Now that it has been a few days and the Ravens have been given their well-deserved credit, it’s time to be honest about the game the New England Patriots played on Sunday.
I have heard some people try to point to one specific play, injury, decision, etc, for the Patriots’ failure, but the bottom line is: pretty much everyone on the New England sideline, based on their own standards, was just plain bad on Sunday.
Let’s go down the list.
I start with Welker because it seems like this is becoming a trend for Wes in the playoffs. Once again, Welker had an impressive stat line if you didn’t actually watch the game. However, Welker, for the second year in a row had some very crucial drops at very inopportune times. On the Patriots first drive of the game, Welker had his defender beat deep about 35 yards down the field and couldn’t manage to bring it in (granted, it was a tough catch, but one Welker should probably make). That play was on 3rd down and would’ve put them in field goal range, just like the dropped pass he had on the Pats first drive of the second half.
With the Pats trying to go up two scores, Welker had an easy first down well into Ravens territory and couldn’t hold on to a ball that hit him directly in the hands right in front of his chest. Following that drive, the Patriots would never have the ball with the lead again, as their defense collapsed...
The ENTIRE defense:
Yes, I know that their best CB and one of their starting safeties left the game in the first half. Still, for pretty much the entire second half the Ravens were moving the ball at their own discretion. Basically the only things the Pats had been good at on defense all year—making teams kick field goals and creating turnovers—did not happen at all on Sunday. The Patriots defense has now given up an average of 24 points per game over their last 7 playoff games (the only team to not score over 20 was a Tim Tebow led Broncos team). Does that sound like a Bill Belichick led defense? Speaking of Belichick...
Wasn’t this the same coach who went for it on 4th down against the Colts a few years ago from his own side of the field? Well, you wouldn’t have known it on Sunday! Belichick had multiple opportunities to try and extend drives on the Ravens side of the field and continued to punt the ball until the Patriots were trailing by multiple scores. It appeared that Belichick was somewhat delusional as to what the state of his defense was. Not only that, but it didn’t appear that the defense changed it’s game-plan at all as the Ravens marched up and down the field in the second half. Last but not least, I give Belichick about 20% of the blame for the way the first half ended—with the Patriots having to settle for a field goal after some clock “mismanagement”— with the other 80% going to Tom Brady…
Tom Brady, who has the most playoffs wins of all time, was outplayed once again by Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens. Brady seemed uncharacteristically flat and made multiple questionable decisions throughout the game. First off, usually in games of this magnitude, Brady shows much more emotion than he did on Sunday. There was no competitive fire that we have come accustomed to seeing from Brady and it was seemingly replaced with poor decisions.
At the end of the first half, Brady failed to call a timeout on 2nd down inside the Baltimore 10, and allowed the clock to run down to 4 seconds before finally giving the timeout signal. This forced the Patriots to have to kick a field goal without getting a shot at the end zone before the half. Then, when the Patriots were down two touchdowns in the 4th quarter, Brady made yet another decision he will be dwelling on for a while. Following yet another brutal dropped pass on 3rd down, Brady choose not to scramble into the open field and instead threw somewhat of a duck into the middle of nowhere.
Following that pass, Brady stared into the distance with a look that summed up the entire game for the Patriots.
After all, with Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots, it has always been Super Bowl or bust.
This year, it was definitely the latter.
Follow Cole Stevenson on Twitter: @Cole_Stevenson