On Sunday the Patriots ran their way to victory over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional round. Their 41-28 win secured Tom Brady’s spot as the most winningest quarterback in postseason history and also showcased some hidden talent. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley were the stars of the show after Rob Gronkowski went down hard on his injured forearm subsequently re-breaking it. He is now out for the rest of the postseason which is something no one was expecting. But when one door closes another opens and this week the Patriots showed their depth in a new way.
We saw a new side of Shane Vereen this week and his versatility made the difference against the Texans. (FILE:USPresswire)
Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to running backs. In the second quarter Ridley picked up a TD on an 8 yard pass from Brady and then in the fourth quarter PatsNation got a surprise. Vereen outran his linebacker counterpart and scored on a 33 yard bomb from Brady. That was something we haven’t seen this season from the Patriots. Utilizing the speed of their running backs to get the better matchup and score. In all of the regular season Vereen had four touchdowns, three rushing and one receiving. Against the Texans on Sunday he had three, one rushing and two receiving. Somebody flipped a switch and it was a good call. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss, Vereen played a career high 31 snaps only eclipsing the last time he faced the Texans with 24 snaps. Who knows if that would have happened had Woodhead not left the game temporarily with a thumb injury.
But while the Patriots were busy trying to get a win, one Raven was busy on Twitter voicing his opinion about their style of play. Linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has a problem with the way the Pats like to quick snap and catch a defense off guard. They managed to do that to the Texans again this week and it’s not against the rules so what’s the problem?
The trash talking began before the win was even posted and with guys like Terrell Suggs on this team you can be sure this week will be a media member’s dream. Lots of talk and buildup to an AFC Championship rematch. Last year the luck of Myra Kraft swayed Billy Cundiff’s kick to go wide left and the Patriots found themselves in the Super Bowl. But that was then and this is now. In Week 3 the Patriots lost a tough battle to the Ravens and you might remember how the replacement officials got to Bill Belichick and his wallet. For Brady that memory seems fresh and he knows his team will have to make the necessary adjustments for a tough matchup.
“I think the two best teams are in the finals. I mean certainly Baltimore deserves to be here and so do we, so it’s very fitting. We played them early in the year, they got us, we blew a pretty big lead there at the end, but we’re going to have to play our best game this week.”
There will be no shortage of emotion in this Championship game given the history between these two teams and the fact that it could be Ray Lewis’s last NFL game. The Patriots showed this week they still have a few tricks up their sleeves, however short they may be. Come Sunday they’ll have to lay in all out on the table to punch their ticket to New Orleans.