The referees aside, here is a closer snapshot of the Patriot's performance on each side of the ball. How do you think each unit played? Did any particular unit cause the Patriots to lose this game or was it an overall poor performance by the team?
With Rob Gronkowski the lone veteran tight-end in the system, New England played more 3 wide-receiver groupings by giving Baltimore a heavy dose of Julian Edlemen (4 rec, 7 tgts, 28 yds, 1 td), Wes Welker (8 rec, 10 tgts, 142 yds) and Brandon Lloyd (9 rec, 12 tgts, 108 yds). In future games, I expect the Patriots to continue rotating Edlemen and Welker, as well as find ways to get them on the field simultaneously.
Fun note about Wes Welker: From roughly 2007-2010, the Patriots used Welker around 70-75% of the time. They seemed to rely on him more after they traded wide receiver Randy Moss to the Vikings and current Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels jumped ship to become the Denver Broncos' head coach.
At that time, New England lacked a true deep threat and with now former Offensive Coordinator Bill O’ Brien taking McDaniels place, they began to focus on creating more havoc in the middle of the field—Welker’s specialty.
With receiver Brandon Lloyd now on board and a plethora of other offensive weapons, Welker is back to his usual 70%-75% playing time. Nothing unusual to me, yet.
Steven Ridley and change-of-pace back Danny Woodhead had almost identical numbers (Ridley 13 car, 37 yds) and Woodhead (15 car, 34 yds, 1 td), showcasing what seemed New England’s desire to mix things up in the ground game.
The Ravens are big and stout up front and a quicker, smaller Woodhead might have been a better match up at times. In addition, the Patriots might have felt Woodhead is a more polished blocking running back in their up-tempo, no huddle offense, which the Patriots used a lot in this game.
There is nothing positive to say about allowing Raven's quarterback Joe Flacco to toss 28 of 39 passes for 382 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. We can say the Patriots were covering two teams last night—the Ravens and the referees—but they still had their opportunities to overcome such obstacles.
- Cornerback Devin McCourty, credited with 4 pass deflections, missed on a pair of would be interceptions and was later called for a game-killing 27-yard pass interference penalty to set up Justin Tuckers 27 yard winning field goal.
- If Cornerback Kyle Arrington did not stumble, he was in perfect position to pick off Flacco down the left seam.
- Safety Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty whiffed badly on tackling tight end Dennis Pitta who scored a touchdown on a 25-yard catch and run.
- In short, the Patriots pass rush was non-existent. Ravens Offensive Lineman Michael Oher handled rookie Defensive End Chandler Jones much better than past opponents.
The Patriots shut down Ray Rice and Co. early in the game, but Rice picked it up as the game headed to half time, averaging close to 5 yards per carry and 50 total rushing yards. By the final whistle, he had gained nearly 70 yards alone on runs outside the hash marks. Unusual in their first two games of the 2012 season, New England had a horrendous time sealing the corners to prevent key running plays, with many of the runs going against New England's base 4-3 defense.
The Patriots also struggled in short yardage situations. One noticeable play came late in the second quarter when Joe Flacco took off on a 3rd and 4 for five yards to pick up a momentum gaining first down. His scramble extended what would become a 92-yard, 10 play and 4:49 minute drive for a Raven's go-ahead touchdown before half time.
In all, because the Ravens were able to reestablish their running game, it made it easier for them to hit their outside receivers in one-on-one coverage—see Torrey Smith’s statistics for proof.
On the bright side, the Patriots did not allow a punt to be blocked and Stephen Gostkowki hit all 3 of his field goals, including one from 49 yards out. He rebounded nicely from last week's poor end-game performance.
Patriot’s punter Zoltan Mesko boomed a solid 56-yard punt on a Patriot’s 4th and 23 and placed two of his other 4 kicks inside Baltimore’s twenty-yard line. He had a better showing this week than last week.
In general, the Patriots kept Baltimore’s return team in check, but to many times the Patriots failed to move the ball out of their red zone, leaving Brady and company with a long field to work with.