The Patriots may have had problems with the referees on Sunday night, but they also didn’t do enough to win the game.
The story of Sunday night’s epic clash between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens down in Charm City quickly became the referees and the terrible job they did at officiating a correct and consistent game for both teams. That’s what my gut reaction last night/early this morning was mostly about. It was an egregious showing by what the NFL calls replacement referees, referees that I don’t even believe I would hire to officiate my intramural flag football game on Tuesday night.
There is another story that needs to be addressed and needs to be addressed by this football team now before it becomes a problem down the road. Even with the disadvantages that the referees may or may not have granted the Patriots’ offense, when push came to shove and the game was on the line, the New England Patriots offense had multiple opportunities to put the game on ice and escape Baltimore with a win. The Patriots didn’t get it done.
All one has to do is look at the drive chart for the last few plays of the final Patriots’ scoring drive and the final two Patriots’ drives in the fourth quarter to see the picture. Let’s take a look:
1st and goal from the Baltimore 4: Stevan Ridley rushes up the middle, well not really. The Baltimore defense stepped up, got penetration and forced Ridley back for yards. I have no problem with the play-call given the situation but the offensive line completely got blown off the ball. Still, it’s not the wrong play call and with two more downs and eight yards to go for the game clinching touchdown.
2nd and goal from the Baltimore 8: A complete “what the ****?” moment from the Patriots’ offense. I understand that the Patriots can’t become predictable and want to try a draw play to catch the defense napping. There’s just one problem, I can only remember two run plays that the Patriots’ ran that actually worked well, and one was an end-around play. The Patriots were playing a backyard game of catch in the passing game all night, spreading out the Ravens defense and relying on Tom Brady to simply find the open man. Statistically, the numbers don’t back up running the ball in this situation because they were only rushing at a clip of 2.3 yards per run play during the game.
So, on one of the biggest drives of the game in a three wide receiver set that had worked all game, with a tight-end like Rob Gronkowski who can box anyone out and a receiver like Brandon Loyld that literally was making catches over players backs, the Patriots decide to run the ball?
My thoughts exactly disgusted Tom Brady.
3rd and goal from Baltimore 8: Brady finds Welker in stride who tried his hardest to break into the end-zone but just can’t get there. A very good play actually, but it would have been better if the Patriots threw the ball on second down. Say we flip-flop second down and third down plays. Patriots running a draw on third and goal from the 2 sounds a lot better than second and goal from the 8 and if you even want to try and throw out “well we don’t know what would have happened had we flip flopped the plays” we do because the Patriots were slinging the ball all around the field.
4th and goal from Baltimore 2: Field goal is good. Patriots lead by nine. Lead feels safe because the defense has been playing well enough and, well let’s face it, the Ravens quarterback is still Joe Flacco. I’m going to go walk out into oncoming traffic.
Patriots force a turnover on downs on Baltimore’s next drive. Patriots get the ball at their own 34 at the 10:50 mark.
1st and 10 from New England 34: Tom Brady finds Brandon Loyld for a 14 yard gain and a first down. If there is anything good we can take out of this game it is that Loyld and Brady look to be building great chemistry week to week. The NFL should be ‘effing scared about what is going to happen come say week 10.
I’m still angry about this play because the Patriots tried to get cute and run the ball when it clearly wasn’t working. Sure, it is nice to have a run game and be able to use it to win, but as long as teams are completing the ball (as the Patriots were) it’s not a bad thing to throw the ball to win the game, especially with 10 minutes to go. As Patriots blogger Fitzy so elegantly put it “The Patriots have Tom Brady, the Gronk, Wes Welker, etc… you throw the ball, score, then set up your run game. Why the **** are you gonna buy a Ferrari if you are gonna keep it in the garage and drive a god damn Prius?”
1st and 10 from New England 47: Bolden runs left for two yards. See previous thoughts on running the football in this game.
2nd and 8 from New England 49:Brady passes to Welker for 11 yards. No seriously, when the Patriots throw the ball on plays of 10 yards or less to gain for a first down, they seem to always get a first down. I am just as confused as you are.
1st and 10 from Baltimore 40: No huddle attack and Woodhead rushes to the left for a four yard loss. File this one under “too cute”. The Patriots are trying to win the game and they go to the no-huddle which always seems to morph into a “hurry up” when we don’t need to. This was one of those situations. Slow the game down, wait until the defense plays its cards, and adjust accordingly. Sadly, this has been normal for the Patriots over the past few years. They try to catch defenses off guard instead of just playing football sometimes. This was one of those.
2nd and 14 from Baltimore 44: Brady throws a screen to Deion Branch who gets crunched for no gain. After the amount of hits that Branch took in this game, I’m surprised he remembers what he ate for lunch on Sunday. Welcome back Deion!
3rd and 14 from Baltimore 44: There was no way in hell this play was working. The Patriots have no answer for a pass rush on third and long and haven’t for three years now. It’s sad by true. This play highlights for me the biggest problem with the New England Patriots. Whenever they have a chance to win a game, they always seem to have terrible first and second down plays and fail to convert a third and long. It’s hard to blame them for not converting on third and long, but poor play calling on first down or lack of execution up front has killed this team for a while now. If it doesn’t change soon, Patriots’ fans can continue to expect heart-attack finishes to their games.
Patriots punt and Baltimore scores on their next possession. New England gets the ball back on their own 37 with 4:01 to play
1st and 10 from New England 37: Ridley rushes to the left for three yards but Baltimore coach John Harbaugh gets a technical foul is flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for calling a timeout he has no good ******* reason. I’ll take it. Remember, I’m not completely bias.
1st and 10 from Baltimore 45: Believe it or not, Stevan Ridley rushes for less than 4 yards on a carry. I have four words for the New England Patriots. Throw. The. Damn. Ball. Seriously, the Patriots had a terrible rushing attack all day. I know teams run the ball to win games in the final few minutes, but sometimes teams have something their better at and for that it’s throwing the ball. More than likely, it will be a completion and the clock won’t stop.
2nd and 9 from Baltimore 44: Brady is sacked for a seven yard loss. I’ll give you a hint about what happens on third down. It doesn’t work.
3rd and 16 from New England 49: Fun fact: There are not a lot of plays in the playbook to pick up a 3rd and 16. So why did the Patriots try to throw the ball instead of simply running the ball and letting the clock run? Two reasons I see:
- Patriots had to take a chance to win the game. In a 2-point ball game, it lowers the amount of yards the Ravens have to go to win the game and they will care less about their time-outs. The time-out taken from the Patriots running the ball would likely mean nothing to the Ravens.
- With the way the referees were calling the game, a throw has a greater chance for a phantom illegal contact or defensive holding. It sounds soft, but the Patriots were trying to play to the refs and died by it. Live by the sword, die by the sword.
For fans of the New England Patriots, this should be the story. The Patriots didn’t get it done. They had the opportunities but a combination of poor play-calling and poor execution doomed the New England Patriots from the start of the fourth quarter. The Patriots played well enough to win this game, but so did the Baltimore Ravens.
Maybe that’s what stings about this game. For years it has always been the Patriots’ who made the plays at the end of the game that led to a Patriots victory no matter how close the game was. In recent years, that has changed, slowly morphing into just another “they’re good but” team that always exists in the NFL.
The Patriots are good, really good… but until they fix their late game woes and learn how to win games, they can’t be considered contenders.