to run, except for at the end of the game when the clock became an issue.
The defensive back end really was a problem tonight. Things started off reasonably well with the interception, but by the 2nd half they had just collapsed. We didn't get much pressure with the front 7 or contain the run as best as we could have, but without those 20/30/40+ yard passes every other play we still win. Ray Rice or not, the Ravens weren't going to beat us on the ground. Tackling was so-so, but the DBs just seemed to be playing too far off the WR. They'd jam the WR at the line and then give him 3-5 yards of space, which you can't do. By the end of the game the DBs looked completely lost, as bad if not worse then last year.
Was there anyone in the entire world who thought the Ravens wouldn't march down the field on that final drive? Heck, make em take it from their own 10 with 30 seconds to go and I'd be surprised if they didn't make it. In pretty much 45 minutes of football, I went from viewing our defense as the strength of our team to something that should never, ever, under any circumstance, be expected to do anything but completely and utterly suck.
Now I came into this game not all that interested. Going into the season, I generally see two goals: go 19-0, and if you can't go 19-0, win the Superbowl. As I saw it, we could drop this game and probably the next 5 or 6 and still win the SB, so no reason to make a big deal out of tonight. The continuous blown calls by the refs brought me into the game, however, and how badly the team played now leaves me more seriously concerned. This is a team that I still believe can beat anyone - but pretty much anyone can also beat it. For the first time in pretty much 2 years I'd say we're close to falling into the 2nd tier of teams - among the likes of the Giants, Cowboys, Bears, and Steelers. When a mere four weeks ago it looked as if every game could be a win if not blowout, it seems now like no game can be checked off as safe.
Who knows. Maybe we'll go on a late run, or get healthy just before the post-season like the Giants did last year. Teams like that seem to be the only ones that win the Superbowl these days anyways. Better yet, no other teams have looked all that good - 49ers lost to the Vikings today, the Ravens barely outplayed us if at all, and the Texans were nearly overtaken by the Broncos. For now, though, its looking more like 2009 then anything else.
To close this post, I'll say above anything else in the game I'm glad Pollard didn't take out a key player on our offense. I was seriously worried for Lloyd, and to a lesser extent Welker. This alone is good enough for a sign of relief and half-hearted fist pump.
And could someone get me a GIF of Belichick getting animated on the sidelines? While not necessarily funny at the time, it could be gold if used correctly in an OTA thread.