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Notes and Observations from The AFC Championship Game, Ravens Beat Patriots 28-13

This is two years in a row we have had to see this image from Tom Brady. Is the killer instinct gone? (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

To begin, sorry this is late. After going to the game and witnessing this lack of performance first hand, I needed a day to gather the correct thoughts on the latest in our recent gut-wrenching failures. This final notes and observations will be more of a final impression of the season as well as the game.

First Half

- The opening drive was a sign of things to come, yet I doubt anyone knew it at the time. 3rd and 2 from the 42 and not only do the Patriots not convert, but Wes Welker dropped a pass that was catchable. Granted it wasn’t the easiest catch to make, those are the plays that you need to make when you’re playing in the AFC Championship game.

- Credit needs to be handed to the defense as they played well early in the game, and continually got Tom Brady and the offense the ball back. Everything changed when Aqib Talib went down with the injury. Instead of having Talib and Aflonzo Dennard lineup on Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith respectively, the Patriots had the likes of Marquice Cole covering Boldin. Not an ideal match-up to say the least.

- No matter how many times the defense was able to get the ball back, the offense continued to stall. Another 3rd and 2, this time at the Baltimore 12 yard line, and once again the Patriots can’t convert. They ran Stevan Ridley directly into the defensive line for no gain and had to settle on a field goal. Another negative early sign that this game was not going to go our way. The Patriots had two more drives that made it into Ravens’ territory in the first quarter alone, and punted both times.

- I do have a huge problem with the last two punts in the first quarter. The first was 4th and 7 from the 35. I understand the offense was never sharp that whole game, however what do you really gain from punting it? In this case it was 27 yards. Yes it pinned the Ravens at their own 8, but they played this game too safe from the start. They were afraid to attack or take any chances and they certainly paid for it. The next punt was on a 4th and 2 (in case you weren’t counting that is three times in the first quarter alone the Patriots failed to convert on 3rd and 2) from the 45. They needed to be able to gain 2 yards.

- The Ravens kicked off the 2nd quarter with a 13 play 90 yard drive for a touchdown and the lead. Joe Flacco and the Ravens did exactly what the Patriots couldn’t do all game. They went no huddle for most of the drive and controlled the pace of the game. The big play was a 25 yard catch by Torrey Smith with Arrington in coverage. Talib not being in the game came back to hurt the Patriots quickly and credit to Flacco for being able to take advantage of the coverage. The drive was capped off with a 2 yard run by Ray Rice.

- Finally things looked to be picking up. Brady led an 11 play, 76 yard drive for a score and the lead. Welker helped move the drive along with a 24 yard catch and run to land the offense at the Baltimore 16. Welker then capped off the drive with a one yard catch from Brady to put the Patriots back on top 10-7.

- Confusion describes the Patriots’ last drive of the half. They were able to get to the Baltimore 10 yard line after some clutch catches from Danny Woodhead and Aaron Hernandez. Then after a Brady scramble to the 7, they neglected to take their final timeout with about 15 seconds on the clock. Instead they try to hurry up to the line, let time run off, and take the timeout with 4 seconds left. They then settle for the field goal, again. To say everyone in the stadium didn’t understand their rationale would be a gross understatement. They passed up at least one quick shot at the end zone to settle on 3 points. Once again showing their lack of aggression and safe style of play.

Second Half

- Once again in Baltimore territory the Patriots punted on 4th down. This time it was 4th and 8 on the 34. ┬áThere is a theme here if you haven’t kept up. The Patriots did exactly what Belichick said they couldn’t do last week against Houston. They dug a foxhole and sat in it right from the starting gun. The Ravens took the punt and then went 87 yards on 10 plays and scored a touchdown. The two teams were polar opposites of each other. One team has aggressive, determined, and hungry to take the game, while the other team was stagnant, comfortable, and afraid to take any chances. Sadly we were rooting for the latter.

- Joe Flacco continued to push the tempo of the game and the defense just could not keep up. Flacco led another 10 play drive, this time for 63 yards. Boldin took advantage of the mismatch and scored on a 3-yard pass from Flacco. At this point there was the strong feeling that this game was lost. The next drive solidified those feelings.

- Stevan Ridley took the hand off from Brady and took a helmet to helmet shot from our old, dear friend Bernard Pollard. Ridley was more than likely knocked out at impact as his body went limp, and naturally the ball came out. The replay was inconclusive and the Ravens took over the ball. They already had firm control of the game at this point.

- Belichick needs to sign Pollard and IR him for the rest of his career. Pay whatever he wants to keep him away from our players. It has never turned out in our favor with Bernard Pollard on the other side. The fact that he is crying for Brady to be fined for his slide is easily the most outrageous thing that’s been said by a player on the Ravens.

- Flacco, of course, led the Ravens on another scoring drive. Once again Boldin caught a touchdown right in Marquice Cole’s face. Dagger.

- The minute that ball was tipped by McPhee, any life left in the stadium was sucked out. It of course was intercepted by Ellerbe and the game was over. Until then there was a small amount of hope left, especially after the 36 yard catch and run by Welker that set the Patriots up at the Baltimore 24. For such a tall quarterback Brady throws a lot of ground balls, and has a lot of tipped passes. Yes he is throwing it to shorter receivers, but it still doesn’t make sense.

- This game was painful to watch. The Patriots played not to lose as opposed of playing to win the game. They let the Ravens dictate the pace of the game and never established a rhythm on offense. The play calling was questionable and they missed out on some key opportunities. Receivers were dropping passes and Brady wasn’t sharp. You can’t win a game when you can’t score.

- Now it’s “Harbowl” mania. Needless to say I’m not watching Sportscenter for two weeks.

- Terrell Suggs is the reason I hate the Ravens. Even when they beat us he is still obsessed with us. Instead of focusing on the Super Bowl he feels the need to go on the verbal offensive against the Patriots again. Suggs, or anyone on the Ravens for that matter, calling the Patriots “arrogant” is the definition of the pot calling the kettle black. That’s what happens when you’ve dominated the NFL for the past decade. While you’re fascinated and enthralled with winning another championship, everyone else is just obsessed with beating you. Tough to be king.

- Ray Lewis announced his retirement before the playoffs to make the postseason all about him. Instead of the Ravens winning because they have the talent, they’re winning because of Ray. Maybe this is all some elaborate ploy by Walt Disney. This Ray Lewis last run is all so he can win the Super Bowl, be named MVP, and say “I’m going to Disney World!” since they didn’t allow him to say it in 2000. I see through your rouse Mickey.

- While Brady is arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, it’s obvious he doesn’t have the same fire he had those first three Super Bowl runs. It’s almost like he’s lost that killer instinct over time, and these past three big losses he appears to be over thinking things. All season he was able to shred good defenses (scoring 28 points in 20 minutes against the 49ers and putting up 83 points in two games against the Texans). Sunday he just never seemed comfortable or confident. This team has a lot of positives to take into next year, but if they are going to win Brady needs to go out and win games. The last three major losses are all because the offense played horribly. The defense had nothing to do with it.

- Now it’s on to the offseason. Questions will begin on whether or not they will bring back guys like Talib and Welker, as well as who will they target in the draft. To make it short they need both guys back on this team. Talib has been the only semblance of a shutdown cornerback since Ty Law, and there is no one that can replace what Welker does. For those who think Julian Edelman can do it keep in mind he hasn’t caught more than 21 passes in a season, while Welker consistently catches over 100.

- This is the first time I’ve ever had a chance to write about the Patriots like this and I’ve had a blast all season. Thanks to everyone at Sports of Boston for allowing me to do this, and thanks to anyone who has read any of these. I really do appreciate it. Just remember, there’s always next year.

About Steve Bastek - @sbastek12

Graduate of Bridgewater State University with a BA in Communication studies. I've been a Boston sports fan all my life and enjoy having the opportunity to write about it.

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