Briefly on Ravens Game
A Look Back, A Look Ahead
I should have listed myself on the injury report as questionable with an illness. As such, I have been lax in my duties to recap the Baltimore game -- and on a short week too.
For the second straight week, a midlevel team brought their best and the Patriots did not. New England was fortunate to escape with a win. Like the week before, it took a bunch of mistakes by that midlevel team.
When the chips were down, the Patriots did the job required on both sides of the ball. The didn't play 60 minutes, not by a stretch, but they did play the 60th minute.
27 - - - 24
At least for this game, the loss of Rosevelt Colvin was obvious. Adalius Thomas played on the outside and did not have a good game -- well, not a great game. He had 3 solo tackles, 3 assists and a quarterback hit. But without Colvin and with Thomas on the outside, that left Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau to man the middle for most of the game.
Whether that "exposed their age" or the defense just weren't entirely prepared, Willis McGahee would have set up camp on New England's side of the line of scrimmage if he wasn't eluding the poor tackling Patriots. Somehow, the defense was able to register three straight three-and-outs in the fourth quarter.
Bruschi and Seau were 1st and 3rd, respectively, in tackles, but that's more a function of the defensive line getting pushed back and the Ravens running up the middle than anything special either of them did.
For the second straight week, a backup quarterback had lots of time to throw and they were able to find receivers with plenty of room to make catches. The Monday Night broadcast made it impossible to see where the breakdowns were, but I think the Patriots had more defenders in the box trying to stop McGahee, with the d-backs playing zone, and the Ravens receivers exploited the open spaces.
Offensively, the Patriots have been all too predictable. The difference in this defense without Sammy Morris is astounding. Laurence Maroney has shown fairly conclusively that he cannot carry the load alone. He needs that semi-elite back to pick up the tough yards, to make the punishing runs.
There were few plays that Maroney was on the field that he didn't get the ball. When he was in the backfield, the defense keyed on him. A couple times he squeezed through without the ball and made a pair of receptions for big gains. It was enough against Baltimore, but it likely will not be enough the rest of the season.
The Patriots desperately need a legitimate running game, or Brady will continue to take a beating, and that just can't happen.
New England's passing game broke down in two areas: pass blocking and broken pass routes. Pass blockers misread (or simply missed) several pass rush schemes, allowing defenders into the backfield untouched or barely touched.
The pressure on Brady would have been less effective but that Patriot receivers were often held up at the line in much the same way Ben Watson was ridden down the field when the officials finally called defensive holding in the closing minutes of the game. The coaches and receivers are simply going to have to find a way for the receivers to run routes without getting held up at the line.
That would be easier with a running game, but they'll need a contingency in the event that a running game never exists.
The Patriots were really outplayed in every phase of the game, because the special teams -- with the exception of Stephen Gostkowski -- failed to accomplish their mission as well. The coverage teams gave up several big returns, and the return teams produced little better than average field position.
The weather certainly didn't help, but guess what? This is New England, and the weather can get pretty nasty in these parts. The next three games are in Foxboro and the last is in New Jersey. They're all outdoors. If weather is a disadvantage, after six years of it being an advantage, it could made the last quarter of the season .. interesting.