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Tom Brady was coming off the back of two shaky outings in a row, and you don’t need me to tell you how rare that is. The defense that had lost multiple leaders and was looking eminently mortal. But, Tommie and the gang were back in business against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense, and even if they never looked like they were going to run away with the game, they also never looked like they were going to lose.
Though the Pats ended the first quarter trailing by four after Joe Flacco hit the ageless Derrick Mason for 20 yards and a touchdown, they were already grinding inexorably back down the field as the second quarter began. The early going wasn’t easy for the Patriots’ offense, and they increasingly featured their platoon of Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and the impressive Fred Taylor in a drive that ended with a rushing touchdown for none other than Tom “Goldenballs” Brady himself. Sammy Morris would scamper in from 12 yards out towards the end of the half to make the score 17-7 at the break, with the defense coming up with a couple of critical stops.
Ravens OT Jared Gaither also suffered a frightening injury in the second quarter, slamming his head against the back of Joe Flacco. Gaither required extensive treatment on the field, and was moved to Mass General as the game continued. NECN reports, thankfully, that he’s able to move all his extremities, so a big SoB “get well soon” goes out to Jared Gaither: We want the Pats to beat your ass, but we’d rather they didn’t paralyze you at the same time.
But, after not coughing up the ball for something like a hundred gajillion plays, the Pats fumbled twice in a row near the start of the second half. The first time, they recovered it, but they lost it on the next play, with Dwan Edwards chugging into the Patriots end zone for an easy score. After that, with the exception of a good Ravens drive to keep it close in the fourth quarter, it was all New England on both sides of the ball. The defense got stingier, constantly pressuring Flacco despite the efforts of a solid Ravens O-line that included top newcomers Michael Oher and Marshall Yanda (a former Iowa Hawkeye who delivered possibly the hardest hit I’ve ever seen in real life).
As for the offense, it looked a bit like a combined-arms military operation: no stars, no standouts, no particular specialization, but everything done more or less correctly. The Patriots effectively mixed passes and rushing, Brady spread the ball around superbly, and they just kept possession and kept the football moving.
Having handed the Ravens their first loss of the year, the Patriots will now look ahead to Denver, where the Broncos will present them with another stern test.