Well this is going to be quick. There’s not much to like about last Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, and I’ve already highlighted what happened and the key plays that led to the Patriots’ downfall. Here’s more of an overall view on the game and the final (thankfully) piece on what was a horrendous effort Sunday.
- Julian Edelman coming through on the goal line. There were a lot of breakdowns offensively and defensively Sunday, and unfortunately Edelman did not fill the role as a chain-mover like Wes Welker did so well. But we didn’t anticipate he would. What he did do very effectively was score in the red zone. Julian finished the day with 2 TD catches and took some hard hits in the process. It was a good overall effort on his part in a tough situation.
- Kevin Faulk’s fire. There was one scene that CBS showed in their broadcast of the game that demonstrated SOMEONE from the Patriots showing a little fire and desire in the game. That person was Kevin Faulk, the longest-tenured (and soon-to-be free agent) player on the team. He was shown yelling at the offense, namely the linemen, trying to fire them up. Unfortunately, it seemed as though those words fell on deaf ears. It just didn’t translate to the field, though Faulk was running hard the entire game. He finished with 52 yards on 14 carries.
- Overall effort. This is always a tough thing for an outsider to comment on without being in the huddle and on the sidelines during the game. However, at least how it was translated on TV, the Patriots just did not seem to put too much effort into the game. They certainly didn’t play with any sense of urgency, like it was actually a playoff game. What lends some credence to this statement is the quote from Vince Wilfork, stating “We didn’t come to play.” Not a good time when it’s win or go home time.
- Offensive line play. The offensive line was, in a word, “offensive.” Tom Brady barely had time to find his receivers and the running backs didn’t have much room to try and squeeze out some yards. Credit is also due to the Ravens’ defense playing hard like their lives depended on it. However, just like in 2007 during the Super Bowl, the line just couldn’t seem to match the intensity of the Ravens and got pushed around. On one play, Ray Lewis shot through the line and Tom Brady barely even had time to drop back.
- Run defense. This is probably a “duh” statement, but what was most troubling about this stat was that the run defense was supposed to be the strength of this young defense. The defensive line is littered with three solid veterans in Jarvis Green, Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren. Wilfork, demonstrating his value yet again, usually took up two offensive linemen. It seemed that the issue was the linebackers’ inability to get off blocks and plug up the holes. The 3-4 defense, at least under Belichick’s construction, has the defensive linemen eating up blockers and the linebackers making the majority of the tackles, plugging up holes and cut-back lanes. They just couldn’t do it. Gary Guyton is not a 3-4 inside linebacker. On passing downs, he can fill in and cover backs and tight ends with his speed, and possibly rush the passer if he was lined up on the outside. However, he is not a big, stout run stuffer.
The list could go on and on, and certainly Tom Brady’s play is right up there. However, I think it’s time to turn the page as the Patriots have started to do and look at the offseason, which appears to be a busy one. There are several unrestricted and, depending on how the labor disputes play out, restricted free agents. The Pats hold 1 first rounder (22nd overall) and 3 second-rounders in the upcoming draft. With all of this turnover (and possibly coaching turnover), along with Brady heading into a contract year, there’s no time to rest in Foxboro, MA.