Patriots vs. Ravens: Fan Notes from the AFC Championship Game

Jared Wickerham

Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots' 28-13 loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.

There are a lot of reasons why I'd make a terrible secret agent. Sub-par fitness levels. No real grasp of languages, English included. No catch phrases to speak of. Horrendous fashion sense and a worldwide lack of plus-size tuxedos. Zero effective pickup lines and virtually zero luck charming the opposite sex. And of course, I'm probably the biggest wimp I know and wouldn't last more than about 30 seconds in an interrogation room. I'm pretty sure all the bad guys would have to do to get information out of me is stare at me long enough, and I'd be singing like a canary.

However, after having had to wait until 6:30 PM on Sunday night before the Patriots played the Ravens for the AFC Championship, I feel like I can officially raise the amount of time that would pass before I sold out everyone I know just to save my own sorry skin to a solid minute and a half. This entire weekend was absolute torture from the minute I got out of work on Friday right up until kickoff last night. I couldn't eat (well, as much as I usually do), I couldn't sleep, and all I could do to keep myself sane was spend the weekend watching old Seinfeld reruns. So should I ever possess a secret that could alter the world as we know it and a group of assassins will stop at nothing to get it from me, at least I'll be able to use this past weekend as good practice for holding it together.

Of course, since stressing out all weekend wasn't crappy enough, I also had to witness the end to my football season at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots got flat-out outplayed yesterday in all three phases of the game, and the final score reflects that. I don't think I cheered for anything the Patriots did yesterday after Wes Welker caught that touchdown pass, and at no point did I ever feel like the Patriots looked good out there or that they were in control of this game. And at the end of the day, the only thing to point to as the reason for that is the Ravens gameplan. One team wanted it more, looked better, played better, and is heading to New Orleans because of that. And that's really all there is to it.

****************

  • I spent a lot of yesterday wondering how long I would go before I was sick of looking at Ray Lewis. Turns out it was about six seconds into the National Anthem. Not good odds.
  • It's almost worth losing Gronk just so I can listen to Simms struggle with Hoo-man's name. Of course, he can barely say Tom Brady's name, so I don't know how mnuch consolation it really is.
  • As much as I hate to see the Patriots get the ball first only to punt it, I was actually encouraged by their opening drive. Great protection, good running lanes, and enough looks so that I felt that it was just a matter of time before Brady figured Baltimore out. (Note: boy was I wrong on that one).
  • Brandon Spikes looks more and more like the Predator with each passing week.
  • I didn't realize just how strong the wind was until Joe Flacco's first pass, which was a high percentage screen that you could see veer out wide. As anyone who ever had to live with me will tell you, there are few things more miserable than dealing with excessive wind.
  • Bernard Pollard in early coverage led to three separate text messages from my friends asking me which of Herndo's body parts Pollard was going to destroy. My money was on knee; of course, I should have realized that he already blew up a knee a few years ago, and I should have gone with head.
  • Brandon Lloyd may have no idea how to run with a football in his hand, he sure as hell knows how to catch one.
  • Between Wes Welker being stronger than me, the offensive/defensive line being having better cardio than me, and Danny Woodhead being faster, tougher, and more powerful than me, I'd say pretty much every body type you could possibly think of on this Patriots team leaves me looking like a pretty massive scrub.
  • I think if I had the power to eliminate one type of commercial from all sports events for the rest of time, it would be car commercials and it wouldn't even be close.
  • If your definition of "a really cool dream" involves playing ping pong, question your life choices.
  • Hey weird...Patriots leaving the checkdown receiver wide open.
  • Good to see Flacco switching it up, going for the Go Route down the left sideline as opposed to the right. It's always important to add new wrinkles.
  • Phew! Aqib Talib headed to the locker room! I was worried the major injury streak to crucial players was in jeopardy for a second there.
  • When was the last time Pearce didn't run incredibly well? Why don't the Ravens use him more?
  • Steve Gregory has really stepped in nicely for Brandon Merriweather as the Patriots safety who takes the absolute worst possible angles. The team hasn't even missed a beat in that department.
  • Very little pressure on Flacco for most of the first half. A lack of pressure is the first step for allowing a big play to happen.
  • Aaand there it is. And who is in coverage against Torey Smith? Kyle Arrington.
  • That Talib injury reprsented a fairly major shift in the Patriots defense. They had to switch to more of a soft zone that took away the sidelines, but left wide open holes in the middle and forced New England to try and get pressure with only the front line. Flacco had all day to throw and found his tight ends and receivers across the middle in what was an exceptionally easy first touchdown drive.
  • I think my least favorite part of football - the touchdown/commercial/kickoff/commercial/one play/end of quarter commercial superset - has now officially been replaced by the touchdown/commercial for injury timeout/extra point/commercial/kickoff double backburn. What a massive pile of mess that is.
  • In general, this game was chock full of commercial/one play/commercial sandwiches. I may possibly have a lawsuit against the NFL for enabling my burgeoning alcoholism. That's definitely something to look into.
  • You know what else is a massive pile of mess? Baltimore's defense on the ensuing Patriots drive. New England didn't even give me a chance to get nervous on that one.
  • Hmm...the 49ers in the Super Bowl, a new Sylvester Stallone action movie coming out, a new Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie coming out, a new Die Hard movie coming out...it looks like 1994 is back in full swing. Everyone gave me soooo much crap for saving my slap bracelets and Colorform shirts, but I'm gonna look pretty damn slick tomorrow.
  • If Harbaugh's expression after seeing the Hernandez completion that set up New England's end of half field goal didn't scream "Aw come on! No fair! He can't do that!", I don't know what did.
  • As good as it is to get points before the half, New England hasn't mismanaged the clock like that since Week 5 at Seattle. And we all know how that one ended.
  • Well...so much for hoping for a 35-0 halftime score.
  • I like the way the Patriots decided to get agressive to open up the 3rd quarter. It's definitely the kind of defense that can be susceptable at the back end, but it sure as hell beats simply waiting for Flacco to throw the ball.
  • "Last 6 AFC Championship Games won by thew home team." Real nice, Nantz. Thanks a lot. I hope you're happy.
  • One of the biggest problems about being a fat man watching playoff football in January is that it is literally impossible for me to be completely comfortable. If I open a window, my body is comfortable but my feet get cold. If I close the window, my feet are warm but the rest of me starts to sweat. I guess I could put on an extra pair of socks...but who the hell wears two pairs of socks?
  • That Wes Welker drop on 3rd down could end up screwing us. How many times do I have to write that???
  • I actually owe Arrington an apology for ragging on him earlier; he actually had one of his best games of the year yesterday. He was on Smith like me on a burrito.
  • Whenever Flacco saw Marquice Cole on the field, he zeroed in on him and didn't even bother to look for his other receivers.The worst thing about it was that Cole actually was in pretty good position; he's just too slow in coverage and couldn't get himself turned around in time.
  • I wonder why they took Arrington off of Smith - I thought he was playing him lights out.
  • The silence out of the Gillette faithful as soon as the Ravens took a 14-13 lead once again left me sitting in my recliner screaming as loud as I could, like I somehow had a snowball's chance in hell of being heard. That's something we all need to work on this offseason.
  • New England simply didn't have an answer for the pass-first offense that the Ravens switched to in the second half. Flacco knew the holes in the zone that New England had to switch to once Talib got hurt and he picked the defense apart all night long. It didn't matter if it was 10 yards to go or 20 yards to go, he knew where the open man would be and had the time to hit him. It was like constantly being kicked in the shin by a little kid and knowing that as badly as you wanted to just pick him up and punt him down the field, there wasn't a goddam thing you could do about it.
  • That Anquan Boldin touchdown was a great example. Baltimore could have run that same play 10 times and they would have gotten 10 touchdowns out of it. There was just no answer.
  • I think one of the most impressive things the Ravens did last night was they just didn't allow the Pats to get into any kind of rhythm. Every single inch the Patriots got, they paid for, and a big part of the hurry-up is being on the same page and getting some real momentum going.
  • Bernard Pollard. Again. It's almost funny at this point.
  • We had been saying all week that the game was going to come down to one or two plays, and once again, we were right. It's just that I feel like "Bernard Pollard injury" and "Wes Welker drop" seem to be those two plays way more often than they should.
  • For all intents and purposes, the game ended with that Ridley fumble. New England needed, at the very least, a long drive to give the defense a rest, if not tie it up. But after that fumble, a tired defense came back on the field, and once again Flacco found Cole in the secondary and it was embarrassingly easy.
  • Is there a reason we didn't see more Shane Vereen earlier in the game?
  • Body language from the defense on the sideline said more than anything I could write here ever could. Everyone knew it was over after the Boldin touchdown.
  • How much credit does the Baltimore defense deserve? Two consecutive weeks playing over 80 snaps, and they came into Gillette and held the New England Patriots to one offensive touchdown. You gotta give credit where credit is due.
  • It wasn't much of a game after the failed 4th down, and I don't want my last fan note of the 2012 season to be negative. So I'll leave it with this: I'm proud as hell of the Patriots. They gave me one of the more exciting seasons that I can remember, and cheering for them this year has been an absolute blast. While it's frustrating to always wonder just what could have been had we had both our tight ends on the field at the same time this season, it never does anyone any good to play the what if card. To be honest, I'm already well into the process of getting over this loss and I'm already gearing up for another great season. Tommy B WILL get one more ring as a Patriot. Just you watch. This just wasn't the year. Looks like Destiny was with the Ravens after all. Enjoy it, Baltimore., Represent the AFC well.

Well...that's that. Season over. Helluva game from the Ravens, who once again found a way to stop New England's high powered offense and kept it close enough to make the plays they needed to make to win the game. Like I said last week, this loss isn't even on my Top 10 for worst All-Time Patriots defeats. I'm not going to sit here and pretend this one doesn't hurt - I'm pretty damn miserable right now - but the sting from yesterday won't last long.

Congrats, Ravens. You officially have my support in a few weeks when you take on the 49ers. And in the words of Dr. Peter Venkman from the 1984 classic Ghostbusters, "Go get her, Ray!"

And yes, I am still rooting for the Ravens, even though that genius Terrell Suggs didn't even take his cleats off before he started flapping his gums about the Patriots. The fact that Suggs would rather bash the Patriots than enjoy his team's victory is completely unsurprising. To get mad at Suggs for being a jackass is like getting mad at Bill Belichick for being short at press conferences; Suggs is simply incapable of not being an idiot. It's in his nature, and he isn't going to stop anytime soon. Didn't really think about it when I heard it, and you won't be hearing anything else from me on the matter.

Thanks for another great season, everyone.

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