The Baltimore Ravens have complete faith in their quarterback, Flacco isn’t known for much of anything in the regular season. But, he’s kind of a big deal during the NFL’s second season, Flacco has thrived in playoff games in his career. That being said, the Ravens had two huge miscues in their loss to New England yesterday. Two interceptions were thrown, both of which were extremely poor decisions.
The first came in the third quarter where Flacco (28/45, 292, 4 TD, 2 INT) tried to hit Torrey Smith on the sideline, but he failed to see Patriots safety Devin McCourty who came over and made the interception. The second bad decision came late in the fourth quarter, the Ravens had just converted on a key fourth down (they were wildly successful on that down versus third down throughout the game). Early in the game, Smith had burned Brandon Browner for a huge gain down the sideline. On that particular play, there was no safety over the top.
From that point on, the Patriots adjusted. Routinely leaving a safety over the top of Browner due to Smith’s incredible deep speed. Back to that play, again, Smith beat Browner down the sideline, but threw the ball to far inside. The safety lined up to make it appear as if he was playing single high (just one safety playing over the top versus two, and would be covering the deep middle) pre snap. When the ball was snapped and Flacco chose to go to Smith, Duron Harmon had already started to shade over to Smith’s side, with the ball being a bit far to the inside, it was an easy catch and the turnover pretty much sealed the game for the Patriots.
New England went down by 14 points not once, but twice in this game. In the first half, the Patriots struggled a bit to move the ball as Baltimore refused to let them run the ball. So, New England did what they do best….adjust. They took advantage of the cushion that the Baltimore defensive backs were giving the slot receivers and taking the extremely short passes to move the chains, essentially using those passes as a run game.
In typical New England fashion, they took advantage of the turnovers and got in the endzone. The night may have been highlighted by a trick play on which receiver Julian Edleman threw a 51 yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola.
What would a Patriot game be without a bit of controversy, there was a stretch in the game where the Pats seemed to find huge wholes in a otherwise sound Ravens defense. The reason, thinking outside of the box led to pure confusion for the Baltimore defense.
In a key offensive drive, (the Patriots had already lost their starting center) New England lined up just four offensive lineman. They then declared a wideout that would ordinarily eligible as ineligible to create confusion. This made it hard for the Ravens to determine which player was eligible and which wasn’t, so they couldn’t identify who didn’t have a man assigned to them pre-snap. Creating huge voids in the defense post-snap, a huge advantage for a QB like Brady.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh considered what the Patriots were doing as a ‘subsitution trick’, stating that he didn’t believe the officials knew what they were doing or how to deal with it.
Bill Belichick talked about the issue as well post game: ‘ “It’s a play that we thought would work, we ran it three times, a couple different looks. We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible. The one who was ineligible reported that he was ineligible. No different than on the punt team or a situation like that.”
Harbaugh had this to say after the game: “We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were” He felt as if the Ravens weren’t giving an opportunity to identify which Patriot players were eligible and ineligible.
Per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, an NFL spokesman said that the subsitution patterns in the Ravens-Patriots game was normal.
No matter what side of the fence you chose to stand on, those two turnovers by the Ravens offense were catastrophic. Credit the New England defense for not worrying about the number of yards they surrendered, but continuing to play and take advantage of the opportunities when they came.
This is the end of a Baltimore season in which they succeeded amongst a ton of distractions and adversity due to off the field issues. They hunkered down and made the playoffs, even doing something they haven’t done before, going to Heinz field and beating the Steelers in a post season game.
While social media loves to overreact to all things, especially sports, there is no reason to bash Joe Flacco. Both QBs had good and bad moments yesterday, Flacco is known for always giving his receivers a chance to go up and make a play on the ball, it didn’t work out this time.
Brady (33/50, 367, 3 TD, 1 INT) did a great job of weathering the storm, and striking when the opportunity presented itself. His experience had a lot to do with that drive where they found an advantage and stayed with it, going no-huddle until they scored. ( The eligible, ineligible issue)
Tom did a great job of taking advantage of what the Ravens defense gave them all night long, dinking and dunking all the way down the field. His best pass of the night may have been the placement on the touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell, with the defensive back holding one of his arms, the ball appeared to catch LaFell’s hands. Brady moved into first place, passing Joe Montana with 46 playoff touchdown passes.
The Ravens will go into the offseason with a ton of optimism as their young players did a good job making an impact this season. They will only get better, they may have to focus on getting a tall wideout that can go up and win those 50-50 balls Flacco loves.
The Patriots will be hosting the winner of today’s game between the Broncos and Colts.
Quotes courtesy of CSN, Stats from ESPN