This Sunday is not only the AFC Championship between the Patriots and Ravens, but also the Ray Lewis retirement party. As you may have heard, this is Lewis’ last season (sure).
Clear Channel has added another CREATIVE and FUN billboard to it’s resume. They outdid their Let’s Go Bruins digital signage with this GEM. Now #52 and the Ravens have even more motivation to get past the Patriots to reach their first Super Bowl since 2000.
Let’s just hope when the Patriots win, they don’t buy Ray Lewis a white suit as a retirement gift!
Pot of Baked Beans Goes To Fenway Nation!
Gronkowski & Hernandez need to have big games on Sunday
Three more days. Three more days until we get a taste of what the 2012 New England Patriots will accomplish in the 2013 postseason. While the first-round bye has provided the Pats some much needed rest, it’s time to get back on the field and crush some skulls at 4:30 on CBS. Belichick was quoted Wednesday stating; “You don’t win a war by digging a foxhole and sitting in it. You need to attack.”
With Brady at the helm and a healthy Gronkowski on deck, the Texans are poised for a long night. If Tom takes home the bacon, he will become the NFL’s all-time quarterback leader for playoff victories with 17. Endurance and consistency on Sunday will play an integral role in deciding the victor in this Divisional Round matchup. The Patriots jumped out to an early 21-0 lead at half time in Week 14, but powered through the third and fourth quarters to drop a total of 42 points on Houston.
The majority of analysts in the media give the nod to Matt Schaub as the deciding factor for Houston and they couldn’t be more accurate. There is no doubt Brady and Schaub are in different classes of quarterbacking, however; the Texan QB has a better running back in Arian Foster. If the galloping beast finds early success, play-action could be deadly for the Patriots. There are a myriad of variables that come into play when analyzing a matchup. Take a look at these three keys to victory for the Patriots to move on to the AFC Championship:
1) Protect Tom Brady: New England held J.J. Watt and the Houston defense to just one sack in Week 14. In fact, it came in the third quarter when the Patriots were up 28-7. The offensive line started the season with injuries galore and some glaring holes to patch up. In Week 2, the Cardinals sacked Tom four times in the upset loss at home. Baltimore knocked down Brady eight times in Week 3, two of which were sacks. The offensive line began to come together slowly but surely and only gave up one sack in the Seahawk loss. Week 15 was a rough one against the 49ers, TB12 was sacked three times over the course of the epic comeback attempt.
Case and point, Brady has been sacked in every loss this season. If these statistics aren’t telling, I’m not sure what else is. One positive is the health of Logan Mankins. After discovering he played in last year’s playoffs with a torn ACL, the Patriots have the Pro Bowl mauler back to full health this January. While Brady may be the best pocket passer in the game, his mobility is limited. New England will find success through the air if Brady can stand tall between the hash marks.
J.J. Watt is one bad man
Stemming from my preview yesterday, BST&N will now take a look at how Tom Brady and his squadron will fair against the dangerous Texan defense. Five weeks ago, J.J. Watt failed to record a sack on Tom Brady in the 42-14 blowout. Although he forced three QB hits and a fumble on Danny Woodhead, the Patriots limited the success of the perennial DPOY in a variety of ways. From running Hernandez out of the backfield to attacking the secondary deep, McDaniels kept Wade Phillips and the Texan defense on their heals in Week 14. Let’s take a deeper dive into the Divisional Round Matchup.
What stood out to me in Week 14 was the active play of safety Glover Quin. Starting all 16 games of 2012, Quin logged 84 tackles and 2 INT. Phillips utilized Quin in the blitz often and he recorded a big TFL on a third down before the game got out of hand. Glover also knocked down one pass on Monday Night Football to go alongside his 7 tackles. While he did get torched on deep balls to Lloyd and Stallworth, you can bet your mortgage that the Texan secondary will keep receivers in front of them on Sunday. Keep in mind, CB Jonathan Joseph just returned to the field against the Patriots in the regular season. He has since brushed off the rust and picked off Andy Dalton last week.
Brady put on a clinic in Week 14, posting the following line:
21/35 – 296 YDS – 4 TD – 0 INT – 125.4 Passer Rating
Bringing back Gronkowski will shift the focus for Texan safeties and linebackers, creating more opportunities for Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen to cause problems in the pass game. The Patriots ran multiple stretch play actions in Week 14, opening up the middle of the field and causing confusion. New England is known for their intricate screen game, expect a heavy dosage of these cute plays away from J.J. Swatt. His 20.5 sacks and 16 pass deflections are not a fluke, he is a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
New England rushed the ball 30 times for 133 yards in Week 14. Ridley pounded the rock three times in a row on their first possession in hopes of softening the defense. With ball security issues haunting him all year, protecting the pigskin is priority number one on Sunday. That goes for TB12 as well, we all remember how Baltimore stormed into Gillette – scored on their first drive and then stripped Brady on the following possession. If Hernandez does not recover Ridley’s fumble the outcome of this game could have been drastically different.
Every time the Patriots play a “Gimme Game”, they almost always seem to struggle, and Sunday in Jacksonville was no different as the Patriots escaped with a slim 23-16 victory over the Jaguars. The game came down to the final play when Patriots Safety, Patrick Chung, made an interception with no time left in the end zone. Had Jaguars Quarterback Chad Henne found a Receiver, the game would have gone to overtime. Here are five things we learned about the Patriots from this victory:
1.) The 2012 Patriots Defense looks a lot like the 2011 Defense: Last year the biggest concern the Patriots had was on defense. They couldn’t stop teams and the team relied solely on the offense to win games. Last week against the 49ers they gave up a season high 41 points, and although this week they only gave up 16 points, they allowed a lot of yardage to Jacksonville.
The Patriots defense is making mediocre Quarterbacks look like Joe Montana. Last week after allowing 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick 221 yards and 4 touchdowns, they allowed Chad Henne, backup to Blaine Gabbert, 348 yards. Luckily for the Patriots, Henne only threw for one touchdown, and the Patriots were able to pick him off 3 times. Two of the three interceptions came from Patrick Chung, including the game clinching interception with no time remaining.
2.) Tom Brady is in a slump: After only throwing four interceptions in the first 13 games, Tom Brady has now thrown 4 interceptions in the last two games. Despite throwing for 443 yards last week, the two interceptions were huge in the loss to San Francisco. Luckily for Brady both interceptions, which were thrown in the first quarter, only led to two Jacksonville field goals. The interceptions could have been much more costly for the Patriots.
Is Tom Brady leading a team too flawed to live up to its #1 seed in the AFC playoffs?
We know who the Patriots will play next Saturday night. With Tim Tebow’s stunning overtime strike to Demaryius Thomas, it’s going to be Denver coming into Gillette Stadium. I don’t know how most New Englanders reacted to this, but when Thomas broke into the clear I was jumping for joy…not because I’m that passionate about seeing the Broncos advance over the Steelers, but because I’m confident New England can handle Denver, while I was less so about Pittsburgh.
I won’t say my reaction and analysis is right, but if nothing else, it was the conventional wisdom. New England is seen as a very vulnerable #1 seed, with ESPN’s resident “Sports Guy” and renowned Boston fan Bill Simmons going so far as to say he couldn’t recall a #1 seed being this flawed.
The football analysis of the Patriots’ problems and how they match up with the Broncos will be covered here on BST&N in the week ahead. What I want to do here is shed some historical light on #1 seeds that were seen as “flawed.” Does it portend an early exit? Or is the power of homefield advantage enough to push a team over the top and into a Super Bowl?
Determining whether a top seed is flawed is immediately a subjective process, but I’ve gone back through the playoff favorites since 1990 and isolated seven that I think fit that category. I chose 1990 as the cutoff point, as it’s when the NFL expanded the playoffs to its current 12-team format. Here are the eight teams chosen, with relevant comparisons to the 2011 Patriots included…
The Jets put the pressure on Brady and the passing attack.
Forgive me for the tardiness of this recap. All season, I was good for a review of the game the morning after. However, yesterday I needed to get away. Far away. Although I will continue to avoid ESPN and sports talk radio, I will explicitly explain why the Patriots are out of the playoffs.
As the Patriots died a slow death on Sunday evening, the collective fan base had the same sick feeling. I had to stop drinking my beer in the second quarter because I simply felt too gross to keep drinking.
It is tough for me to be as optimistic as Joe Gill, as this 14-2 Patriots team that we deemed Belichick’s best work was ousted just like that. A season in which we heralded this team for their dominance was quickly down the drain. Unfortunately, it is the sad reality in today’s parity-filled NFL.
Let’s review our keys to the game, because the Patriots’ lack of execution of these points were the reasons they lost the football game.