Originally written on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 12/24/13
The New England Patriots blew out the Baltimore Ravens 41-7 on Sunday. What was expected to be a tough, potentially too tough of a matchup for the Pats quickly turned into the largest home loss in Ravens history. For me, the most encouraging aspect of the game (and there were a lot of them) was the defense. For a defense that ranks 28th in the league in 3rd down defense, the Patriots limited the Ravens to go 5-14 on 3rd down and 0-3 on 4th down. Not too shabby. Let’s see how the whole team graded out. Quarterback: C+ Tom had an OK day, throwing for 172 yards and a touchdown while completing 54% of his passes. It was refreshing and encouraging that Brady didn’t have to be Superman in order for the Patriots to smack down the defending world champions. Shane Vereen exiting the game early on didn’t help the signal caller’s cause either. The biggest stat in games like this is the goose egg Tom put up in the turnovers column. Running back: B+ If you’re a Patriots fan, you have to love what you saw from the backfield on Sunday. LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley ran HARD. You can tell that these guys are motivated and ready to bring the lumber to any defender in their way. While neither guy had a stat line that jumped off the page (they combined for 130 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown), it was easy to see that both runners looked fresh and eager to make some plays. You have to believe that Stevan Ridley is especially motivated after being in the dog house for so long. The performance of the Patriots ground game is that much more impressive when you consider the fact that the Ravens have a top 10 rush defense, and they were playing at home in a game that they desperately needed to win to keep their chances for a playoff berth high. Wide Receiver: C I can’t say enough about Julian Edelman (7 catches for 77 yards). This guy has stepped up tremendously over the course of the season, and we all know the Pats needed someone to do just that. He needs just four catches and nine yards against the Bills to achieve 100 receptions and 1,000 yards receiving on the year. Wow! Now that Gronk is done for the season, we need at least a couple of other guys do the same. It has been encouraging to see Danny Amendola to emerge in recent weeks with some big catches here and there. If he and one of the rookies can step up to compliment Edelman, this group could be more than serviceable heading into the playoffs. A first round bye (crossing my fingers to avoid the jinx) would ideally provide enough time to heal any lingering ouchies. Offensive Line: B+ With the injuries to this unit, it is impressive how well they played. It wasn’t a dominating performance by any means, but they certainly got the job done! Brady was sacked twice (which is actually below the season average for the Ravens) but they paved the way for an impressive ground performance. As the line gets healthier, their performance should only get better. Defensive Line: B I thought the defensive line had a pretty nice outing. While the Ravens did rush for over 120 yards, three of the team’s four sacks did come from guys on the defensive line. The four sacks doesn’t tell the whole story, as Flacco was pressure consistently throughout the game. This unit is doing what they can after losing Wilfork and Kelly early in the season. Linebackers: B While nobody on this unit had an absolute standout day, they performed well overall. It was apparent early on that the Patriots were going to force the Ravens to beat them by throwing shorter routes, which put more emphasis on this unit’s ability to cover and tackle in space, and they performed admirably. Secondary: A Flacco loves the deep ball, and the secondary took it away for the most part. Logan Ryan continued his stellar play with two interceptions, and Tavon Wilson put the cherry on top with a 74 yard interception returned for a touchdown. This unit kept Joe Flacco from completing a single touchdown pass, and the reigning Superbowl MVP finished with a 56.9 quarterback rating. If the secondary can continue to play like this, the sky is the limit for this team. Special Teams: A Ryan Allen averaged over 47 yards per punt, while Gostkowski nailed both of his 40+ yard field goal attempts. Matthew Slater has proven to be an absolutely beast on special teams, coming up with two huge tackles. This is a unit of strength. Final Verdict What a huge win for the Patriots. The Pats went on the road and handled a physical Ravens squad. You have to believe that confidence is building after a win like that. If (when) the Patriots beat the Bills on Sunday and clinch a first-round bye in the playoffs and have a couple weeks to heal, no team in the AFC will want to play the Patriots. Patriots vs Bills score prediction: 27-14 Patriots.
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