Monday, January 11, 2010

Ravens Dominate Patriots

Group hug! The Ravens defense baffled the New England Patriots all day in their 33-14 victory.

The Ravens stunned the NFL yesterday with a 33-14 beat down of the New England Patriots, something that not many people saw coming.

For years, the media fawned over Tom Brady -- from his chiseled good looks down to his clutch performance in the playoffs and multiple Super Bowl victories. That New England nut-hugging also included Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, a man who loves one-word answers in press conferences as much as he loves hooded sweatshirts with the sleeves cut off.

So it was nice to put a final nail in the coffin of the Patriots dynasty yesterday. And the Ravens did it with a sledgehammer.

From the beginning of the game, the beat down was on. On the first play from scrimmage, Ray Rice took off on a 77-yard TD run. By the end of the first quarter, the Ravens were up 24-0. They'd forced Adonis himself (Brady) into 3 turnovers in the quarter and on offense, the Ravens dared the Patriots to stop their running attack.

The Patriots couldn't.

Once the first quarter ended, the game was essentially over. But that didn't mean the Ravens weren't going to let the Patriots get back into the game for a little while.

During a Patriots punt, Tom Zbikowski made contact with the ball, and the Patriots tried to recover it, which means they would have gotten the ball deep in Ravens territory. However, the Patriots player who recovered the ball didn't maintain control of it as he fell out of bounds. The ruling on the field was a fumble recovery for the Patriots, but replays clearly showed that the Patriots player didn't maintain control.

Did the Ravens challenge the play? Nope. And the Patriots scored on a Tom Brady pass to Justin Edleman a few plays later.

What happened exactly? According to John Harbaugh, the booth didn't see the replay. No clear explanation was given. Were they napping? Did the replay monitor in the Ravens' booth just mysteriously not work? Wouldn't be a surprise in Foxboro...

Anyway, the Ravens and Patriots exchanged punts for the rest of the first half, and a Joe Flacco interception was rendered moot when the Ravens defense was able to stop the Patriots on offense. Brady's 3rd interception (Dawan Landry) resulted in another Billy Cundiff field goal, making the score 27-7.

On the following Patriots drive, Brady drove the offense down the field for their best drive of the game, resulting in yet another Brady to Edelman touchdown. And at 27-14, the prologue for an epic Patriots comeback was being written.

But the Ravens squashed any hopes for that on their next drive, which was a masterful 6:12 minute drive that ended with a Willis McGahee touchdown. The Ravens failed to convert on the 2-point conversion (even though replays showed the ball breaking the plane of the endzone).

On the Patriots final drive of importance, the Patriots drove to the Ravens' 27-yard line, where Stephen Gostkowski missed a 44-yard field goal, essentially ending the game for good. The Ravens then drained more than 5 minutes from the game clock, giving the ball back to the Patriots with 2 minutes left.

And at that point, it was a formality. The game was officially over.

The Ravens simply punished the New England defense all day to the tune of 234 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Joe Flacco completed just 4 of his 10 pass attempts for 34 yards and an interception. His QB rating on the day was 10. However, Flacco completed 2 key passes on the 3rd quarter drive that made the score 33-14, so it wasn't a total waste of a performance. But going forward in the post-season, Flacco is going to have to factor into the Ravens offense some more, injured or not.

But, when the Ravens are having success on the ground, and the defense is forcing turnover and turnover, there is no reason to pass. With Flacco banged up, it was the safe play.

Both McGahee and Rice had excellent games. Rice finished with 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. McGahee had 62 and a score, while Le'Ron McClain pounded his way into the endzone for a touchdown as well.

The defense looked ferocious. Ray Lewis was back to his 2000-self. He was everywhere at once, smashing Patriots players and making tackles. Terrell Suggs even got his name called, forcing a Brady fumble in the first quarter. And for the second week in a row, the secondary stepped up in a big way, as Dominque Foxworth, Chris Carr, Frank Walker, Dawan Landry and Ed Reed each made great plays.

So who do the Ravens face next week? Who do you think.

The Colts.

Would you have it any other way?

Stay tuned for my breakdown of this Saturday night's game.

Until then, enjoy this win, Ravens fans.

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