Found January 21, 2013 on The Nosebleeds:
With a trip to Super Bowl XLVII on the line,  The Baltimore Ravens came to Gillette Stadium as nine point underdogs and left as AFC champions. Baltimore has a plethora of emotional storylines which may have contributed to their impressive post season run, but at the end of the day it comes down to execution and that is where the Patriots failed to deliver.  Whether it was poor clock management at the end of the first half or a few timely drop passes, the Patriots played their way out of the Super Bowl and opened the door to the most insufferable two weeks of ESPN Har-bowl coverage you can imagine. Walk with us as we break down the positives and negatives taken from yesterday’s game. The Positives: The Secondary – As hard as it is to believe, the secondary did what they were supposed to do; they prevented Flacco from completing the long passes he loves to throw and didn’t give up any big plays.  The injuries to CB Aqib Talib and S Patrick Chung were a huge loss, but given the circumstances this work-in-progress defensive backfield played about as well as anybody could have expected. Rush Defense – The Patriots held Ray Rice to just 48 yards on 19 carries, but Rice’s back up Bernard Pierce contributed 52 yards on just 9 carries.  If you told me that this would be the case before the game happened, I would have felt pretty good about our chances, especially since the Patriots couldn’t even hold Ray Rice under 52 yards for a single play in the wild card round three years ago. Special Teams – The kickoff coverage was much improved from last week’s debacle and Mesko nailed the Ravens inside of their own 20 yard line four times (pretty easy to do when you punt from the 35 yard line).  Gostkowski did not have to make any big kicks but he was 2/2 on the day with a long of just 31 yards. The Offensive Line – Tom Brady went unsacked for the entire game and when the Pats went to the no-huddle offense, you could see this unit absolutely man-handling the Baltimore defensive front and pushing them back a good two or three yards every play. The Negatives: The Pass Rush – Apart from Rob Ninkovich’s two sacks, the pass rush was pretty much non-existent for most of the game.  I’m not ready to call Joe Flacco an elite QB yet, but he’s good enough to hit the open man when you give him enough time to go through his check downs.  The secondary was able to take away the deep ball, but a lack of pressure allowed Flacco to pick the Patriots apart with short passes over the middle and dump offs to the running backs. Turnovers – Sure, one of Brady’s interceptions came on a deflection and it can be hard for Ridley to hold on to the ball when he’s moving it like Bernie, but the bottom line is that the Patriots committed three turnovers to Baltimore’s zero and in the playoffs, turnovers usually tell you who won the game. Tom Brady – Yeah, I said it.  Tom Brady just didn’t put together the game New England fans are so used to seeing from him during big games at Gillette.  He was throwing behind receivers, missing open guys down the field and unable to convert on some crucial third downs that thwarted potential scoring drives.  Sure, some of the drops were absolutely the receiver’s fault, but he’s Tom Brady.  It is his job to make plays and find a way to win.  He didn’t do that yesterday. Wes Welker – Just when we all thought Wes was back in our good graces and guaranteed to get that shiny, new contract extension, he comes up with a third down drop that sent Patriots fans flashing back to last year’s Super Bowl.  I want to believe that it was just a fluke, but it seems to be happening way too much recently for a guy who makes his living as a sure handed receiver. As much as it stings right now, and as easy as it is to point out what went wrong, Patriots fans can still hang their hat on the fact that we made it to another AFC Championship game and won another AFC East title.  Those may not be what New Englanders are accustom to celebrating, but there are plenty of cities that would love to celebrate what the Patriots have accomplished.  I fully expect this team to reload in the off-season and be back in this game in a year’s time.
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