Where have we seen this before? Tightly contested game. Both quarterbacks playing at elite levels. Nail-biting, towel-wringing, edge-of-your-seat type battle for the ages that comes down to a kick to end it.
This past January in the AFC Championship Game a kick that would have sent the Ravens to the Super Bowl went wide left.
While the stakes weren’t nearly as high, in an ironic twist of fate, it once again came down to a kick to decide it between the Ravens and Patriots. This time, around, a rookie kicker from Texas comes through for Baltimore.
Drawing off the emotions of teammate Torrey Smith who played just hours after learning early Sunday morning that his younger brother had been killed in a motorcycle accident, the Ravens defeated the New England Patriots for the first time in regular season history, 31-30 in front of a charged up M&T Bank Stadium crowd on Sunday night.
See all the grades after the jump…
Joe improved from last week’s loss and even from the first quarter and a half in this game. His first three drives resulted in two three-and-outs followed by an interception, but Flacco rebounded after, throwing for 382 yards and three touchdowns.
He felt pressure all night but stayed upright thanks to the offensive line. Flacco did a nice job of checking at the line, shifting plays. In total control of this offense. Moved around pretty well in the pocket and threw the ball with purpose like he did in the Cincinnati game. When receivers were covered down field, he read his check downs well. He delivered a great touch pass to Anquan Boldin early in the 4th quarter.
Yes, Joe Flacco once again outplayed Tom Brady.
Running Backs: B+
Shocker. Ray Rice carried the football 20 times. When he does that, the Ravens usually don’t lose. Rice ran for 101 yards and a score on the ground, while grabbing five passes for 49 yards.
The game plan was to run the football down the throats of the Patriots, and that’s what they did. The running game set the tone early and they stuck with it. By the middle stages of the 2nd half, the Pats defense was tiring and tiring quickly. Rice ran with a purpose and of course it always helps to have a Pro Bowl fullback in Vonta Leach leading the way.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: A
What an inspired effort from Torrey Smith. Smith led the Ravens with 127 yards receiving on just six catches and two touchdowns. On one touchdown, he out-jumped the defender and the other he flat out made a tough grab. Outstanding job considering the circumstances.
Jacoby Jones was key for Flacco once again, hauling in three catches for 86 yards. He made a tough catch over the middle for a big gain 41-yard gain and later, emphatically flexed for the crowd on a drawn pass interference call that set up the winning field goal.
Dennis Pitta is proving more and more each week that he is a big key to the passing game and offense in general going forward. He caught five balls for 50 yards and a TD, his touchdown looking similar to what Brent Celek did to Ed Reed last week, a catch and leaping move over Steve Gregory in a 10-play, 92-yard drive as Cris Collinsworth called, “really bad tackling” from the Patriots during the broadcast.
Offensive Line: A
The offensive line kept Joe Flacco upright, allowing zero sacks to the Patriots who only had three coming into the game.
Michael Oher had his hands full with rookie defensive end Chandler Jones all night but held his own. Marshal Yanda committed three penalties which is rare for him. However, he did an excellent job in the interior on double teams with Matt Birk as the Patriots tried to stunt inside. Impressive effort in prime time.
Defensive Line: C-
It all starts up front and without getting consistent pressure on the quarterback, this is what you will see happen against top signal callers. Tom Brady had all the time in the world to throw and he carved up the defense for 335 yards. Haloti Ngata had eight total tackles in the game.
They didn’t do a bad job of stopping the run, but the lack of a push up front worries me.
The linebackers didn’t really set the tone in this game tonight. Poor in the run support, luckily the New England running backs didn’t get into the second level of the defense often.
Courtney Upshaw stepped up under the bright lights, displaying nice discipline on a trick play early in the game. Dannell Ellerbe recorded eight tackles and 1.5 sacks for the Ravens. Albert McClellan had only one tackle, but did a nice job of setting the edge, he’s getting better.
The worst unit of the night and they were at the mercy of Tom Brady as he picked them apart. Cary Williams had 10 tackles, but that was because it was “pick on Cary Williams” throughout the game. No matter who Williams covered, they continued to go in his direction.
Despite his injury, Bernard Pollard played well. Its been a long time since I’ve seen Ed Reed be as physical as he was in this game; hitting, tackling, you name it. That was good to see.
Special Teams: B-
Justin Tucker called his kick “just another kick”, but it was the biggest one of the season and his young career so far. But boy, was the kick a scary one. Just sneaking inside the right upright, all that matters is that it went through for the win.
The unit only had one return on them the entire night, but covered well. Deonte Thompson ran hard, finishing with 81 return yards. Jacoby Jones nearly had a punt go through his hands late in the 4th quarter, but quickly recovered.
Offensively, they didn’t get away from the run which is needed for this team to succeed. On the defensive side, the Ravens still lack a real pass rush. Overall, the defensive side of the ball seemed out of sorts until the final drive with the game on the line. The coverage from the corners was pathetic.
It was an emotional win for the Ravens and for Torrey Smith who fed off each other and got through it to perform on the field and get the W. Its a game no one will forget and is something the team can build upon the rest of the way. The Ravens now turn their collective attention towards the Cleveland Browns who come to M&T Bank Stadium in just four days.
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