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Ravens Conservative Play Backfires Against Patriots

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The (4-2) Baltimore Ravens fell to the (4-1) New England Patriots in overtime, 23-20.

Good to Bad

The Ravens played well for three and a half quarters; Joe Flacco played great and the offense was aggressive. The defense did what they had to do and got pressure on Tom Brady, finishing with 3 sacks and 2 interceptions.  But you have to keep the foot on the gas to win games in the NFL, especially against good teams.  Instead, the Ravens 10-point lead evaporated.  Given enough chances, Tom Brady will figure things out; that’s exactly what he did, orchestrating a comeback in overtime.  Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal gave their Ravens their second loss of the season.

The Questions

Play Calling?
For some reason, the Ravens went conservative. It all started with the 4th-and-’less than a yard’ situation at midfield in the 4th quarter— a crucial drive. Instead of going for it, the Ravens chose to punt it away.  Frustrated fans are wondering, “why not line it up and run the ball?”  In fact, short yardage has been a challenge for the team.  Fans might also be wondering, “why did the play calling become so conservative?” During the game, the Ravens offense attacked the Patriots secondary. Derrick Mason had 8 receptions for 100 yards and Anquan Boldin had 4 receptions for 63 yards, including a great 25-yard TD. TE Todd Heap had 3 receptions for 49 yards and a tough TD catch. So it’s confusing why the Ravens did not continue attacking the Patriots secondary in the 4th quarter.

Where’s Willis?
Ray Rice ran for some tough yards, 88 total rushing on 28 attempts, but he could have used some relief with Willis McGahee. So why was McGahee not involved?

3 Pass Rushers
Defensive Coordinator Greg Mattison has done for the most part in bringing the blitz, but in this game the Ravens brought only 3 pass rushers on too many occasions. It’s just was not enough pressure on a quarterback like Tom Brady. Why change what you were doing so well?

The Good News

The good news is that the team is 4-2, and their next game is at home against the Buffalo Bills.  Remember, the Ravens have played 4 road games against quality teams to start this season. Heading into this contest, the Patriots came off a bye and had two weeks to prepare for the Ravens. Yes, they could have won if they stayed aggressive, but conceivably they can go 5-2 heading into their bye. Plus, they have done this without two of their starters, Pro Bowl Safety Ed Reed and OT Jared Gaither.  It could be worse; how would you like to be a Dallas Cowboys fan starting the season at 1-4?

Players of the Game

Todd Heap: One of the toughest players on the team. He took a rough helmet-to-helmet hit (a personal foul), but was able to get up and walk off the field. The amazing thing is that Heap returned soon after to play.

Derrick Mason: He made some great catches and ran excellent routes.

Anquan Boldin: Exactly what the offense needs, a play-maker; Boldin had a great game.

Haloti Ngata: 2 sacks, 5 tackles, and 2 assists.