Here in New England the talk for the most part this season has focused on the young guys on the defensive side of the football for the Patriots, and that they weren’t good enough to win tough games against good teams.
Well they beat one on Sunday, handing the Baltimore Ravens a 23-20 overtime loss in Foxboro while also playing just as physical as the Ravens did.
There were a trio of guys who stood out in this one. Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, along with safety Patrick Chung all found themselves involved in quite a few plays Sunday afternoon. Mayo finished with a combined team high 18 tackles, while Spikes combined for 14, and Chung combined for 13.
They matched the Ravens intensity and made plays when they needed to, especially when it counted during the overtime period. They forced three punts on all three possessions by Joe Flacco and Baltimore’s offense, including two 3-and-outs.
Considering the fact the Ravens won the toss to start overtime, the percentage of teams who usually win after starting with the ball are generally pretty good. However, New England’s offense stopped them not once, but three times and the Patriots offense eventually put a drive together to set up a 35-yard attempt by Stephen Gostkowski, which resulted in the game winning kick.
“What we displayed today was a team,” said Wilfork after the game. “When things weren’t going good, we stuck together. We just kept saying ‘let’s just control what we can control one play at a time,’ and everybody got the message.”
Rookie Jermaine Cunningham had a good performance Sunday afternoon against the Ravens. (FILE PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
Another player who stood out Sunday afternoon was rookie defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, who did a great job putting pressure on Flacco. He had Ravens tackle Michael Oher pretty stressed out for most of the afternoon, with Oher being called for holding him on one play, and also caused him to false start on another. Cunningham finished with a combined six tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage.
All in all it’s a giant step forward, and Wilfork feels it’s a win that has brought them together as a unit. Considering the magnitude of this match-up coming into this week, he also feels it’s a significant one for his team. The Patriots now find themselves right in the thick of the AFC East divisional race, and Sunday’s win may have also potentially given them the edge in home field advantage later on should these two teams meet in the postseason.
In the meantime they’ll come out of this one knowing they beat what many considered to be the best team in the AFC – and they did it with their defense.
“It’s a big win,” said Wilfork. “It’s probably one of the biggest wins around here in a long, long time.”