The Patriots battled into overtime and came away with a well earned 23-20 victory against the Ravens at Gillette Stadium. I thought going into the game that the Patriots would have their hands full with a very good opponent.

My prediction prior to the game was a 21-17 victory for the Patriots. I thought the game would be tight, and that it would be settled right at the end of the game. I certainly did not think the game would go into overtime.

The first thing I learned from this game has to be that the Baltimore Ravens are definitely one of the best teams in the league. They have upgraded their club from last season, and I truly believe they will go deep into the playoffs. I think ultimately their season will depend on the development of Joe Flacco. He had very good statistics in this game, finishing 27-of-35 for 285 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, when the game was on the line he came up short. The Ravens have a tremendous defense and an improved offense, but for the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl, Flacco will need to raise his game in pressure situations and really become an elite quarterback.

On the Patriots, lets start with the offense. This unit struggled at times against probably one of the best defenses they will see all season. The running game was pretty good, with Danny Woodhead leading the Patriots with 63 yards. He is actually starting to remind me of former Patriot David Meggett running the ball, and has been a great addition to the team so far. Overall, the Patriots ran for 127 yards with a 4.0 yards per carry.

The¬†passing game looked like a work in progress during the game.¬†Tom Brady’s statistics were decent, as he¬†was 27-of-44 for 292 yards and one touchdown pass.¬†He did have¬†2 interceptions – although one was on a Hail-Mary throw at the end of regulation.¬† Brady was not helped yesterday by having some key drops by tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Alge Crumpler. Yet when it¬†mattered, Brady had a receiver that he could count on. Deion Branch came back to the Pats in dramatic fashion with several catches¬†in crucial situations late in the game. The game winning drive brought me back to Super Bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers where Branch was crucial in that victory. The¬†offense and the passing game specifically were clutch when it needed to be.

On defense, again I saw improvement from a unit that keeps on getting better. There are a few things that stand out from the defense against the Ravens. First, there were contributions from many young players. Jerod Mayo was constantly around the ball with 18 overall tackles. Brandon Spikes was not far behind Mayo with 14 overall tackles. You also got contributions from Patrick Chung and Rob Ninkovich. The player that stood out to me on defense though was Jermaine Cunningham. He gave Michael Oher fits and showed to be a potential pass rusher. He had 6 overall tackles and one sack. Welcome to New England Mr. Cunningham. 

The big contributions from this unit came¬†in the fourth quarter and in overtime. They¬†stepped up when it counted, and made¬†key stops of the offense. I have been hearing so much negativity about this unit. The big¬†question was could this defense¬†make crucial stops when it was needed? The answer to that question would be absolutely “yes”, and they¬†stepped up big time in clutch situations and finally started to show their potential against the Ravens.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†

This game was an “old school” victory for the Patriots. I don’t think I have seen the Pats win a game like this in several years.

As I always do, I like to look¬†back at my keys to victory to see what kind of role they played in the game.¬† Below¬†is my analysis of ‚ÄĚ My Five Keys To Victory For the Patriots Against The¬†Ravens ‚Äú.

1. The Patriots need to win the the turnover battle. The Patriots actually failed in this key. Tom Brady threw 2 picks. The first interception at the beginning of the second half led to a Ravens touchdown. The Patriots did not force any turnovers, and they could have used one down the stretch. Had they gotten one they may have even had a chance to put this one away in regulation. 

2. The Patriots need to stop the run on defense.¬†The Patriots came up big against the run. Ray Rice ran for¬†88 yards on 28 carries. However, his average per carry was only 3.1 which is excellent for this defense. The Pats made¬†Flacco beat them and the good news is he couldn’t get it done.¬†¬†

3. The Patriots desperately need to be better on 3rd down defense.  The Patriots struggled in the beginning of the game on 3rd down. However, when it counted in the fourth quarter and in overtime, the defense stepped up and got off the field. Overall, they were better holding the Ravens to a 31% conversion rate on third downs.

4. The Patriots offensive line needs to play at high level in protecting Tom Brady.  The line I thought had a below average game in protecting Brady. He was under a considerable amount of pressure and was sacked 3 times. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs were very active, with Suggs getting in a couple shots late in this one which saw he and Brady go at it. This defense is one of the best in the league so I have to give them credit. However, moving forward the offensive line needs to do a better job in keeping guys off of him.

5. Tom Brady¬†needs to take advantage of the Ravens Secondary.¬† As I mentioned prior,¬†Brady had a good game. He did find openings in the defense. When it counted late in the game Brady was at his best finding the holes in the secondary, and fans got to see them come away with Brady’s 30th 4th quarter come from behind career victory.

So what did we learn from this game? I think we learned that¬†quarterback play in this league is crucial. When¬†the game was on the line, Brady stepped up to win the game, while¬†Flacco wasn’t able to raise his game when it counted.¬†Second, we¬†saw once again¬†a Patriots defense improving. That to me is the best part of this victory.¬†What we ultimately learned from this¬†one is¬†that¬†for the Patriots to go far this season, it will rest on Brady’s shoulders and the maturity of a¬†young defense.

What are your reactions to the game?  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of New England’s 23-20 win over Baltimore.