September 23, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belicheck questions a call during the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-US PRESSWIRE
For the first time since 2002, the New England Patriots are below .500 entering Week 4—can you believe it?
New England's Sunday Night Football battle against Baltimore was just as inconsistent as you can get—and that's not only talking about the replacement officials, but also regarding New England's performance.
With that being said, let's just jump right into it and take a look at what we learned from New England's 31-30 loss in Baltimore.
1. The replacement officials are putrid
Now I'm not just saying this because the Patriots lost on a questionable field goal, but this was probably the worst officiated game that I have ever seen. These replacement refs are just clueless.
Time after time, these replacement officials left me scratching my head or even throwing my remote across the room. A combined total of 24 penalties were called on both teams that accumulated for a whopping 218 yards. I'm sorry, but we're here to watch football, not officials marking the ball up and down the field.
It's rather sad that we have to sit here and talk about the referees following a game that featured a rematch from last year's AFC Championship.
In the words of Brandon Spikes, "Can someone please tell these zebras that foot locker called and they're needed back at work?"
2. New England's offense couldn't close the door and run out the clock
The Patriots didn't lose this game because of the replacement refs, they lost it on their own—more specifically due to their inconsistency on offense.
New England's Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 20-yard field with 14:10 left in the game, and that was their final scoring drive.
The Patriots got the ball back twice following the field goal and both resulted in punts. Their final drive started with 4:01 left in the game with a 30-28 lead and a perfect chance to close the door and run out the clock—but they failed to do so. The drive lasted just two minutes and six seconds as they accumulated 29 yards on eight plays.
New England had a perfect opportunity to close out the game, but they simply couldn't do it.
3. Brandon Lloyd's role continues to evolve in the offense
Brandon Lloyd was New England's most highly targeted receiver as he caught nine of his 12 targets. With those nine passes, Lloyd racked up a stellar 108 yards which is a solid 12.0 yards per-reception.
Despite losing the game, it's definitely promising to see Tom Brady and Brandon Lloyd connect and produce 100-plus yards.
4. Wes Welker finally gets involved
After seeing Wes Welker struggle for offensive reps, the injury to Aaron Hernandez and the in-game injury to Julian Edelman opened the door for Welker to have some more playing time—and he definitely took advantage of it.
Welker finished with eight catches for a game-high 142 yards.
Considering how productive Welker was, perhaps offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will try to incorporate Welker into the offense more heading into next week.
5. What happened to Chandler Jones and the pass rush?
It seemed like Joe Flacco had all day in the pocket and was just able to pick apart New England's secondary—and he most certainly did, as he racked up 382 passing yards.
Flacco was not sacked once and if my memory serves me right, he really never had to leave the pocket.
If there was one thing that I was feeling real good about this defense heading into Week 3 was their pass rush—now entering Week 4 against the Buffalo Bills, I'm rather concerned.