Patriots 41, Ravens 7
STRATEGY: Joe Flacco's sprained left knee meant the Ravens were even more reliant than usual on the shotgun formation rather than have him drop back in the pocket. They ran the shotgun 67 of 74 snaps, trying in vain to increase the tempo with 52 no-huddle plays to produce just 358 yards of total offense and one touchdown as Flacco was sacked four times and intercepted twice. Flacco targeted Dennis Pitta seven times, increasing his involvement to no avail as he caught four passes for 34 yards and caused an interception with a drop. The running game wasn't emphasized much against a weak run defense, but did generate a respectable 121 yards. One week after having Jimmy Smith shadow Calvin Johnson, he and Lardarius Webb were deployed on their standard right and left sides. The Ravens tried to cover more than blitz against Tom Brady, but were ineffective at defeating blocks to contain the run and Brady managed the game well with plenty of time to throw.
PERSONNEL: The I-formation was rarely used as Vonta Leach got five snaps. They stayed in their primary three wide receiver sets with Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones playing 69 snaps apiece, one more than Marlon Brown. Ed Dickson got 47 snaps, 17 more than Pitta. Bernard Pierce played 35 snaps, three more than Ray Rice, with one fewer carry. The iron men defensively were defensive backs Matt Elam, Smith and James Ihedigbo with Webb missing one snap and middle linebacker Daryl Smith missing three when he got his Achilles stepped on before returning. The platoon system has disappeared at weak-side linebacker with Jameel McClain up to 57 snaps with only 11 for rookie Arthur Brown and two for Josh Bynes.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Terrell Suggs broke a six-game sack drought with a sack of Tom Brady, looking more mobile and aggressive than he has in weeks. Webb did a nice job in coverage and tackling in run support. Haloti Ngata had six tackles and a pass deflection, collapsing the pocket a few times. Eugene Monroe allowed no sacks to Chandler Jones, who entered the game with 11.5 sacks.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Flacco didn't appear to trust his injured knee, especially early when he hung a pass in the air too long to Torrey Smith to squander a potential touchdown. He short-armed throws, including his first interception on a pass intended for Jacoby Jones as Logan Ryan picked him off for the first of two interceptions. Flacco awkwardly stumbled, falling down untouched for a sack. His decision-making was questionable, including not throwing underneath to an open Pitta on a fourth-down incompletion. The defense got bulldozed by power back LeGarrette Blount as the 250-pounder plowed ahead for 76 yards and two red-zone touchdowns. Suggs and Daryl Smith didn't react well in pursuit to cutbacks. Jimmy Smith committed a costly 34-yard pass interference penalty, setting up the Patriots' first touchdown. Ihedigbo failed to wrap up Danny Amendola on a 34-yard reception leading to the second touchdown. McClain reacted too slowly to Shane Vereen on his short touchdown out of the backfield. Brady had far too much time to operate as he was only sacked twice and hit four times. Justin Tucker hooked a 37-yard kick wide left, ending a streak of 33 field goals in a row.
TURNING POINT: Trailing 20-0 in the third quarter, Rice got stonewalled on 4th-and-1 at the Patriots' four-yard line, inches shy of the first down. It was the latest short-yardage failure for the Ravens with Gradkowski getting stood up and shoved backward by Sealver Siliga as Michael Oher missed his block on Rob Ninkovich who tackled Rice shy of the first-down marker.
X-FACTOR: Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict is a feisty competitor known for his hard hits and trash-talking. The Ravens will need to be disciplined to avoid retaliations, and penalties.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun