As amazing as the pulse-pounding wins over the Saints, Broncos, and Browns were, there was something uniquely gratifying about yesterday's victory over the Ravens. And sweet as it was, getting revenge over the Ravens wasn't the reason that the win was so satisfying eitiher. Even the hats and t-shirts, which were technically wrapped up prior to kick-off aren't what has me smiling as I type out this post.
So why am I so pumped up about this win?
Because out of the eleven victories so far this season, this one was the one and only where the Patriots looked like champions. This was not an ugly victory by any means. There was no skin-of-their-teeth, late game heroics required. This was an all-out drubbing from start to finish, in all phases of the game, against their current biggest rivals, on the road, in an extremely difficult stadium, against exactly the type of team that has given them fits for the past seven seasons. Heading into this game, nobody, and I mean, nobody gave the Patriots a chance. All twelve ESPN.com "experts" picked the Ravens. Mike Reiss, Field Yates, and Mr. Patriot, Tedy Bruschi all picked the Ravens. Our very own Ricky Keeler and Jason Thompson (albeit in an intentional reverse jinx) picked the Ravens.
Ok, so there was ONE person who picked the Patriots, and if you really want to figure out who that was, you can scroll down two posts, but I'm not going to go there right now. The point is that the Patriots finally played the game that we knew they could play. Brady and his receivers were sharp. The ground game was dominant. They scored touchdowns in the redzone. The secondary blanketed their receivers. The pass rush got to the quarterback multiple times. They forces turnovers and didn't create any of their own. They made plays on special teams.
The only game this season that comes close to yesterday's is the 55-point drubbing of the Steelers. But there's a big difference between hanging a ton of points at home, against a reeling team, with Gronk on board and dominating your red-hot rivals on their home field when everyone has essentially left you for dead. We're all well aware by now that the 2013 season has been an exercise in resilliency for the New England Patriots, but to be that resillient? You begin to wonder how far this team could realistically go…
LeGarrette Blount (RB) – 16 carries for 76 yards, at an 4.8 yards per carry clip and two touchdowns? An Impressive day. The end zone celebration was icing on the cake. Say what you will about the Patriots. At least we cut our players if they murder somebody, not turn them into the locker room savior.
Logan Ryan (DB) – The rookie came up with two big interceptions in what was likely the best game of his young career. Some years, you can tell you're getting a good crop of rookies. I like what I'm starting to see from Ryan, Collins, Harmon, Dobson, and Thompkins.
Julian Edelman (WR) – Let's just call a spade a spade. Edelman > Welker.
At least this season.
Rob Ninkovich/Chandler Jones (DE) – Both found ways to get after Joe Flacco and make him even more uncomfortable with the massive brace on his knee.
Sealver Siliga (DT) – Let's throw a bone to one of the unsung players on this team, who is doing a solid job of plugging the hole in the void left by Vince Wilfork. Siliga has been quietly playing some solid football and did a good job of limiting the Baltimore run game.
Logan Mankins (LT) – Feels weird to put the "T" next to his position, but the veteran leader of the O-line stepped up in a major way in Nate Solder's absence.
Steve Gregory (S) – Got stiff-armed by Torrey Smith which led to a big 42-yard gain for the Ravens. (Credit to the defense for ending that drive with no Baltimore points)
Devin McCourty (S) – Had two potential INT's go right through his hands. Maybe that's why he plays defense instead of offense. Still, he'll need to capitalize on those opportunities in the playoffs. Get better, pal.