For the second straight week, the Patriots didn’t deserve to win.
I’ll admit the 24 penalties were egregious, atrocious, whatever you want to call them.
But let’s stick to strictly the X’s and O’s. In the end, the Patriots displayed much of what plagued them in 2011: a failure to execute in crunch time.
New England had several chances to ice the game and ultimately came up short. It’s tough to blame the loss on the offense considering they dropped 30 points on the Ravens on their home field. However, the defense proved to be a letdown, again.
Chandler Jones and the defensive line failed to record a single quarterback hit, let alone a sack. Devin McCourty got toasted by Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones just as much as he did by the officials. Kyle Arrington wasn’t much better.
Some would argue the Pats had the game taken away from them by the officials. I’ll concede there were some back-breaking calls and non-calls, but the Patriots still were in position to steal a monumental road victory.
But thanks to horrible coverage in the secondary, a nonexistent pass rush and questionable play calling on offense, the Patriots now sit at 1-2.
Let’s take a look at this week’s risers and fallers.
1. Brandon Lloyd: Tom Brady’s new weapon hasn’t made any splash plays, but he’s quickly earning his quarterback’s trust. Lloyd was masterful in manipulating Ravens cornerback Cary Williams, racking up nine catches for 108 yards. Hopefully Lloyd starts to use his speed and body control to make more plays down the field, but until then I’ll take Sunday night’s performance any day.
2. Wes Welker: For a guy who was supposedly being phased out of the offense, Wes Welker didn’t look like it last night. The ultra-quick, competitive slot man racked up eight catches for 142 yards, often acting as Brady’s go-to guy on third downs. Welker failed to find the end zone, but his knack for finding holes in the Ravens’ zone defense was critical.
3. Tom Brady: While a lot of people will say he was out-dueled by Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter, I still thought Brady put on a great showing. Tom managed to throw for 335 yards on 28 completions despite not having Aaron Hernandez in the lineup and losing Julian Edelman to a hand injury. With the running game basically nonexistent, it was a pretty gutsy effort by Brady in the controversial loss.
1. Devin McCourty: Good corners are supposed to forget the last play and move on to the next one, but Devin McCourty appears to have forgotten how to play corner altogether. Despite a few passes defended, the third-year man can almost single-handedly be blamed for New England’s loss Sunday. A few of the illegal contact penalties called against him were complete B.S., but he wasn’t earning himself any leeway with the refs based on his often atrocious coverage. Besides getting beat in one-on-one coverage, his “tackle attempt” of tight end Dennis Pitta should be on the SportsCenter Not Top 10.
2. Josh McDaniels: For the second straight week, I thought Josh McDaniels royally screwed the offense over in key situations. His play calling to his point has me wondering what the hell he is doing. With the chance to put the game out of reach, and the ball within the 10-yard line, McDaniels called for two run plays. Both failed miserably, and despite having the best tight end on the planet, the third-down throw ended up being a quick out to Wes Welker, who was tackled two yards shy of the goal line. I understand Rob Gronkowski was needed to block, but giving him only two targets was a travesty considering the age and size mismatches against the Ravens’ safeties and linebackers.
3. Rob Ninkovich: Last season, Ninko was one of my unsung heroes on defense. This year, he’s gone missing. The former linebacker-turned-defensive end has generated zero pressure from his left end spot and has been a total non-factor in the run game. It’s about time the Pats pulled the plug on the once serviceable defender and give one of the young guys like Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott or even Jake Bequette a shot.