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Patriots Report Card: Week 18


Quarterback: B-

If you told me Tom Brady had 42 attempts in a game, I’d tell you he easily threw for over 300 yards. And if you then told me he threw for 200 yards, I’d be surprised.  But 154 yards? On 42 attempts? You’re kidding, right? No, unfortunately not. This is what happened on Sunday in Foxboro, and even those fans freezing their tails off at Gillette Stadium couldn’t believe their eyes.

For those of you still reading, I must warn you, it gets worse. Not only did Tom Brady manage only 154 yards on 42 attempts in Sunday’s Wildcard playoff game, he threw three interceptions! One interception can usually be overcome, two interceptions hurt, but three interceptions are almost always fatal for a football team.

Brady finished the day 23/42 and threw two touchdowns to go along with his three picks. His quarterback rating was 49.1.

In his defense, Brady was allegedly playing with a broken finger and three broken ribs, and without his favorite target Wes Welker. He was clearly not 100 percent against the Ravens, and the beating he took against the Texans a week earlier probably contributed to his skittish play on Sunday. The Patriots All-Pro quarterback wasn’t putting enough zip on his passes, and his accuracy was very poor.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Brady throw so many wounded-duck passes. Any questions surrounding the effect of Brady’s injuries on his play can be answered by the fact that he didn’t throw deep to Randy Moss once. His inability to throw deep also contributed to his 3.7 yards per completion average.

The Raven’s defense also deserves a lot of credit for Brady’s poor performance. They didn’t try to confuse Brady like so many defenses have failed to do in the past. Instead they blitzed him into oblivion. Dwan Edwards, Ray Lewis, and Terrell Suggs all managed to sack Brady, but Suggs’ first quarter strip sack was the most damaging. It set up Le’Ron McClain’s one yard touchdown run putting the Ravens up 14-0.

With his team trailing 24-7 at halftime, the wounded Brady was forced to try to throw his team to a comeback victory. The Raven’s defense, knowing the Patriots would abandon the run, blanketed the Patriot’s wide receivers picking off Brady three times. It was just too tall of an order for an injured Brady, without his favorite target, to lead his team back from such a large deficit. Even still, Brady managed to throw two touchdowns to Julian Edelman, keeping the Patriots on life support into the fourth quarter.

Running Backs: C

We’ll never know what the Patriots game plan was on Sunday, because they were forced to abandon it in the first quarter. The home team found themselves trailing 21-0 before they could even blink. Ray Rice’s 83 yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage was followed up by a one yard touchdown run by Le’Ron McClain, and another one yard TD run by Rice.

Trailing 21-0, the Patriots were forced to abandon the run, and had to rely on Tom Brady to get them back in the game. Kevin Faulk was the team’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 14 times for 52 yards. Sammy Morris, Laurence Maroney, and Fred Taylor combined for 12 yards on four carries.

Wide Receivers: B

Tom Brady wasn’t the only one missing Wes Welker on Sunday. Randy Moss was practically invisible in the first half. With Welker out, the Ravens were able to make Moss a non-factor for most of the game. He finished with 48 yards on five receptions. Moss’s performance was also hindered by Brady’s inability to throw the ball deep. The 6-foot-4-inch wide receiver is at his best running fly routes down the middle of the field, not running slant and out patterns.

I think a little bit too much was expected from rookie wide receiver Julian Edelman.  Edelman has a long way to go before he can fill in for Wes Welker. However, he did catch both of Tom Brady’s touchdown passes, and finished with 44 yards on six receptions. I liked what I saw from the rookie, and I think he has a promising future with the Patriots.

Kevin Faulk aka. “Mr. Reliable” finished with 37 yards on six receptions. Sammy Morris hauled in three passes for 15 yards in the loss.

Offensive Line: C-

This unit has been receiving A’s on their report card week in and week out, but when Tom Brady needed them most, the offensive line let him down. They couldn’t seem to handle the overload blitzes the Ravens were throwing at them in the first quarter. Almost every time Brady dropped back to pass in the first half he was running for his life.

After not allowing a sack for four straight weeks, the Patriots offensive line has given up five sacks in the past two weeks. For the second time this year, Matt Light proved he is no match for Terrell Suggs.  Less than two minutes into the first quarter, Suggs buckled Light’s knees with a speed move and stripped Brady from behind. The play was eerily similar to Suggs’ strip sack of Brady in week 4. Five plays later McClain punched the ball into the end zone putting the Patriots in a 14-0 hole; a hole which they would never crawl out of.

Front Seven: D-

I wrote before the game that the most important match-up would be Ray Rice versus Jerod Mayo. If the game was a boxing match, Mayo would have been knocked out in the first round. Rice took the opening play from scrimmage 83 yards for a touchdown. The Raven’s second year running back killed the Patriots defense racking up 159 yards on 22 carries, and scored two touchdowns.

It seemed like every time I spotted number 51 he was chasing a Raven’s running back. Mayo played like a second year linebacker taking bad angles and missing tackles.  Vince Wilfork was the only member of the Patriot’s front seven who could slow down the Raven’s three-pronged rushing attack. The Raven’s quickly adjusted sending Rice and Willis McGahee off tackle, away from Wilfork’s clutches.  The Ravens finished with 234 net yards rushing.

Tully Banta-Cain intercepted Joe Flacco in the second quarter, but the Patriots offense went three-and-out on their ensuing possession. The Patriots failed to record a single sack of Flacco.

Secondary: B+

How does a team win when its quarterback throws for 34 yards, 0 TD’s, 1 INT, and has a rating of 10.0? This is the question members of the Patriot’s secondary had to be asking themselves after the game. The Patriot’s front seven could have provided them with a quick and easy answer.

As bad as Brady was on Sunday, Flacco was even worse. But Flacco benefited from a defense that forced three turnovers, and a rushing attack that accumulated 234 yards and four touchdowns.

The Patriot’s secondary did a great job shutting down the Raven’s wide receivers. Mark Clayton was the only Raven’s wide receiver with a reception on Sunday. He led the team with one reception for 17 yards. Sunday’s game certainly was a statistical anomaly in many ways. The secondary doesn’t get an A this week because they too did a poor job tackling in crucial moments. Safety Brandon Meriweather took a horrible angle on Ray Rice allowing him to break free for the 83 yard touchdown run.

Special Teams: C

The Patriot’s special teams gave up a 34 yard punt return to Chris Carr in the first quarter. Fortunately the Raven’s went -1 yards on 3 plays on their ensuing possession. They also allowed a 30 yard kickoff return by Tom Zbikowski which set up Baltimore at their 48 yard line. Willis McGahee punched the ball into the end zone on the ensuing drive extending the Raven’s lead to 33-14 early in the fourth quarter.

Stephen Gostkowski missed from 44 yards early in the fourth quarter. It was his only field goal attempt of the game.

Julian Edelman returned a punt 28 yards to the Baltimore 44 yard line in the second quarter, but the Patriots failed to capitalize on the field position.

Coaching Staff: B

The Patriot’s coaching staff obviously had a game plan going into Sunday’s game, but they were forced to abandon it in the first quarter. I’m sure Bill Belichick didn’t want an injured Tom Brady throwing 42 passes, but he had no choice with his team trailing 24-7 at halftime.

Belichick’s decision to give Kevin Faulk the vast majority of the carries was interesting. I might’ve given Maroney more carries and hope he might break off a big run. The team needed some kind of a spark on offense, and it seemed they lacked the speed to make a big play against Baltimore.

The Raven’s offense didn’t out-scheme the Patriots, they just ran the ball down their throats. The Patriot’s defense confused Flacco, but their inability to stop the run took the weight off of the young quarterbacks shoulders. All Flacco had to do was hand the ball of to Rice, McGahee, and McClain, and watch them do the rest.

Based on what I’ve seen this season, I think hiring an offensive coordinator would help the Patriots. Belichick clearly has too much on his plate. Some questionable calls in key moments of games, and temperamental behavior off the field have been the result of Belichick over-extending himself this season.

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