Let me be the first to say that I was wrong. I tried to pick this game with my brain rather than my heart(my heart bleeds green when it comes to football), which seemed like the right thing to do at the time. As I wrote in my preview, I figured that the Patriots offense would be too much for the Ravens to handle. Boy, was that not the case. It turned out that the Ray Lewis driven defense was too much for Tom Brady to handle. They put pressure on Brady and forced him to throw 2 interceptions. Everyone is blaming the Patriots loss on continual small mistakes like the drops they had throughout the game. If you watched the entire game, you would have seen that it was more than that. The Patriots were completely outplayed and supremely OUT COACHED. I don’t put out coached in that it looks like I’m yelling font because of my strong dislike for Bill Belichick. I say it like that because he was simply the 2nd best coach on the sidelines on Sunday. That is a rare occurrence for someone considered to be the best coach of his generation. And, while that might be true, let’s delve into the mistakes that he made that cost him another trip back to the promised land. Now we all know there was no Gronk, but we’ve known that for some time now so that’s not part of the problem. For me it all started with their decision to run the ball on a 3rd and 2 on their second offensive drive. This possession was the first of many trips to the Ravens red zone that did not end in a touchdown(The Patriots were 1 for 6 in terms of touchdowns inside the Ravens 25 yard line). I think Ridley is a nice little back that should be successful for years to come, but what they should have done was play action to him and allow Hernandez to delay across the middle. I mean all they needed was 2 yards and an inch. Now let us move on to what I would call Bill Belichick’s worst blunder of his career. Let me paint a picture for you of where they were. The Patriots got the ball back on the ravens 43 yard line, with 2:32 on the clock in the 2nd quarter, and all 3 timeouts. That kind of time on the Ravens side of the field is an eternity for Tom Brady, usually. So they proceed to get a first down on a really nice 4th and 1 play where Tom Brady pretended to be getting a new play called in to his headset and Woodhead take a direct snap for a 1st down. They were then forced to use their first timeout. This play caught the Ravens completely off guard, and they seemed to be heading for 7 points right before the half to extend their lead to 17-7. This would not be the case, and here’s where everything went awry. After two incomplete passes, Brady completed a nice pass to Hernandez going towards to the right sideline, and what does Hernandez do? Instead of running out of bounds and saving their 2nd timeout, he spins up field and maybe gains 2 yards out of the play. Here, at the ravens 10 yard line, the Patriots are forced to burn their 2nd timeout with 26 seconds left in the half. Now, even after that first blunder, having 26 seconds left and a timeout would lead you to believe that Brady can still get off 3 plays and try to punch one in the end-zone. This was also not the case. On the next play, Brady gets forced out of the pocket to his left and rather than throw the ball away he runs up field for a lousy 3 yards, while throwing his leg up high in his slide and nearly catching Ed Reed in his “family jewels”. This was clearly intentional and while I knew Brady had inherited that smug cold-hearted attitude from Belichick, I never saw Brady as a dirty player. Anyway, the Patriots jump up, doing their best Dallas Cowboys/Tony Romo impressions and act like they are going to get back to the line and spike the ball. Instead they let the clock run all the way down to 4 seconds. This forces them to call their final timeout and kick a field goal on 2ND DOWN! The words awful, horrifying, and horrendous just don’t do this 2 minute drill justice. I haven’t seen a horror movie this bad since The Wicker Man. Have you seen this movie? Man, that is some bad stuff. You would think that Nicholas Cage would still want to make good movies, since he’s broke and all. “Yeah, I think I’ll buy another island today.” Yeah good investment, buddy. Anyway, back to the ineptitude of Bill Belichick. So, instead of going in to the half up 17-7, the Patriots carried a 13-7 lead into the locker room. Now this may not have mattered in the grand scheme of things but it was a microcosm of how this game played out. Once Aqib Talib went down with an injury Anquan Boldin became the Patriots worst nightmare. Talib’s backup made Boldin look like Larry Fitzgerald out there. Can someone please get that man a QB in Arizona, I mean how bad do you feel for that guy? The Arizona Cardinals’ general managers are actually depriving us of a chance to watch a great show and possibly history. Fitzgerald was primed and ready to become the next Randy Moss, or better. Yea I said it, but the guys just never had anyone to throw him the ball. I digress, again. In the end, the pressure was put on Tom Brady to throw, throw, and throw some more once they got down in the 2nd half. I have to put a tiny bit of the blame on the drops and little mistakes(lets call that %10), some of it is on Brady(maybe 30%), but I leave most of the blame for Belichick to shoulder(the other 60%). I must give credit to the Ravens defense though who hung tough with Brady. Also, Joe Flacco seems to save his best for when he’s going up against the best. He outplayed Brady, again. Only this time there were no dropped touchdown passes. This game was never in doubt once the Ravens took the lead. Now it’s on to the SuperBowl for Joe Flacco and the Ravens. So the question is, will Joe Flacco rise up against the stingy 49ers defense or will he fold and let this golden opportunity slip through his fingers?
Originally Posted on 1/19/13 @ 7:18 P.M.
Earlier I touched on what I thought would occur in the NFC Championship. Now it’s time to move on to the AFC Championship. Like I wrote earlier, I do believe that both games will be close, so if I were a betting man I would definitely take the 8 points the Ravens are getting. However, while I do enjoy Ray Lewis’ comeback and his energy on the field, I’m just not buying into the destiny the same way Mike Greenberg is. Big fan of Mike and Mike in the morning by the way(hey Mike…and uh Mike, please stop going on vacation, because besides Colin Cowherd or Scott Van Pelt, it gets difficult to watch the show when you guys aren’t there. Anyway, like I was saying, yes Flacco seems to find a way to play well against the Patriots, and yes Ray Lewis seems to be on a path of destiny. But, even with all that being said, it’s just not going to be enough. They are simply the second best team suiting up in Foxborough this coming Sunday. The offensive machine of Tom Brady even without TheSummerOfGronk is just too good. Did I say good? I meant spectacular. Tom Brady, as much as I don’t want to say it as a life long Jets fan, will be hoisting the trophy and having a ring fitted in 2 weeks. He might even get a call from A Mr. Montana asking him to stop playing so well. I think that seat atop the best QB of all time list is pretty comfy. I also doubt it has room for two. As usual I digress. Lets get Back to the task at hand. I think the best chance the Ravens have to control the game and the clock is one of my favorite players in the league under 6 feet tall, Ray Rice. For some reason they forget how good he is sometimes. In games they get away from the run guess what happens they lose. In games Rice has 15 or more rushes including the postseason, they are 12-2. In games they forget to hand Rice the ball 15 times, they are 2-4. Hmmmmm, what should Jim Caldwell do? I think we all know the answer to that. So, thanks to the media giving Joe Flacco a false sense of confidence that he will be better than Tom Brady on Sunday, the Ravens will air it out and forget to get Rice enough touches, and they will lose. For my final point I think New England’s front 7 has been overshadowed in these playoffs by their offense. Shane Vereen says sorry, but I don’t think he means it. I think their front 7 will add to the pressure that’s already on Joe Flacco and he will crumble in the clutch moment. Flacco throws a pick while trying to drive for the game winning score, and the ravens fall just short. 34-30(New England). Enjoy the games on Sunday!