In one of the most exciting games of the season thus far the Patriots fell to the Ravens 31-30 on a last second Justin Tucker 27-yard field goal. The Patriots led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter and 30-21 midway through the fourth quarter, but could not hold on. It is the second straight week where the Patriots had an opportunity to win the game late, but couldn’t get the job done.
Here are five observations from the game:
Poor play calling from McDaniels
Once again the play calling from Josh McDaniels was suspect, which led to missed opportunities. A few moments that stand out were first, early in the fourth quarter with the Patriots leading 27-21 and the ball at the Baltimore four yard line. Here were the sequence of plays: Stevan Ridley run for a loss of four yards, Danny Woodhead run for no gain, Tom Brady to Wes Welker for six yards, Stephen Gostkowski field goal. After moving the ball down the field thru the air, why all of a sudden stall the drive by going to the run? Use your weapons in the air and find the end zone. In the end settling for three points ultimately cost the Patriots the game, as they needed a touchdown there and the poor playing calling played a major role in settling for the three points.
The next sequence of events was late in the fourth with the Patriots leading by two and the ball when following a Baltimore penalty it was now 1st and 10 on the Baltimore 44 with just over 2:20 to play. The Ravens had all of their timeouts left. Ridley ran for a yard forcing a Ravens timeout at 2:12, then on second down the Patriots for some reason threw the ball, which was resulted in Brady getting sacked for a loss of seven yards and another Ravens time out at 2:06. It was now 3rd and 16 and Brady threw an incompletion stopping the clock at 2:01 and the Patriots kicking the ball away¬† giving the ball back to the Ravens with 1:55 at their own 21. All the Patriots had to do on that set of downs was get a first down and they most likely win the game. Why throw the ball on second down? Run the ball on second down, make it third and manageable while forcing the Ravens into calling a time out. Then look to pick up the first down on third and short. Very poor play calling, as well as poor execution on these two sequences led to the Patriots not putting the Ravens away when they could have.
Defense not as good as Weeks 1 and 2
Vince Wilfork and the defense took a few steps back from Weeks 1 and 2. (FILE:USPressw
The defense didn’t live up to what it had shown in the first two weeks of the season. The unit allowed 503 total yards — 382 passing and 121 on the ground. The Ravens were also 4-for-8 on third down. One of the biggest issues for the Patriots was their lack of a pass rush, which was something that they had in the prior two games. The defense did not get to Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco once as they recorded zero sacks and zero quarterback hits. This put even more pressure on the secondary. Chandler Jones was a non factor as he only recorded two tackles all night and seemed gassed the majority of the second half. Jerod Mayo led the defense with 11 tackles.
Another issue with the defense was the poor play from their cornerbacks especially Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty. McCourty picked up a huge pass interference penalty on the final drive which set up the game winning field goal. He was also picked on much of the night and dropped two interceptions. Arrington was just as bad as he was beaten on numerous plays and was targeted by Flacco on many occasions. There were also several instances of poor tackling which was a major issue in the past that seemed to be cleaned up this season. While the front-seven did not help the cause by not getting pressure, the secondary did not perform up to par and is a cause for concern.
Life without Hernandez
As was expected the offense was much different without Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots did not run nearly as many multiple tight end sets and clearly Rob Gronkowski was impacted. First of all, some plays he was forced to stay in and block and couldn’t even go out for passes. When he did run routes, the Ravens were able to key on him and make sure they took him away. If Hernandez was active the Ravens couldn’t devote all of their attention to one player and one of them mostly likely would have been able to have a big game. Gronkowski finished with just two catches for 21 yards on only three targets. Kellen Winslow and Deion Branch did not play much after being signed this week. Winslow caught one pass for 12 yards, while Branch caught two balls for 11 yards.
Early in the game the Patriots ran a good amount of 4 WR sets, which seemed to work, but then McDaniels went away from it late in the first half. Julien Edelman suffered a hand injury and did not return after the first series in the third quarter, which could have played a role in why the team didn’t go to it again in the second half. This could be something to look for in the coming weeks as if Edelman’s injury is not serious, having Brandon Lloyd, Welker, Edelman and Branch lining up it gives Brady the ability to pick defenses apart. Something to note was the connection Brady is developing with Lloyd, they are starting to click with Lloyd on the outside. Lloyd finished with nine catches for 108 yards. Welker also had a solid game, proving his value to the offense racking up eight catches for a team-high 142 yards. The Patriots offense will be able to survive without Hernandez, but in the end in order to be at their best they need Hernandez and his versatility.
Officials need to go
This is becoming more and more of a story and really starting to effect the product on the field. There were a combined 24 penalties for 218 yards in the game. Included in those were some very poor calls, which clearly went the wrong way. The officials are slowing down the overall flow of the game and the time it takes to get things right is dramatically increasing the length of time of the games. Two of the games kicking off at 4:25 EST were still going on just before 8:00 p.m. How often can you say that two games not going into overtime were still going on at that hour? As it stands right now the referees certainly have the leverage over the league with how poorly the referees have been It is the league who is going to have to give in for a deal to get done. It is really hard to imagine another week with these replacement officials because it is getting to the point where games are being effected and the product is taking a hit.
Don’t panic, way too early
For Patriots fans, many will be panicking this week as the Patriots have lost two in a row and fall below .500 for the first time in some time.¬† There is a little cause for concern as not only this season but in the past the Patriots have not been clutch in the fourth quarter and have struggled with putting teams away to close out games. But, relax, it’s early. The Ravens are a very good team and had one 19 of 20 and 11 in a row at home. The Patriots put up a tremendous fight and played with a lot of emotion, its just one game. The team now has a soft portion of their schedule until really mid December when they host the Texans and 49ers in back-to-back weeks. The Patriots are still a very good team, and should still be considered an elite team in the AFC. They will still most likely go either 13-3 or 12-4, win the AFC East and have a very good chance of representing the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Follow me on Twitter @hannable84 or send me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.¬†