I feel dirty right now.
Seriously. I feel like I just walked in on my grandmother in the shower right as she is soaping the stretch marks on her knees. Last night's game between the Patriots and Ravens was an absolute disaster all across the board, and will probably go down as the worst officiated game in the history of the NFL. There were some nice plays made by both teams, and I think at the end of the day the better team won, but any fan, regardless of who they support, who has to watch an entire game where he spends the entire time legitimately unsure whether or not anything his team does will be good enough no matter how they play just completely sucks the life out of the sport. Losing a game is always extremely frustrating no matter what, but to lose the way the Patriots did, where so much of the game was completely out of their control...that just makes it that much more difficult to stomach.
The thing is, I think I'd be feeling almost the same way regardless of whether or not the Patriots had lost. Obviously, being on the losing end of this one makes it that much harder to deal with, but regardless, that game was an absolute mess, and if I was a Ravens fan, I think I'd be angry as all hell right now that a huge revenge win against one of my biggest rivals will always be marred with such awful officiating on both sides. On the plus side, maybe this disgraceful, disgraceful game, aired on national television in front of millions of viewers, will be enough to really generate some positive progress regarding this official's strike.
In absolutely no way am I blaming the officials for this one. This game was a complete disaster on both sides of the ball, and I don't think that the Ravens got more calls or better calls or anything like that. Yes, they got more penalties that amounted to bigger plays, but it's not like this one was completely one-sided enough to warrant placing blame anywhere other than on the Patriots for not making enough plays to win. And that's just the way it is. Still, seeing this type of debacle happen to the game that I love so much really, really sucks.
Notes after the jump.
- I hate coming into a game in which I've predicted a Patriot loss; it always makes me feel like I'm 8 again and my mother busted me eating individually wrapped cheese slices before dinner.
- You could really feel the Patriots hate in the stadium last night; I could even feel it radiating out of the TV.
- In addition to that - you could just feel the vibe last night; or at least I could. I never once shook the feeling that this was one of those games that was decided before either team even took the field. An angry Ravens team at home against the guys that prevented them from going to the Super Bowl where one of their best players is coming off massive family tragedy...there was just no way the Patriots were walking out of there with the win.
- Is it just me, or did it look like Gronk was struggling to remember the words to the National Anthem?
- Just awful hair all across the board when the played the video introductions announcing the Pats starting lineup. The best looking guy out there was Sebastian Vollmer; come on guys. This is national TV here.
- How can the defense look so solid for one half and so porous for the other?
- Danny Woodhead getting the bulk of the carries early on to remind the entire football world how completely clueless we all are about what goes on in coaches' meetings.
- Why OH WHY can't Patriots fans get that loud? Is it really that difficult to do?
- Julian Edelman is no Wes Welker. Let's all remember that. That means you too, Josh McDaniels.
- Those drops aren't doing you any favors though, Wes.
- I got the feeling that if both teams had all met at midfield and decided to forgo the football game in exchange for kilts, Claymore swords, and a Braveheart style melee that only ended with one player standing over a mountain of the fallen screaming like a wild man, everyone would have been all for it.
- I will never get tired of saying this: Ray Rice looks like Gary Coleman.
- Really impressed with Tavon Wilson so far this season. Good tackler, solid on-field awareness, and a nose for the ball.
- I've spent 12 years now looking for just one thing that Tom Brady and I have in common. After seeing that still photo of him in his jersey smiling with his arms crossed, I finally figured out how he and I are exactly alike: If there wasn't an obvious personal connection there, I'd probably find him absolutely infuriating.
- Look at that 3 TE set; when Hernandez gets back, that formation is going to be unstoppable.
- I have yet to see Rob Ninkovich make an impressive play this season. He got absolutely dominated last night and at no point did he make an impact. Towards the end of the game he got replaced by Trevor Scott, and I don't think he has any business rushing the passer on a regular basis.
- Is there anything more annoying when fans cheer for a player with a long "e" sound in his name? It doesn't even matter if it's a meaningful play.
- How great was that "Last year vs. this year" weight loss picture of Vince Wilfork? It's like he went from smuggling watermelons under his shirt to smuggling...smaller watermelons.
- A word of advice to all NFL in-game producers: it might be a wise move to avoid any and all closeups of head coaches until the real referees come back. It only takes the most basic of lip-reading skills to make the NFL go from TVG to TVMA.
- I'm starting to think that Julian Edelman is getting a lot of playing time because he earned it.
- After a shaky start, Baltimore shifted their offensive strategy towards shorter plays, quick-release in routes, and committing more to the run. As soon as they did that, the Patriorts brought the safeties up, which completely opened up the game and caused the secondary to get burned for a bunch of big gains.
- That shift also allowed Ray Rice to get going, which in turn made the playaction tremendously effective. New England just didn't have an answer.
- It always amazes me to watch the in-game momentum totally shift. You can almost physically see it. Unfortunately, once the momentum shifted over to Baltimore's side, it kinda stayed there.
- Man did that TD pass to Edelman at the end of the half fire Tommy B up. I kinda wish it had come at the very beginning of the 3rd quarter instead.
- Good seeing Deion Branch back out there. It's kinda like finding your old blankie when you're going through your parents' closet as an adult. Yeah, you don't really need it anymore - but it's always good for a squeeze.
- I'm not sure ol' Deion feels the same way, though. Just getting lit up left and right last night.
- Rough day for Kyle Arrington. Flacco targeted him all night, he gave up some big plays, and he tripped on absolutely nothing instead of making what would have been a game-sealing interception.
- Defensive line had a lot of trouble getting any pressure on Flacco. They were able to collapse the pocket, but they couldn't get any penetration, so all Flacco had to do was make a small step up to completely open up the passing lanes.
- What are the odds that Julian Edelman hurt his hand slapping everyone's helmet after celebrating on the touchdown?
- That Ravens drive to open up the 3rd quarter was absolutely surgical. 80 yards in 3 and a half minutes with only one third down.
- How does Ray Lewis do it? I'm almost 8 years younger than him, I've never played a down of football in my life, and I wake up limping if I walk home from work too briskly the night before.
- Scariest moment of the season when Bernard Pollard came in unblocked on that blitz. My sphincter is still trying to uncramp.
- There was a few members of the Ravens coaching staff who were wearing yellow undershirts and yellow hats, which led me to believe that there was a flag on almost every play thrown to that side. The fact that there was a flag thrown on almost every play didn't help things any.
- An abundance of Danny Woodhead should once again reaffirm that the Pats are a gameplan specific team. A back that was an effective pass catcher and a more versatile all-round player made more sense against this defense, so that's who got the bulk of the snaps.
- I started to realize after the Patriots went up 27-21 that whoever had the ball last would probably win. Both offenses were able to make adjustments that completely nullified the opposing defenses.
- Second game with Sterling Moore seeing reps over Ras-I Dowling as the nickel back. It's not time to make any real judgments yet, but I will say this: if the first pick of the second day of the 2011 Draft - probably one of the most valuable picks of the entire weekend - ends up losing his job to a practice squad pickup, he has to go down as one of the biggest busts of the Belichick era.
- There was a commercial for the show Animal Practice about halfway through the third quarter that had a monkey ref throwing a penalty flag against a couple of dogs playing football. Do you think that monkey needs a second job?
- Michael Hoomanawanui isn't very effective as a fullback.
- He also isn't all that effective as a tight end, while we're at it.
- Two of the most monster hits I've seen so far this season came on back-to-back Wes Welker and Deion Branch receptions. Not really a fan of the flag on the Branch hit, but those are the rules now.
- Branch still flashing those pearly whites after that hit, though.
- Credit to Ed Reed for the sportsmanship after the flag. When he came into the league back in 1975, hits like that were the norm.
- There was actually one point where I thought thought that New England might just pull this one out - until they flashed that stat about how the Patriots haven't been under .500 since 2003 with an NFL record 145 game streak. That was pretty much the end of it.
- You gotta make those picks, Devin McCourty. You had about two game changers slip right through your hands that could have let the Pats get away with the win. They don't come much easier than that.
- Good Lord who the hell is Bryant McKinnie? That guy scares the crap out of me and I'm not even playing.
- Jerod Mayo is getting a lot of well-deserved credit for initiating that 4th down stuff, but go back to the replay and see just how much of it was Chandler Jones as well. Jones got a great first step and slammed Michael Oher off to the side, which let Mayo charge in untouched to clog Rice's running lane and allowing Chung to come in for the huge loss. Absolutely monster play there.
- Will the media only attribute Wes Welker's huge day to the absence of Edelman and Hernandez? Probably.
- How the hell was Dannell Ellerbe in the backfield on almost every play? Who was supposed to block that guy?
- I can't figure out whether I'm sick of the Geico cavemen or not. I want to say that they've run their course, but every once in a while I catch myself smiling.
- How many times did Joe Flacco throw a sideline Go Route to Torrey Smith?. And how many times was it effective? New England couldn't even stop that play when they had Smith doubled.
- Non-holding call of the year on Devin McCourty that prevented a 3rd a 14. Holy crap.
- Something just completely sunk in me once that penalty on happened. Absolutely unbelievable. I had the feeling that that things weren't going to go New England's way all game, even when they were up, but that penalty just sealed it. That thing wasn't even close, and what likely happened is that the refs let the game get so out of control early that they were just calling anything and everything.
- That now makes two EXTREMELY questionable calls that have potentially cost the Patriots the game. I'm not going to be the guy that blames the refs for these things, but I'm also one who thinks that everyone should be accountable for their actions. Do something, Goodell. Please.
- Right from Zoltan Mesko's short punt, that last drive was sealed before it started. The loss was just in the cards. Baltimore just marched on down the field and scored. Honestly, that PI call on McCourty (which was a good call) didn't really even matter. Baltimore would have gotten into FG a few plays later anyway.
- And the field goal was good. Barely - but it was good. Anyone who says otherwise is just being a sore loser.
- This is as pissed off as I've ever seen Bill Belichick. I'm not even talking about the grabbing of the ref after the game was over; if you get a chance to watch the postgame press conference, you'll see that his demeanor and tone of voice is stony even for him. I honestly don't even know why the media even bothers.
So what does this mean? Get ready to read some variation of this line over and over –and over – this week: "the Patriots now have a losing record for the first time since 2003." Also get ready for a lot of talk about the officiating, with a lot of Patriots fans blaming the refs for the loss coupled with a lot of Ravens fans saying that it was a bad game on both sides and one team didn't have it better than the other one. There is going to be a LOT of temptation to start getting nervous around here, especially when Wednesday comes around and we start to hear rumblings about a confident Bills team coming off an important win in Buffalo. But the reality of the matter is that half the league is 1-2 right now, and there is still a whole lot of football left to play. There’s no reason to be happy with this loss, but if you’re like me, you had this one pegged as an L back when the schedule first came out, so there's no reason to panic. And there are still a lot of pluses to take away from this one, which I will be highlighting tomorrow. But right now, I'm just tired, and I feel like I just learned that the Easter Bunny isn't real all over again.
We're going to be fine, and 12-4 is still very much in the cards. But there is going to be a sour taste in my mouth all week.