There were a number of reasons why the New England Patriots were able to hold on and defeat the Baltimore Ravens Sunday in Foxborough, but there is one that can’t help but stick out at me with the game now in the books.
When the final horn sounded today, it was still evident to me that even considering how much progress Joe Flacco has made as an NFL quarterback, he’s still not quite on Tom Brady’s level.
Consider the plays on the game’s two most important drives:
After Dwan Edwards recovered a fumble to put the Ravens within 3 at 17-14 in the 3rd quarter; the Patriots went 79 yards in 6 plays to re-take a 10 point lead.
-Pass to Fred Taylor for 13 yards
-Pass to Sam Aiken for 26 yards
-Pass to Randy Moss for 20 yards
-Fred Taylor rush for 4 yards
-Kevin Faulk rush for 2 yards
-Pass to Randy Moss for 14 yard TD
Compare that to the Ravens’ final drive, which ended with a drop by Mark Clayton:
-Pass to Mark Clayton for 12 yards
-Pass to Derrick Mason for 11 yards
-Pass incomplete to Todd Heap (dangerous pass under pressure)
-Pass to Mark Clayton for 9 yards
-Flacco rush for 2 yards
-Pass to Clayton for 9 yards
-Ray Rice rush for 4 yards
-Flacco incomplete to Ray Rice (thrown high, in danger of being picked)
-Flacco to Rice for 13 yards
-Flacco incomplete to Clayton
-Pass to Kelley Washington for 6 yards
-Flacco incomplete to Mason (thrown to back arm)
-Flacco incomplete to Clayton
It isn’t as if Flacco played poorly on the Ravens’ final drive. In fact, he played ALMOST well enough to beat one of the AFC’s best teams on the road. But not quite. Flacco threw dangerous passes twice, and put his receivers in tough spots at other times.
Flacco is REALLY good.
Brady is GREAT.
As of right now, that’s the biggest difference in why the New England Patriots are ahead* of the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC. (*via tiebreaker)
When the Patriots most desperately needed their QB to come through today, he did-in a BIG way.
When the Ravens most desperately needed their QB to come through today, he came JUST a bit short.
The Ravens are still 3-1, and will remain atop the AFC North-but I can comfortably say that this will not be the last time the Ravens will desperately need their QB to come through this season. And there might well be much more on the line the next time.
-Following today’s loss, John Harbaugh chose not to openly criticize the officiating (for fear of the NFL office), but made it clear he wasn’t overly thrilled with the calls. Ray Lewis DID criticize the officiating, calling it “embarrassing”; and saying “I have kids just like Tom Brady has kids”, and he wants the same level of ‘respect’ that is given to the Patriots’ star QB.
-Brendon Ayanbadejo is likely done for the year with a torn quadricep tendon.
-Jared Gaither’s injury does not appear to be serious, but John Harbaugh did not set a timetable for his return.
-Hear from John Harbaugh, Terrell Suggs, and Joe Flacco in the Audio Vault at WNST.net. Ray Lewis’ comments are available at WNST.net via WNSTv
4:27-Patriots will hold on for a 27-21 win after that drop. I’ll be back following the game.
4:25-Just when I was praising Derrick Mason……
4:24-Well, this isn’t exciting at all, is it? I almost don’t want to type-just enjoy.
4:22-The knock on Joe Flacco is that he’s never had to lead his team in a situation exactly like this. The only situation that was close was the end of the playoff game against the Titans, but that was a tie game-where they always had overtime to fall back on. This is a “touchdown or lose” situation. No pressure, Joe Cool.
4:21-Derrick Mason looks the player that I named my team MVP a season ago…..and that was a good move after the catch by Mark Clayton as well.
4:18-My apologies for the delay, I had to switch computers as this game closes. Huge defensive stand to get the ball back; now they can’t worry about getting cute-but can’t just chuck the ball on every play, either.
Good movement so far. They don’t want to leave the Patriots much time if they DO score either.
4:14-Having a review there would have been helpful, it appears.
4:13-The Ravens may REALLY wish they had a challenge left here in the 4th quarter.
4:10-Ray Rice on 3rd and 1? Don’t like that call. On 3rd and 2 you need someone who can get space. On 3rd and 1, you need to bull someone over. That’s not Ray Rice.
4:07-Didn’t like that challenge from Harbaugh. It came off as a challenge out of frustration instead of an intelligent decision based on what he truly believed happened on the play.
Pats extend their lead to 27-21, but the Ravens are still in this game-which MAY end before the Chargers and Steelers kick off tonight.
4:02-Ron Winter is not doing a good job of explaining this situation-either to John Harbaugh or to the crowd. I’m still even a bit concerned on the rule myself, here. Clearly by going to the booth, it means the play CAN be overruled; so what was he telling Harbs the first time they talked?
4:01-I think that was a GREAT place for Belichick to make that call. It didn’t end up working, but that was the EXACT place for him to make that call.
4:00-REALLY big play there by Suggs. Ravens have a chance.
3:58-The Patriots have not struggled to move the ball at all today. In order for teams to beat the Ravens; they have to establish some sort of ground game and THEN throw the ball. The Patriots have done that-unlike the Chargers.
3:55-If there was ever a time to make a stop on 3rd and short…….
3:53-He caught that ball (I think). Although, the Patriots aren’t showing the replay on the jumbotron like they did with the Bodden INT; which makes me think it’s pretty questionable. We’ll see.
3:50-Looks like Ayanbadejo’s left leg.
And the Skins held on to beat the Bucs. Damn.
7 here might ice this one for New England. There’s a lot of time, but having to rally from down 10 3 different times might be a bit too much.
3:47-I say the Ravens need to get off the field on 3rd down and they don’t. I say they can’t let the Patriots get across midfield and they’re already up to the Baltimore 35.
If I say the Ravens should let the Patriots score a TD will something good happen?
Brendon Ayanbadejo hurt. Ugh.
3:44-This is a huge down for the Ravens’ defense. Getting off the field would make a WORLD of difference.
3:40-And we have a ball game. Flacco to McGahee, and the Ravens are within 3. Hopefully the rest did this defense well. They need to keep the Patriots on THEIR side of the football field on this drive.
3:38-Some signs of life offensively; and they have allowed the defense to rest; which is the most important thing here. If they can punch this in for 7, we’ll actually have a ball game here in the 4th.
3:33-I’m usually the LAST person to buy into the “there have been a lot of bad calls today” theory, but did Leigh Bodden just somehow manage to get an offensive pass interference call there by just asking for one?
Questionable officiating. QUESTIONABLE. Nothing more.
3:28-Am I the kiss of death? Randy Moss with the very smart push on Domonique Foxworth-forcing him away from where Brady was going with the ball. That’s hard to defend for anyone. It could REALLY put the Ravens behind the 8 ball here in the 2nd half.
3:27-Ravens HAVE to make a stop here. They need to keep this a 1 possession game after getting the momentum from that fumble recovery.
3:25-So, this Tom Brady fella is pretty good. Nothing like having a QB who can REALLY rally his team after their opponent seizes momentum.
Ravens defense has been on the field a LOT today.
3:20-AND ALL AT ONCE EVERYTHING CHANGES! More pressure equals more success!
Terrell Suggs with the big sack. Dwan Edwards the TD. Suggs (437) is now the team’s all time leader in sack yardage.
The Ravens are alive again. Wow.
3:09-Why are the Patriots up 10 right now?
Ravens: 7 penalties for 70 yards
Patriots: 4 penalties for 35 yards
Also, if we ignore the Patriots’ final possession right before the half; New England has had 5 possessions. Three have resulted directly in scores; and the Patriots have had the ball on Baltimore’s side of the field on ALL FIVE.
Leigh Bodden was in a very fortunate position right there. Nice play by Haruki Nakamura to try to get something going on Special Teams.
3:04-Scott/Drew: This team has looked particularly rattled today. We don’t really know much about the emotions of this team yet because until now, nothing had gone wrong. Drew-the way you like to say that the hardest thing in the world to do is “stop losing”, sometimes it is just as hard to stop negative momentum when things are going wrong.
Jarret Johnson with the big sack there to get the defense off the field. Ravens REALLY need to get something going.
3:01-Regarding Gaither; apparently the CBS team said he was carted off for “precautionary reasons.” This would be good news, and certainly make me retract my earlier statement of the injury being a potential “season-changer.”
Also worth noting (maybe): I have had a couple of people tell me that they saw John Harbaugh mouth the words “he’s OK” to Ravens players as Gaither was carted off the field.
2:51-As painful as this has been, are the Titans really losing 27-3 to Jacksonville? Jeff Fisher can only do so much without having any really good players…..
2:40-Jared Gaither was taken to Mass General Hospital in Boston for tests on his neck and shoulders. He has movement in all of his extremities.
2:39-Leigh Bodden with the pick there, and it really did appear as though he got both feet down. What an AWFUL way for for this drive to end; as the Ravens now will go to the half in a world of trouble.
2:37-Statement drive from the Ravens thus far. They really need to answer here, especially with New England getting the ball to open the 2nd half. Safety James Sanders was helped off the field for the Patriots.
2:35-I’m not certain how that could have been anything but a catch from Kelley Washington. Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing?
2:32-Big effort from Ray Rice there to get the first down. The Ravens REALLY need to score here before the half.
Jared Gaither has apparently been taken to a hospital here in Boston. (Editor’s note: This was something I overheard, but was unable to confirm.)
2:28-The Ravens were bailed out there by a personal foul call on Mike Wright. I think Cam Cameron was smart to go back to the ground to start this drive. Clearly Joe has been rattled by struggles and the injury to Gaither.
2:21-Terrell Suggs called for another roughing the passer; as he apparently went to Brady’s knees. Again……I guess……
It looked like T-Sizzle may have gone towards Brady’s knees, but it didn’t appear as though he actually got them. This team is struggling right now, and needs to settle down.
2:15-It clearly appears to be a neck injury with Gaither, and they are working with particular concern for the big man. Already well-wishing is coming in at JG’s Twitter page.
Joe did the right thing there in getting rid of the ball, but you HAVE to get the ball back to the line of scrimmage to avoid intentional grounding. With the Gaither injury and things unraveling a bit recently offensively; the defense REALLY needs a hold here.
2:12-Overheard from Ravens’ PR staff: “He’s moving everything.”
This has the potential to be a season-changing injury for the Ravens. They are not deep at OT, it was one of the major concerns for this team coming out of Training Camp. You wonder if Willie Anderson has worked to get himself into game condition….
2:08-It is a MAJOR concern to see Jared Gaither down like this. Marshal Yanda would have to be the next man in with Oniel Cousins and Tony Moll inactive.
This looks VERY bad. VERY concerning.
2:04-The good news: Randy Moss’ mauling of Domonique Foxworth was the first time we’ve heard Moss’ name today. The bad news: the Ravens should have been off the field MUCH earlier on that drive, but allowed Sammy Morris to convert a major first down. The other good news: Ray Lewis and Dwan Edwards each got good hits on Flacco on that drive; and Ed Reed didn’t let Benjamin Watson get free.
1:52-Derrick Mason is not a jump ball receiver. I don’t know why they insist on trying to throw it to him that way.
1:47-We can use some good news:
Buccaneers 7, Redskins 0
Okay, I feel better.
1:45-The Ravens MUST get more pressure, clearly. But it is easier said than done against an all-world QB.
A lot of people are Tweeting/Facebooking that Brady didn’t get in. We are in the opposite endzone from them, so I couldn’t offer any perspective on that.
1:42-Two things about the end of the quarter:
1-I do NOT know what Ray Lewis was doing there. Stop asking.
2-The refs should not have measured, and it DID give Bill Belichick a free timeout. If you win 3 Super Bowls, you will also likely get advantages other coaches do not.
1:26-Okay, with Mason getting up, hopefully he will be okay. That looked awful live AND on the replay. But the Ravens are up 7-3 after that fantastic catch.
I don’t think I need to explain that the Ravens are a MUCH better team with Derrick Mason healthy. Hauschk was true on the XP to cap off a 15 play, 81 yard, 6:35 TD drive.
1:22-After all of the red zone success early in the season, this has looked more like a Billick/Boller trip inside the 20.
Congratulations to Michael Oher for his first career catch. Wish it would have been helpful.
HOLY CRAP Derrick Mason with the great catch. But he’s down and is in a lot of trouble it appears……..
1:21-Not sure I understood that 3rd down play call; but it worked-so it was a good call. The lob to Clayton wasn’t pretty.
1:15-Does it look like Flacco is zeroed in on Mason early on to anyone else? This offense is better when Joe is spreading the ball around to Washington, Clayton, Heap, etc.
Ray Rice is “shifty.” That’s why he’s dangerous.
1:14-I’m a little surprised Jared Gaither was called for a false start early, as it isn’t particularly loud here at Gillette Stadium.
1:11-The offensive line continues to do a HELL of a job keeping Joe Flacco’s jersey clean. He had ALL DAY to find Derrick Mason on that 3rd down pass.
1:10-The usually VERY composed Joe Flacco looked particularly rattled on his first two pass attempts. I’m surprised Cam Cameron would open via the air on the road.
Willis McGahee was the first running back in the game today, not Ray Rice.
1:08-That was only the 2nd time all season Tom Brady has been sacked, for the record.
1:06-The Pats may have taken an early 3-0 lead, but that’s a win for the Ravens. They HAVE to keep New England out of the endzone when they get inside the 20.
Sam Aiken started in place of Wes Welker; Kevin Faulk started in place of Fred Taylor; Chris Baker started in place of Benjamin Watson today for the Pats.
1:04-Ravens get an early test of exactly what I thought they would have to do to win the game. They have to hold the Pats to field goal tries in the red zone.
Also, Chris Carr is REALLY struggling at the KR position. He should never have even came out of the endzone there, even before he fumbled.
1:00-The atmosphere at Gillette Stadium is really awful. No electricity in the stadium before the game. This is truly one of the 5 towns left in the country where baseball comes first and everything else is just a nice distraction.
The “O” in the National Athem was VERY loud, and the Patriots fans have been stunned by the number of Ravens fans in town everywhere we’ve gone.
Stephen Gostkowski is set to kick off to Chris Carr. Pats won the toss, deferred to the 2nd half.
12:53-As if I need to remind you, the Ravens are 0-4 all-time against the Patriots. In the pre-game video presentation, highlights from the Patriots’ come from behind win in 2007 at M&T Bank Stadium (the Rex Ryan timeout game) were shown prominently. It is also kinda humorous to see a “16-0″ banner hanging in one corner of the stadium in a similar way to how the team has hung their Super Bowl banners. If I had played on that team, I’m not sure I would want that reminder of losing to the Giants out in Glendale constantly hanging in front of my face.
12:42-The only bad thing about making road trips is finding out how a song you love has become synonymous with a team you hate. For example, it is VERY difficult for me to hear “Renegade” by Styx (a GREAT song) because of how significant the tune is for the Steelers at Heinz Field. It is also particularly difficult for me to hear “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond considering that the Sawx have made it part of the experience at Fenway.
The Patriots just started playing “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who before introductions, and I was a bit concerned it might leave a foul taste in my mouth. It doesn’t appear as though they are using it in a particularly prominent way.
12:27-It is Breast Cancer Awareness weekend around the NFL….here is the note from the Patriots:
“The NFL and the Patriots are using today’s game to raise awareness about breast cancer. Throughout the league, games will feature players, coaches and referees wearing pink game apparel to raise awareness for the campaign, as well as on-field pink ribbon stencials, special K-balls and pink coins.
At Gillette Stadium, several Patriots players will be wearing pink apparel, the goalpost padding will be pink and the cheerleaders will be in pink. In partnership with Re/Max of New England and Mass. affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, staff throughout Gillette Stadium will be wearing pink ribbons and fans will have the opportunity to donate to breast cancer research. Fans will receive a pink ribbon for $2 or a pink rally towel for $5. Also, 10 breast cancer survivors will be the Patriots’ guests today and take part in a pregame ceremony.”
The Ravens told me that Matt Birk, Kelley Washington, Todd Heap, Derrick Mason, Joe Flacco and John Harbaugh’s entire coaching staff will be wearing pink cleats, gloves, hat bills, wristbands, etc. to recognize breast cancer awareness.
12:24-A reminder that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms have the call for today’s game on CBS. If you are out of town and not getting Ravens-Patriots on CBS; the game is broadcast nationally on radio via the Sports USA Radio Network; check for your local affiliate. Bob Fitzgerald, Ross Tucker, and Tony Graziani have the call for that broadcast.
12:21 The weather in Foxborough is cloudy (I guess you could call this overcast), but no rain really so far today. According to The Weather Channel, the temperatures should stay in the 60′s, and there is only a 10-20 percent chance of rain. Shouldn’t really have much of any impact on the game. Winds are only blowing at about 2 mph; not a whole lot of movement from the flags on the goalposts.
12:14-We are slowly getting pictures up from our New England Bus Trip via our Twitter account (@WNST), YouTube, and WNST.net. We had a great time at Fenway Park last night (as well as Newbury Comics, Daisy Buchanon’s, Cask & Flagon, and the other stops we made in Boston). The highlight for me was the line Brian from my bus gave upon pulling into Beantown:
“Look at all the Red Sox fans……I feel like I’m in Baltimore!”
Well played. The lobster rolls and Legal Sea Food Clam Chowder at Fenway was pretty good too.
12:11-One of the notes that a few Patriots reporters pointed out to me today was that Brian Hoyer (rookie-Michigan State) is one turned ankle away from being “the guy” for the New England Patriots. Matt Cassel handled the situation well last season when Tom Brady got hurt, but Cassel had been in the system for a while. Bill Belichick is putting a lot of trust (or maybe a lot of ego) into his rookie QB-who the Ravens actually took a look at before the Draft, and who shares an agent (Joe Linta) with Joe Flacco.
12:05-DT Vince Wilfork (ankle) and WR Wes Welker (knee) are both active for the Patriots; they were both question marks throughout the week. It will be interesting to see how much they can go. For the Ravens, DE Trevor Pryce, WR Derrick Mason and QB Troy Smith all battled the flu bug this week.
11:45 And now the Baltimore scratches:
QB John Beck (3rd QB)
RB Jalen Parmele
LB Tavares Gooden (head-possible concussion from Browns game)
OL Tony Moll
OT Oniel Cousins
TE Tony Curtis
DT Brandon McKinney
DT Kelly Talavou
This means OLB/DE Paul Kruger IS dressed for the first time in his rookie season. Also, Jameel McClain will start in place of Gooden; who suffered his injury on the same play where Ray Lewis got hurt last week against Cleveland (hit by “friendly fire” from Haloti Ngata.)
11:36-Greetings from the Press Box here at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, where the Baltimore Ravens put their 3-0 record on the line against the 2-1 New England Patriots.
Here are your scratches for the Pats:
WR Joey Galloway
CB Terrence Wheatley
DB Bret Lockett
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
LB Jerod Mayo
OL Rich Ohrnberger
G Kendall Simmons
DL Ron Brace