Terra’s Take on Patriots Advancing to Fourth Straight AFC Championship
THAT is how you start a weekend of great football.
Two teams that play hard against each other and comes down to the last few minutes. Luckily for New England fans, they came out on top as this back and forth battle will hopefully continue (the teams have alternated playoff wins over the past four games).
Thanks to a touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Brandon LaFell with five minutes left in the game, New England advances to the AFC Championship game.
For the first time in their four playoff matchups,Tom Brady outplayed Joe Flacco.
Each quarterback had four touchdowns, but Brady threw one fewer interception. Brady completed a higher percentage of his passes and passed for 75 more yards.
New England didn’t have much of a run games, but that was to plan as Baltimore has one of the best run defenses in the league. Instead they focused more on the short passes to set up manageable second and third downs and that worked just as well. This way they were able to spread out that defense line of Baltimore and stop them from consistently getting after Brady.
From a Patriots point of view, this was a good game, but they can play better.
There’s a reason why no other team hasn’t come back from multiple 14 point deficits before. It’s hard to do and New England shouldn’t make a habit of trying to do that. Once again their defense has stepped up after halftime and kept their offense in the game. The Patriots did allow their first second half touchdown in seven games, but only ten points for the entire half was huge. Cornerback Darrelle Revis made a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes, but overall they were able to keep the Ravens offense at bay when they needed a stop.
Before this game, there were three things New England had to do to win the game. They were able to do two of them and that was good enough to win the game. Patriots fans love kicker Stephen Gostkowski, but they love him more when he is kicking extra points as opposed to field goals as their red zone offense scored three touchdowns. Brady also received some good protection throughout the game only being sacked twice (on consecutive plays).
Even though New England was flagged for a couple of the pass interference calls, they were able to contain the Ravens when it counted and forced Joe Flacco to make a couple of passes. Brady had another costly interception at the end of the first half and they need to limit those going in the future.
Looking at the possible matchups for New England, they feel pretty good with either one. Indianapolis would prove an easier matchup as they have crushed them in the past three games.
Denver brings that storyline that the NFL loves so much in Brady vs. Manning. New England handily beat both of these teams earlier in the season by an average of about 20 points.
No matter who the Patriots matchup with next week, this was the game that Patriots fans were worried about and now the entire region can breathe a sigh of relief. Baltimore played a great game and these two teams should meet again in the playoffs for years to come.
Player of the Game: Rob Gronkowski, TE
Gronkowski hasn’t been 100% when these two teams have faced off in the past, but he was here. Gronkowski caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. Four of Gronkowski’s seven catches went for either a first down or a touchdown, and his presence certainly played a factor. The Ravens always knew where he was on the field and that allowed receivers like Michael Hoomanawanui and Danny Amendola to open up and contribute. When he’s on the field, Gronkowski is arguably the best player on the field and if he can stay healthy, the sky is the limit for New England.
Play of the Game: The real play of the game was Julian Edelman’s 51 yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola.
While this didn’t give them the lead, it did erase the second 14 point deficit New England faced. The great thing about this game was that nobody saw it coming and it will be one of the plays that is talked about next week. When asked after the game, head coach Bill Belichick said they ran the same play in 2001 (classic Belichick).
It was unlikely that Baltimore was looking at film from that long ago. People forget that Edelman was a quarterback for Kent State and that was a great play. Not only did they tie the game with this, but it brought the crowd back to life and pumped up the defense. The drive following Amendola’s second touchdown resulted in Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s first interception.
Storyline to Watch: The thing the Patriots have to be concerned with is the health of two players.
Center Bryan Stork left the game with a knee injury and did not return. After he left, New England gave up back-to-back sacks and it looked like they were going to be in a rough game. While New England did well after those two plays as Brady wasn’t sacked for the rest of the game, which was key in their win.
The other injury was to cornerback Brandon Browner. Browner was also lost due to a knee injury and his physicality was one of the reasons that Ravens tight end Owen Daniels was able to start producing more. Brandon Browner’s injury could be big as no matter who New England faces, they will be facing a great tight end in either Indy’s Coby Fleener or Denver’s Julius Thomas.