This one falls on the coaches, plain and simple. There was never a spark, never a place where the team took command. Players where executing throughout the first half - the defense got multiple great stops, the special teams gave the us great field position, and the offense generally moved the ball. Only in the red-zone where there problems, which came from a mixture of bad play-calling and a seeming lack of energy for the O.
With regards to playcalling, as far as I could tell there wasn't a distinct game-plan. We didn't run it consistently like we have at other points of the season, thus not setting up play-action or opening up the pass. We didn't try go deep or try many trick plays. All it seemed we where doing was the basic, bread-and-butter 5-15 yard middle of the field stuff, which is alot more difficult against a hard-hitting defense without Gronk. Worse, we didn't use Vareen until late in the game, despite the fact that he was arguably the biggest X-factor. It was a very basic style of attack, nothing new and nothing to catch the defense off guard.
Second came the issue of a lack of energy, to the point of resembling the Jets game of 2010. The Ravens defense was tired, coming off two playoff games against passing teams that ran alot of hurry up. We're a passing team that runs alot of hurry up, and seemed to move the ball effectively. There was no killer instinct though, no aggression and when there was it was in bad spots (such as a deep pass on 3rd and 2.)
I'd go as far as to say the Ravens came out flat, too. Their offense only had 7 at the half, less then the Texans had last Sunday. Their D was not sacking Brady, and they had no turnovers. They made up for it, though, by coming out with more energy after the half. As far as I can tell, the Pats made no half-time adjustments and seemed to come out with no boost to their moral or confidence. Neither team played well, but the Ravens ability to turn it around in the 2nd half is what cost the Pats the game.
Looking forward, I question whether something isn't lacking on this team. We've had a 10+ win season basically every year since the mid-2000s. If it wasn't for the early 2000s Superbowls, the lack of championships in that stretch of 10-win seasons would be seen as Matt Ryan or Peyton-Manning level chokes. I'm not one who believes too much in clutch-vs-choke, but I am a bit dismayed that this team seems to have such a had time winning three more games on the end of every season.
More immediately, I worry about the situation with Gronk and Welker. In regards to Gronk, this is the second year where Patriots fans are left wondering what could have been if he was healthy. Given that he only had one healthy season, I think its a valid concern that he may be borderline injury-prone. With Welker, I can't imagine the Patriots resign him, but he will need to be replaced in some way. We've seen when we're missing one of the big four (Hernandez, Welker, Lloyd, or Gronk) the offense is nowhere near as dominant. Hopefully Vareen can be guy, as I think every Pats fan has liked what they saw from him. Almost like with Gronk, I'm left wondering what could have been had he been used more in the first half.
To wrap this post up, I'll say a few things that I think are bullcrap about this game that the media will probably make a big deal about:
The turnovers did not matter. The game was basically over at that point, and the offense had gone into a mode of high-risk, high-reward plays. They ended the game, but they did not decide it. Overall, Brady had a decent game, despite what the stats might say.
Emotion from the Ravens didn't seem to matter either. They where as flat as we where coming out of the gate. Even when they took the lead in the second half, it was more though calm, methodical effectiveness then emotion.
Shannon Sharp (I believe) just made about the dumbest comment I've heard in a while. Why does Belichick choosing or not choosing to talk to CBS matter? From what I understand he will still do a press-conference, which is the main thing anyways. Even stuff like turning down a handshake or whatever gets overhyped, but saying you would cheer against a team because their coach didn't talk to your network after the game? C'mon bro, stop being so full of yourself. Whether a team is classy or not comes down to how it deals with opponents, not the third party that is the media. Brendon's tweets where a thousand times more classless then this. Hell, Welker's foot interview was more classless then this.
The greatest offense in the league putting up only 13 points and none in the second half is just pathetic. More pathetic, I wouldn't even say we where dominated by the Ravens defense, it was just a matter of lack of energy and bad playcalling. Once again, that falls on the coaches.
....At the same time, I don't wanna hear any bullcrap about defense winning Championships. Just ask the Broncos, Texans, Seahawks, etc.
Not sure who to cheer for in the Superbowl. I don't want the 49ers to go 6-0, but Moss deserves a ring more then Ray Lewis deserves 2. For now I guess I'll go 49ers, but not too excited for either team.
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