The Ravens must be saving their best for the play-offs. I thought they could win the game, but never did I expect them to dominate what was a worthy opponent. The Ravens did exactly what they needed to do to win this game. The Ravens are a physical running team, both out of necessity and because it is what they do well. They have 3 RB’s that are very effective and they are content to ride them as far as they can take them. Without a completely healthy Joe Flacco I see no reason to change the game-plan unless someone stops the run. The Pats had no answer today and could not match the Ravens intensity or hitting on either side of the ball. After an at times frustrating season, this was a cathartic win. Bring on Indy!!!
Positives: There were many. I think the biggest reason for the win, besides the running game, was how physical the secondary played. Hats off to Dominique Foxworth, Chris Carr and Frank Walker for the way they tackled and hit the New England receivers. They challenged everything in coverage and were great at coming up and making tackles on short pass plays limiting yards after the catch. The secondary took Randy Moss (who was either not healthy or not into it) out of the game. Without Welker the Ravens could force someone else besides Moss to beat them and the Pats did not have consistent answers. It was also good to see Ed Reed flying around the field. The defensive front applied pressure and drew up some great blitzes early that led to big plays. Ray Lewis said it after the game, hitting Tom Brady (who also did not look right) was big key in the game. With the combination of pressure and coverage the Ravens effectively took away the Pats ability to get the ball down-field. Offensively, the Ravens pushed the Pats around. The run defense was supposed to be New England’s strength, but Ray Rice quickly put to rest any doubts about the Ravens ability to move the ball on the ground. He delivered the uppercut that the Pats took until the 2nd quarter to recover from. The whole offensive line blocked well, especially the interior line which opened up holes all day and neutralized Vince Wilfork.
Negatives: The main area of concern is Joe Flacco and the passing game. Flacco re-injured his hip in Oakland and did not look right on may throws today. He did make some gutsy plays on the 4th quarter drive that put the game out of reach, but on a day the opposing defense was selling out to stop the run the passing game did not take advantage. I am willing to admit that Flacco and the receivers were not called upon to make many plays, but they did not look capable on many occasions. Demetrius Williams dropped a very catchable deep ball from Flacco. It would have been a nice catch, but one he needs to make if he is going to step up and contribute. I also felt like the kick return coverage got sloppy as the game wore on. The Ravens gave the Pats too good of field position in the 2nd half. The only other thing I will complain about was the decision not to challenge the Pats recovery of the muffed punt. Replays seems clear that the New England player did not control the ball on his way to the ground. Not sure what John Harbaugh was getting from upstairs, but the challenge flag should have come out.
All in all a great win for the Ravens. Great to officially end the Pats dynasty and to win in Foxborough and end the Pats long home play-off winning streak. Feels similar to the way the Ravens closed out Cowboys Stadium last year. Also, hats off the Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff. They have definitely caught some criticism for how up and down the Ravens have been this year. Harbs has definitely used the frustrations of the regular season as a motivation for this club and he has them playing their best football at the right time. Play like a Raven!!