If you're looking for three words to sum up this game, "What a battle" does it for me. All week long, we blogged with our friends at Baltimore Beatdown, chatting about their #1 run defense (7th overall), Joe Flacco's performance to date, and how NE would have a tough time offensively. All of that was true. But, we did just enough to come out with a W. There certainly were mistakes on both sides of the ball, but I felt this game was the gritty matchup it advertised to be and we all had quite a show, if you ask me.
All week long I felt 2 things needed to happen: the defense needed to press Joe Flacco and Tom Brady needed to find that magical connection with his receivers. Both happened, to varying degrees. Nothing about this game was stellar from a statistical perspective, but the right things happened at the right moments to propel the team forward. So, onto the ups and downs.
I'm experimenting with the format a bit and decided "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" was just too hard to manage, so Ups and Downs it is.
- Defense - Overall, our defense looked really good, holding the Ravens to 14 points (the other 7 from a Tom Brady fumble and Ravens recovery in the end zone). Brandon McGowan and Brandon Meriweather were all over the field, making tackles and pressing receivers when needed. Gary Guyton is turning into a beast at MLB. It's definitely Jerod Mayo's job, but isn't it good to see Gary coming up in the world? In a 3-4, both Mayo and Guyton at ILB would be a strong, young partnership.
- Tom Brady - 21/32 and 258 yards, 1 touchdown is not great, but it was good enough to march them down the field when they needed it. And tell me you weren't pumped to see Brady float that TD pass to Randy Moss! Brady correctly read that Moss was in single coverage and the defender was grossly out gunned. A thing of beauty.
- Passing - Not one receiver, tight end, or running back cracked 100 yards in the air, but Brady did a masterful job of spreading the ball around where he needed to. Wes Welker had some nice catches in critical circumstances and Ben Watson continues to be clutch. One of the biggest surprises was how effective running backs were as receivers. In particular, Sammy Morris, often split wide, had 5 grabs for 35 yards.
- Rushing - Our run game, as predicted, was nothing to write home about. 85 yards to be exact. But, Belichick used the ground game to unbalance Baltimore and guess what? You can have 2 yards rushing, but if they're for touchdowns, it doesn't matter. Did I mention 2 of our TDs were on the ground against the #1 run D? And Tom Brady had one of them no less!
- Red Zone - 3/5 in the red zone is a heck of a lot better than 1/5 last week against Atlanta. All week we've been talking about efficiency in the 20 and we got it today. We all would like to see every trip result in 7, but the percentage is heading in the right direction.
- Laurence Maroney - Even in kickoff return duties, El Mo continues to struggle, dancing and bouncing off of blockers in front of him. 7 for 6 yards with a long of 5 is not good, no sir. It's especially not good when "old man" Fred Taylor has 7 for 25 and Tom Brady gets 5 for 11. I'm very close to calling Maroney a bust.
- Tom Brady fumble - Protect.the.quarterback!!! Luckily, we had a 10 point lead at the time, but Matt Light got abused by Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs. In a close game, this could've been the difference between a win and a loss. Matt Light HAS to have Brady's back if he's going to work the left side (blind side).
A gritty, hard fought win. What are your ups and downs? What were you happy about? Has Brady shaken off the rust?