Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens was a hard fought win, and New England definitely had a lot to overcome in order to get it done. After it was over Vince Wilfork said “It’s probably one of the biggest wins around here in a long, long time.” There were certainly plenty of good things to talk about, so here’s a look at who had a good game, along with a few players who are probably looking forward to next week’s game out in San Diego.
Brandon Tate – Ran an end around that went for 22-yards and helped set up their first touchdown. Had one kickoff return of 19-yards, but didn’t get any other opportunities because the Ravens kicked three touchbacks. However, one of those kickoffs went out of bounds, which helped set up a touchdown reception by Deion Branch. The fact they were kicking away from him ended up contributing to their 4th quarter comeback.
Deion Branch – In his first game back with the Patriots, Branch had nine receptions for 98 yards along with a touchdown, and actually did a great job blocking downfield in New England’s offense.
Dan Connolly – The Patriots offensive line did a decent job protecting quarterback Tom Brady Sunday, as well as opening up the running game. Connolly was in as a blocking back on their 2nd drive, helping to open up the touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Danny Woodhead – Ended up being a difference maker in the offense Sunday, amassing 115-all purpose yards and helping keep the chains moving. He carried 11-times for 63 yards (5.7 avg), and continues to be a great addition to this football team.
Jermaine Cunningham – Showed on Sunday why he was drafted. Cunningham was a guy who while at Florida was great getting into the backfield and making plays, and he put some fear into Ravens tackle Michael Oher. Oher was called for holding and a false start while trying to block him, and Cunningham spent much of the afternoon putting pressure on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. He finished with 6 combined tackles, forced a fumble, and also had one tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Jerod Mayo – Finished with 18 combined tackles and did the majority of the “dirty work” Sunday. Mayo didn’t do anything flashy – he just made plays and continues to be a leader with the defense.
Brandon Spikes – He may be a rookie, but he’s coming along quite well through five games. Spikes combined for 14 tackles on Sunday, and has continued to prove he can handle everything that’s thrown his way in this defense.
Tom Brady – Brady got beat up on Sunday, taking some big hits, but standing in the pocket on a couple of big throws. He was erratic at times, but he fought back, showing plenty of fire and the touchdown throw to Branch was impressive because he bought time, slid over, and found him for the score.
Stephen Gostkowski – Finished Sunday’s game 3-of-3 for field goals. He didn’t get an opportunity to attempt a 62-yard field goal at the end of regulation, but he kept his cool and ultimately kicked the 35-yard game winning kick in overtime to send the Ravens home very unhappy.
Zoltan Mesko – Mesko probably had the “play of the game”, booting a huge 65-yard punt after their second possession in overtime which helped give them one final opportunity to win the game. It was a clutch play, and ended up being one of those plays that was the “difference” in Sunday’s game.
Brandon Meriweather – Put a helmet to helmet hit on Todd Heap when it was clear that he had no chance to make the play and Mayo was already there. It left Heap dazed on the ground, and resulted in a 15-yard penalty. Meriweather was then pulled out of the game for a bit in favor of Jarrad Page after Belichick clearly wasn’t impressed. Most feel that the hit is going to cost him.
Devin McCourty – McCourty falls into the “negatives” category purely because his pass interference penalty in the first quarter was just ugly. He had his back completely turned and wasn’t even remotely close to playing the ball. That penalty helped get the Ravens to midfield and ended up leading to their first touchdown. However, McCourty made up for it in overtime when he was perfectly positioned while covering Heap, knocking the ball away on a 3rd & 6 and ending the drive. So it could have been a much worse afternoon for the rookie.
Kyle Arrington – The Ravens did a number on him Sunday. He gave up several big plays and it was pretty clear that Baltimore planned on going after him. The low point was when he got beat on the touchdown to Anquan Boldin to put Baltimore up 17-7 in the third quarter. Darius Butler didn’t Sunday, so it’s clear that Arrington is still the guy for now.
Alge Crumpler – He had a tough day. He had a big drop after Brady tried to connect with him on a third down play, and you could actually hear Brady say “God Da&*it” after the incompletion. The frustrating part of this was the fact today was his first game as a captain – an honor he earned from his performances blocking and his attitude in the locker room.
Aaron Hernandez – Had an absolute huge drop early in overtime, which was very uncharacteristic for him. It stood out because he’s been so solid to this point, and when you’ve been as good as he has, the expectations are obviously higher. Hopefully he can shake it off and make up for it next week out in San Diego.
NOTES: Brandon Deaderick got the start Sunday on the defensive line, and finished with two tackles including a sack…. Branch got a big round of applause as he was introduced on Sunday, and took a bow to the fans after his touchdown reception….Gerard Warren was at nose tackle to start the game, with Vince Wilfork lining up at defensive end…. The first offensive play of the “new offense in the post-Moss era” in New England was a pass attempt to Branch that was tipped and fell incomplete…Patriots opened the 2nd half in a no huddle, trying to change things up on the Ravens. It worked, they scored 13 points in the final two quarters, compared to just 7 in the first half…. Speaking of which, New England scored 7 or fewer in 1st half just once in 2009. Sunday’s game was the second game in a row they’ve had that scoring output in 2010….The Patriots had five punt returns on Sunday against Baltimore – that’s one more punt return than they had through their first four games (they had just four punt returns all season coming into Sunday game).