First off, I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas. If you reading about the Patriots on Christmas morning, then we both have a weird obsession with Pats football, and sometimes I seriously wonder if it is a good thing. Anyway, our New England Patriots just came off of one of their most impressive wins of the season, in a 41-7 domination of the Ravens. It was an all around solid performance, and it made for a very nice looking report card. Here are the game grades.
Passing Offense: B-
This group did what they had to do to win this ballgame. Julian Edelman was Brady’s top target once again, catching seven balls for 77 yards, while Danny Amendola chipped in with two catches for 45 yards. The offensive line played surprisingly well, considering that they were playing without their top two offensive tackles. Brady was only sacked twice, and it allowed him to move the chains when New England really needed it. We know that the combination of Edelman and Amendola can be deadly, but the Pats really didn’t need them to go full out in this one. Aaron Dobson made his return to the field, and had one catch for 21 yards. Shane Vereen caught an early touchdown, before exiting with what now seems to be a minor groin injury.
Rushing Offense: A+
It has been a long time since I saw the Patriots run the ball this well against an opponent as physical as the Ravens are. Led by LeGarrette Blount, New England racked up 142 rushing yards, on 34 carries. They lined up against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, and they absolutely took it to them. What was even more impressive, was how the offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage, despite begin short a few players. Josh Kline and Logan Mankins held down the left side quite admirably, and while the right side of Dan Connolly and Marcus Cannon struggled at times, they had an overall solid outing. Stevan Ridley also got back on track, carrying the ball 15 times, and gaining 54 big yards.
Run Defense: A
Sunday was another good showing from the middle of the New England defense, as they shut down the Baltimore running game, and made their offense completely one dimensional. Taking away Tyrod Taylor’s three late scrambles, the Ravens ran for a grand total of 82 yards, on 25 carries. Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, and Brandon Spikes really stood out to me on the tape, as they were all over field making plays. Siliga has helped stabilize the middle of the Patriots defensive line, which allows Spikes and Hightower to make plays in the backfield, as evidenced in this past week’s contest.
Pass Defense: B+
Joe Flacco amassed a lot of garbage yards late in the game, which skews the stats a little bit, but it was still a great day for the New England secondary. Aqib Talib had a good game playing against Torrey Smith, as he only allowed him to make three late grabs. Devin McCourty dropped two would be interceptions early in the contest, before exiting with a head injury in the third quarter. This injury will be something to monitor over the next couple of days, because he is one of the most important players on this defense. The pass rush was great all game long, pressuring Flacco into multiple bad decisions, and sacking him four times. If Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones figure out how to get consistent pressure on Flacco, I have a feeling that the Patriot pass rush will become something to fear in the coming weeks.
But the biggest thing that I took away from this unit’s performance, was the play of rookie Logan Ryan. The first year man out of Rutgers has had a terrific rookie season, and he added to it on Sunday with two more interceptions, and a huge pass defense. He plays great man coverage, and his ball skills are extremely impressive. Ryan has had a lot of game changing plays this year, and he will prove to be invaluable to the team in the playoffs. Once Alfonzo Dennard gets healthy, the Pats will have four legit cornerbacks that they can trot out onto the field (Talib, Arrington, Ryan, Dennard), and they will definitely cause some problems for pass happy teams in the AFC.
Special Teams: A
The Ravens came into this game with one of the most dangerous return men in the NFL, in Jacoby Jones. He has impacted a lot of games with his kick and punt returns (see the Super Bowl), and a big part of the Pats game-plan was to neutralize him. It was a job well done, as Jones only returned two kicks, and he averaged a mere nine yards a pop on his four punt returns. Matthew Slater was often the guy around Jones, and it reminded me of just how lucky the Patriots are, to have a special teams player as talented as Slater is.