Tuesday, December 04, 2007
This was the worst effort the Patriots have mustered this season. There were so many mistakes, bad blocks, bad cuts, poor pickups, crappy tackles, and the dropped passes, my God, the dropped passes!
Yet despite themselves - along with the cheering of Don Shula and Torny Kornheiser in the ESPN booth - the Patriots came out on top, improving their record to 12-0. This is the first time in franchise history that they have reached 12-0.
The first drive of the game saw the first of many miscues by the Patriots. After getting the ball to the 1 yard line, the Pats were forced to settle for a field goal. On 1st and goal, Ray Lewis made an amazing play to dislodge the ball from Ben Watson's hands. On 2nd and goal, Heath Evans was dragged to the ground for a 2 yard loss. On 3rd and goal, Brady was able to avoid pressure with a few smart steps, found Watson open in the back of the end zone, threw the ball, and Watson dropped it. Instead of a quick 7 point lead for New England, Baltimore got a moral victory with a goal line stand.
The Ravens didn't do much with their next drive, neither did the Patriots. On 3rd and 11 from their 29, the Ravens pulled off a big play. Boller threw a 53 yard pass to Devard Darling. The play was one of those plays that is inches away from being a big play for the other team. Adalius Thomas and Jarvis Green had Boller on the run. Thomas missed an arm tackle, and Boller got the ball away down the field. Samuel dove for the pick and was just late. Darling then tooled Brandon Meriweather and ran down the field before Sanders stopped him.
After some McGahee runs, the Ravens got the ball to the New England 4. On 3rd and goal, Thomas was once again close to making a big play. Adalius was right about to slap the ball out of Boller's hands when the Baltimore QB threw a bullet to Derrick Mason. 7-3 Baltimore.
The Patriots went three and out in response. McGahee was the center piece of another Ravens drive, but the Patriots held Baltimore to a field goal. 10-3 Ravens.
The Pats made two big adjustments for their next drive: they went to a no huddle shotgun, and Kevin Faulk was given the ball.
The Ravens countered by never letting go of Randy Moss, holding him, knocking him down, hitting him in the face. They were only called twice for it, but there was clear interference/holding on three occasions.
The Patriots were able to get down to the 1, and Evans punched it in. 10-10.
The Ravens went 3 and out, then the Patriots went 3 and out, then the Ravens went 3 and out.
The Pats had the ball and 3 timeouts at their 36 with 1:04 on the clock in the 2nd. Brady threw deep down the right to Moss, who had beaten double coverage. The pass, however, was underthrown. But Ed Reed's shot to Moss's facemask was thrown properly. Reed had his back to the ball, and basically jammed his hand in Randy's face. The ball fell incomplete and no flags were thrown. It seemed like a clear case of defensive pass interference, but it was not called.
The next play was one of the most bizarre you'll see in the NFL. Brady dropped back, and threw to Wes Welker. But Welker was being held before and after the ball was released. This allowed Ed Reed to step up and pick off the pass. Reed returned it up the field where he met Mister Kevin Faulk, a.k.a. Troy Brown II. Faulk laid a PERFECT tackle on Reed, clasping his arms around Reed's waist, and dragging him down, simultaneously stripping the Baltimore safety of the ball. Watson was able to fall on it and the Patriots got a new set of downs. It was, without a doubt, the best tackle any Patriot made all night.
The Patriots ran out the clock and went into the locker room tied 10-10.
Baltimore came out in the 2nd half with more Willis McGahee, who had 5 carries for 31 yards on a 63 yard TD drive. 17-10 Ravens.
The Patriots running backs responded with an impressive drive of their own. Maroney rushed 4 times for 11 yards, and had a massive 36 yard reception. Faulk contributed with 3 carries for 10 yards. Brady eventually found Moss in the end zone to tie the game at 17.
Once again, the Ravens marched down the field with more Willis McGahee and another touchdown. 24-17 Baltimore.
The Pats went three and out, thanks in large part to back-to-back sacks. I'm pretty sure this was the first time Brady has been taken down on two consecutive plays.
Yamon Figurs returned the punt 33 yards, and after a penalty, the Ravens started their drive from the New England 26. They were only 26 yards from putting a nail in the coffin. Instead, Kyle Boller's true colors shone through. Boller threw a dumb pass seemingly intended for James Sanders. Funnily enough, it appeared as though Sanders was covered by Rodney Harrison underneath and Asante Samuel over the top. Sanders ran back the pick for 42 yards.
The big play of the ensuing drive was an outlet pass to Maroney that turned into a 43 yard gain. Unfortunately, the Patriots were unable to put the ball in the end zone. Moss had a ball bounce off his fingertips, and Kyle Brady dropped a pass. Gostkowski hit a field goal to make it a 24-20 game.
The Pats D finally stepped up and stopped McGahee, forcing a three and out.
A late hold call stalled the Patriots drive, and with 5:33 on the clock, were forced to punt.
The defense once again remained strong, stopping McGahee a yard shy of getting a first down.
The Patriots' last drive was a crazy one, to say the least. They got the ball on their 27 yard line, needing a touchdown in the 3:30 remaining.
Brady hit Watson at midfield for a 23 yard gain. Faulk dropped a ball, then caught one for 9 yards. On 3rd and 1, Brady snuck for 2 and a 1st down.
After a pair of incompletions, Brady hit Faulk in the middle. Kevin did something very strange. Even though it was 3rd and 10, and he was well short of the first down line, he ran almost directly for the sideline. Had Faulk dove, he would have gotten the first down with ease. Instead it would be 4th and 1.
The Patriots tried a quick snap sneak and were apparently stopped, but the Ravens had called timeout before the play. Then Evans got the ball on a fullback dive, and was tackled for a loss, but the play had been whistled dead due to a false start. On 4th and 6, Brady was given a huge hole, and he scrambled for a 12 yard gain. A 5 yard defensive holding flag put the ball on the Baltimore 18.
Faulk ran up the middle for 5 yards. A pair of incompletions brought about 4th and 5. Brady's pass to Watson in the end zone was tipped for an incomplete, but Jamaine Winborne was flagged for illegal contact. Winborne held Watson from the snap to the whistle.
On the next play, Brady hit Gaffney in the corner of the end zone. 27-24 New England.
A couple of personal fouls brought about the rarely seen kickoff from the receiving team's 30 yard line.
The Ravens had 0:44 and 1 timeout. Boller used the middle of the field, and got to their 45 yard line. They then took two shots at the end zone. The first was dropped by Meriwether, even though it hit him right between the numbers. The second was caught on the 2 by Mark Clayton (after Asante Samuel was tackled by a Ravens receiver), but Eric Alexander brought Clayton down to end the game.
Some might say that the Patriots were lucky, or that they benefited from the officiating, or that beating a 4-7 Baltimore team by 3 isn't much of a victory. To these people, I say "Shut up!" The officiating went against the Patriots for the first three quarters. I challenge anyone to show me a bad call in the 4th quarter that benefited the Patriots.
The Patriots played like crap and still won. And when it came to a head in the 4th quarter, the defense made big stands, the offense made big plays. Meanwhile, the Ravens were too busy holding Randy Moss, and throwing flags around to win the game.
That being said, the Patriots cannot play like this against Pittsburgh and expect to win.
If the Patriots beat the Steelers next Sunday, they will clinch a first round bye. If the Pats win, and the Colts lose, they will clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs.