Big Plays Dissected: What Happened to the Patriots?

The New England Patriots were thoroughly defeated by the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs. That you know (or should know). What is still up in the air is: what happened? Who is to blame? I’m not going to point fingers at any one player, but looking at replays of the big plays of the game, I will try to dissect what happened to the Pats. How did they get beat? Now, one can never truly know what happened and who is to blame without knowing the play called. Someone we may not know of perhaps was supposed to provide help or was in the wrong spot. But I’ll do the best I can. You can see all of the highlights (or lowlights I guess you could say) by clicking here.

Big Play #1: Ray Rice’s 83-yard Touchdown Run

The Patriots were in their base 3-4 defense with a safety coming up at the snap to add another player in the box. The Ravens were in an offset I-formation with 2 wide receivers and a tight end. Tight End Todd Heap went in motion from the right of the formation to the left. At the snap, LeRon McClain, lined up left, lead to the right. Heap blocked Tully Banta-Cain, the left tackle took Jarvis Green, the left guard briefly helped the center with Vince Wilfork before moving on to Jerod Mayo, and McClain, the right guard, and the right tackle handled Gary Guyton and Ty Warren. Adalius Thomas was a bystander on the other side of the pile on the right side of the formation. Rice started left and then made a quick (and I mean quick) cut up the middle. From there on out, he wasn’t touched. The linebackers are usually the ones that are supposed to fill the cut-back lanes, but they couldn’t get off their blocks. In this case, the inside linebackers Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton (who isn’t really built to be a 3-4 ILB) didn’t plug the hole in the middle. On the first play from scrimmage of the game, the Ravens imposed their will and went up 7 – 0.

Big Play #2: Suggs Strip-Sacks Brady

The Patriots were lined up in the shotgun formation with 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, and Kevin Faulk lined up to Brady’s left. Julian Edelman was lined up in the slot to the right with Randy Moss also on the right, motioning from the far right closer to Edelman. Sam Aiken was lined up on the other side of the field. The Ravens were lined up in the nickel with 3 down linemen (including Suggs who’s usually upright as an outside linebacker) with one-on-one coverage on the receivers and 2 deep safeties. What unfolds is what I can surmise as a horrible blocking assignment call. At the snap, Faulk moves out of the backfield into a passing route, where he is being covered by a linebacker. Only the 3 down linemen rush Brady. Logan Mankins and Dan Koppen both block the Raven lined up over the nose, and Stephen Neal and Sebastian Vollmer are blocking the Ravens’ right end. Tight End Chris Baker is left blocking air, literally standing around waiting for someone to rush in. Matt Light is left by himself to block Terrell Suggs on the left side of the formation. Light is just badly, badly beaten and Suggs is able to get around him and strip the ball out of Brady’s hands. Suggs got to Brady in 4 seconds. There really weren’t any open receivers from what I could see. Faulk was chipped in his route by the linebacker covering him, slowing him down. Aiken was covered by only one defensive back and may have started to break free, albeit too late. Randy Moss was bracketed by a corner and safety, and Julian Edelman was covered over the top by a corner and undercut by Ray Lewis. If Brady had a second or two more he may have been able to find Aiken. All the Pats had to do was move Baker to the left side to help Light or have Faulk chip Suggs on his way out in his passing pattern. This was simply a bad play call knowing the personnel, or a serious lack of a line adjustment. To have two guys on the nose and right end and leave Light, who is not the best blocker against speed rushers, one-on-one against Terrell Suggs and Chris Baker blocking air is just poor. This turnover led to the Ravens’ second TD of the game.

Big Play #3: Chris Carr Intercepts Brady

I watched this play10 times, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what Brady was thinking when he threw the football. The formations or coverage do not really factor into this at all. Sure, all of Brady’s options seemed to be covered, though Ben Watson may have broken free out of Tom’s sight. Tom Brady had pressure in his face from a free rusher, seemed to panic and perhaps attempt to throw the ball away. However, his attempt was not very good and he threw it right into Chris Carr’s hands. There wasn’t a Patriot within at least 5 yards of this pass. After this second turnover of the game, the Ravens scored their third TD of the game, and third of the first quarter, and the game was pretty much over at this point.

The Ravens pretty much had their way with the Patriots. There are going to be a ton of free agents on this team, and there are a lot of decisions to be made, both with players and coaching staff. Bill Belichick has a lot of work to do if he wants this team to return to the playoffs next year and avoid another embarrassing performance like the one seen this past Sunday.

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