The New England Patriots are out of the playoffs now after a 28-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, and I already spent enough time grieving over the game and noting a few poor performances on Twitter and in my “What We Learned” piece. But I want to step back and take a look at the bright side of things by quickly “honoring” (more like noting) the exceptional efforts of two solid members of the New England Patriots who have been doing their jobs all season.
Center Ryan Wendell had the tough task of filling the shoes of Dan Koppen, and he more than delivered as a first-year starter leading the league in snaps. Wendell was excellent throughout the year as a run blocker, and last night was no exception against the Baltimore Ravens. He took the fight to a tough Baltimore Ravens defense, and almost all of the good runs from Stevan Ridley came as a direct result of great blocking from Wendell. He was simply monstrous in the victory, and Wendell is quickly making a name for himself as one of the best centers in the NFL.
Alfonzo Dennard may only be a rookie cornerback, and the teams that passed up on him due to “character concerns” (usually a bad reason for passing a guy like Dennard who was a leader at Nebraska) are sure as heck kicking themselves now for letting Dennard slip away.
He has emerged as a solid cornerback in this league, and I think only Devin McCourty is better in the Patriots secondary. Dennard is physical and rarely ever gets burned, and he showed it by shutting down Torrey Smith. He constantly frustrated the Baltimore Ravens top deep threat by playing Smith on Dennard’s hand and terms. The physical pressing off the line of scrimmage, the excellent hustle, and the glued-on coverage led to a poor day for Smith and an excellent one for Dennard.
These two solid Patriots will be fixtures on the roster for a long time, and hopefully they will one day be recognized in the future with a Pro Bowl birth if they can take that next step in their respective games. I think they will, and these are the bright spots we can take out of the worst loss of the year.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.