The national love affair with the Patriots continues
following a massive overreaction to a rout by the Pats of a team that never
should have even made the playoffs to begin with and which was easily the worst
team of the 12 in the field. To inject a
degree of objectivity into the degree of the Pats’ win over the Broncos,
consider that the Bills, a team that posted an epic collapse over the last half
of the season beat the same Broncos team in a very similar fashion a few weeks
earlier yet without the extra week to prepare and without Bill Belicheat
coaching, with Ryan Fitzpatrick instead of Tom Brady, and with only one decent
receiver instead of Gronkowski, Hernandez, and Welker.
Otherwise, why all the hype over a single playoff game
whereby the Patriots beat an 8-8 playoff team.
The Patriots to date have not beaten a team that finished the regular
season with a winning record yet. The
only playoff team they have beaten is the Tebow-passing-bereft Broncos.
How quickly forgotten is the Wild Card game in ’09 wherein
the Ravens routed the Pats with Flacco having completed only 4 passes for 32
yards, no TDs and 1 INT and a QB rating of 10.0. Can it possibly get much worse, … hardly. Yet, the Ravens dominated.
The Patriot defense is also a worse one that it was in ’09.
Also overlooked by many of the "analysts" covering
this game is the fact that Ray Rice led the league in
yards-from-scrimmage. The following
teams/RBs/tandems logged very close to or over 100 yards rushing against the
Pats this season, several times much over:
- Oakland: McFadden and
M. Bush collectively logged 100+ on 4.6 ypc;
- Jets: Greene and
Tomlinson hit 96 yards on 4.2 ypc in one game, and 99 on nearly 5.0 ypc in
Mendenhall, Redman, and Moore logged 97 on 4.6 ypc;
- Giants: Jacobs, Ware,
and Scott logged 100 on nearly 4.0;
- KC: McCluster, Jones,
and Battle logged 126 on over 5.0 ypc;
- Indy: Addai, Carter,
and Brown logged 100;
- Skins: Helu and
Royster had 170 on over 5.0 ypc;
- Denver: Ball, McGahee,
and Johnson got 159 on over 8.0 ypc in one game, and 130 in another;
- And Miami and Reggie Bush had 113 on over 5.0 ypc.
Is there much concern that Rice/Williams/Leach will not have
a decent day running the ball? Given the
above, why should it surprise anyone if the Rice/Williams/Leach trio pushes the
200-yard rushing mark? Why the foregone
conclusion by many that Rice & Williams will be shut down?
In three of the last five games of the season, the Pats beat
Indianapolis and Washington by a mere 7 points and the Dolphins by a mere 3
The last time these two teams faced each other the game went
to OT with the Pats winning by a mere FG, again, in Foxboro.
Since the ’07 playoffs, the Pats seem to be stuck to scoring
points in the 14-21 point range against decent caliber teams in the playoffs,
which is a trend/pattern that was established for this season as well throughout
the regular season. So why the Patriots
will all of a sudden put up much more than that has no basis other than
"Brady has that look in his eyes" which in terms of being any kind of
relevant indicator is as worthless as a truckload of dead rats in a tampon
The Patriots are one-dimensional. They have Brady, … no small asset mind you
as he is the best in the game today.
More specifically they have Brady-to-Gronk that induces fear and
inordinate concern. After that, their
running game will not carry them and is threatened with getting shut out on Sunday;
their defense is average on a good day and not good against the run. For as much as Belicheat will pour his
resources into stopping the Ravens’ running game, the Patriots must still
actually do that and given their track record of not being able to stop far
less potent running games this season that task is much more daunting for them
than it seems.
As to Flacco, two playoffs ago the Ravens won with Flacco
having thrown only 10 passes and having completed only 4 of those. You will not find me among Flacco’s
apologists this season, and his play of this season, next season
notwithstanding, may have cost him a sizeable amount of money in a contract
extension and who knows, may end up causing the Ravens to draft some
competition for him to push him a little harder in learning how to read
defenses and which may ultimately lead them to cut him loose.
Having said that, and for all of his mediocre to poor play
this season, he has not had more than 2 TOs in any given game. Big deal Weiler you say, but my point is that
so many things have to line up for the Patriots to win this game that it will
be half a miracle if it happens.
First, they must buck the 14-21 point scoring trend that has
plagued them in the playoffs since ’07 and this season, when playing good
teams. There is no valid reason why all
of a sudden they’re going to put up 38 against the Raven D. They might do it, but there is no valid
reason to predict that they should or even can.
Second, they must stop the Ravens running game, no small
feat for a rushing defense that allowed 4.6 yards-per-carry on the season. This does not bode well for stopping Rice and
Third, Brady will also have to do what he has not done in
the playoffs in the last four seasons and this season as well against good
teams, few of which he has even played with the Steelers having been the only
other comparable defensive team that he and the Pats have faced. In that game Brady played very well, had a
rating of 101.8, 2 TDs, no INTs and essentially had a good game. Yet, the Patriots not only lost by 8 (25-17),
but were held to 10 points through 57 minutes of play. Brady will need to lead the Patriots to more
than 21 points in this game to win it.
He will need to do much more than he did against the Steelers if the
Patriots are to win this game. If the
Patriot running game gets stymied, then that task becomes more difficult for
Fourth, if Gronkowski is held in check, say less than
100-yards and a single TD, then New England’s single largest weapon by a long
shot has been half-neutralized.
The Patriots are one-dimensional and go as Brady goes. Period.
Not that the Ravens are themselves unstoppable, they’re not,
particularly on the road this season, however, it is abject foolishness to
dismiss a team that features the league’s best RB and a top-3 defense and
consider a win to be a major upset over a team such as the one detailed
above. Lewis and Reed will once again
have this team unmistakably understanding what’s at stake on Sunday, so no
The ones that need to be worried are the Pats and their
fans, particularly now that the media coverage has all but predicted a decisive
win for the Pats, who have struggled mightily in the post season ever since the
Giants dashed their hopes for perfection in ’07. The Patriots still haven’t been able to find
a way to shed the pattern of mediocre point production when facing a good
pass-rushing team in a critical game. Is
that going to change on Sunday all of a sudden?
A win over hapless Denver also isn’t going to restore their image if
they lose to the Ravens on Sunday.
Without Brady, Gronkowski is half of what he now is. Brady is the Patriots! He is and has been Belicheat’s golden
goose. An average QB on the Patriots
renders them a 6-10 team this season.
Brady on the Ravens renders them unstoppable, literally.
If Flacco does not play poorly, the onus then shifts to the
Patriots to strive to win this game.
Even if Flacco plays poorly, in order for it to eradicate what the
running game figures to do, he would also have to set precedent by having more
than 2 TOs in any single game. Mind you,
if the Patriots do win this game then it will have meant that the Patriots
successfully held Rice and Williams in check, scored bookoo points themselves,
and put Flacco in a position to have to win the game via the passing game in
order to take such advantage of him. And
again, if the Ravens lose, the lion’s share of the finger pointing will likely
go to Flacco and to a lesser extent Cameron.
But again, there are a lot of things that need to line up simultaneously
in order for that to even approach occurring.
… and what if Flacco just happens to play very well this
Sunday? Good night Irene!
Otherwise, when the Ravens have the ball, the Patriots will
have difficulty covering Boldin, Smith, and Evans. It should surprise no one to see Evans post a
big day "out of nowhere."
Likewise, Dickson and Pitta also create matchup difficulties for the
Patriots not unlike Gronk/Hernandez, although to a lesser extent. Then of course there is Rice out of the
backfield and underneath as well.
How will a porous rushing defense hold Rice to below 100
yards if not much more?
The Patriots can win this one for sure, but it will take the
stars lining up nicely for them to be able to do so despite the media hype to
the contrary. What are the odds that the
Raven running game gets shut down, or at least held in check, Flacco playing
Santa Claus, and the Raven D collapsing all at the same time? Because that is essentially what would have
to happen in order for the Patriots to win decisively as many have already come
to a foregone conclusion on it occurring.
Call me nuts, but Ravens by 10+ in this one, … maybe
something like 34-21 Ravens.
Meh, maybe the media hype is coming from the lust for a Pats
v. Giants rematch. While it should be a
great game, I don’t see the Giants getting past the Niners either. I’m looking for an All-Harbaugh Super Bowl.
That "look in Brady’s eyes" has gone as far as
it’s going to go. Time to for the media
to see if the walk can match the talk, or perhaps better stated, if the
gamebook can match the look. Logic
dictates that it will not. We will see.