Sunday, October 17, 2010

The headlines at 4:30PM today: RAVENS BEAT PATRIOTS, GO TO 5-1

Last year heading into the Wild Card Playoff game v. New England, we heard all the stats that championed Tom Brady’s greatness in the post season at home as well as the playoff record of Bill Belichick. Fortunately for the Ravens’ players they didn’t give a rat’s you-know-what about the stats. They only concerned themselves with the game plan and winning their individual battles.

And they did in convincing fashion!

This year the Ravens for the third time in less than 13 months are heading into Gillette Stadium and for the third consecutive time they are underdogs. No surprise there since so many pundits are spewing all over Belichick’s impressive post-bye record. He’s won 7 straight with an extra week to prepare for an opponent and most of the wins weren’t even close, outscoring opponents on average by more than 18 points.

A closer look however would reveal that following their schedule break the Patriots emerged from their brief respite to take on the Bills in four of those games as well as the Dolphins and 49ers. None of those teams were or are of the Ravens caliber.

Sometimes teams just match up well against you. The Bengals are a nuisance that way for the Ravens and unfortunately for the Patriots, the Ravens are a similar irritant for Brady & Co. Even when the Patriots had superior talent, the Ravens were almost always a play or two from an upset.

Looking back to the horrific 2007 season, one that was a perfect season until the Super Bowl for the Patriots, the Kyle Boller led Ravens were one botched timeout call from Rex Ryan from knocking of New England. Last year they were one dropped pass by Mark Clayton from a comeback victory.

We could dissect this game in many ways but for me, the Ravens win this game because:

• The Patriots’ defense hasn’t improved and last year during 33 attempts Ray Rice average 7.9 yards per carry

• On third down the Ravens converted 19 of 30 times in two games v. New England (63%) while the Patriots were 7 of 22 (31%)

• The absence of Randy Moss frees up an extra defender, forces Brady to sustain drives and given the Ravens success on defense on third down this year (26.6% conversion rate), it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they improve on last year’s third down success v. Ravens

• The Patriots defense is weaker and less experienced while the Ravens offense has improved through the additions of Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh

• The Ravens sacked Brady 6 times last year while the Patriots only got to Joe Flacco twice.

• The Pees Factor: Ravens linebackers coach Dean Pees got to know the inner workings of the New England schemes and personnel as well as anyone as Belichick’s defensive coordinator for six seasons. That can’t hurt!

• The Patriots win during week 4 of 2009 was heavily influenced by penalties and the Ravens have improved markedly in that department

• Other than a great opening half against the Bengals on opening day, the Patriots aren’t the offensive juggernaut that the scoreboard might suggest. They were waxed by the Jets, beat the Dolphins on special teams and were nearly beaten by the Bills who posted 30 points in New England…you know, those Bills ranked 30th in the league on offense.

The only way the Ravens lose this game is if they are undisciplined and commit boneheaded penalties and give the ball away more than they take it away. If they don’t the results could resemble those from last year’s wild card game. That said, I’ll give the Patriots a little more credit than that performance last January.

PICK: Ravens 24, Patriots 20


fran said...

Couldn't agree more. The Ravens have improved the weakest link in their game (passing) and the Patriots have not improved their defense at all.

If Flacco (and Cameron) don't have brain cramps today, the Ravens should cruise by 10.


Jerry B said...

Baltimore was outcoached across the board - poor decisions by Harbaugh, who really needs to look for his....nerve; poor play calling and poor use of personnel by Cameron, who doesn't seem to realize that he has two other capable running backs; and poor schemes by Mattison who continues to stubbornly believe that he can defend the pass without pressuring the passer! The better team lost today to the better coached team!