1st Quarter – Offense*
...The running game was strong from the start, thanks in large part to nice reads, cuts, and bursts by LeGarrette Blount, who once again started in the backfield behind QB Tom Brady. The offensive line was getting good blocks as well against a rather formidable Ravens front seven.
...On Blount's 1st-quarter touchdown run, the Patriots were in a "heavy" goal-line package, with tight ends Matthew Mulligan and Michael Hoomanawanui flanking the left and right sides, respectively, of the o-line in three-point stances. Matthew Slater was the token wide receiver motioning back and forth behind them. Slater wound up on the right side behind Hooman. Fullback James Develin was directly behind Brady, with Blount right behind him. At the snap, Develin charged straight ahead and took out inside linebacker Josh Bynes. Blount followed Develin into the hole, where he was met by another ILB, Jameel McClain. But Blount's head of steam was too much and he overpowered McClain and a couple other Ravens defenders who tried in vain to pull him off the goal line. Blount kept his legs churning and bulled his way into the end zone. The play was demonstrative of how Blount has performed all season for New England.
...One of the few times the Patriots didn't rush the ball well came in the 1st, when right tackle Marcus Cannon allowed Ravens DT Arthur Jones (brother of NE's Chandler) to slide to Cannon's inside and take town Stevan Ridley for a two-yard loss. Ridley might have been running into a wall anyway, as the left side of the line (left tackle Logan Mankins and rookie left guard Josh Kline) didn't do a great job of sealing off their guys, either, but Jones made sure of it by taking Ridley down by the legs. Great individual play by him and a weak effort by Cannon.
...WR Danny Amendola got free on a 34-yard gain thanks largely to a busted coverage by Baltimore. New England was in a stack formation with rookie Aaron Dobson and Hooman bunched up to the right with Amendola. At the snap, Dobson ran a slant and two Ravens DBs gave chase, leaving Amendola alone in between the hash marks. Brady saw this and immediately dumped the ball to Amendola who raced down to the Ravens 6-yard line.
...On RB Shane Vereen's touchdown catch in the red zone, New England had a 2nd-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Develin was lined up wide right, with Amendola and Julian Edelman stacked wide left. Vereen was to Brady's left in the shotgun. Pre-snap, Vereen motioned out to the right toward Develin. At the snap, Vereen turned up-field and slightly feinted toward the middle of the field, then cut to the outside, where there was a slight opening of green turf. Brady fired a lovely pass where only Vereen could get it while two Ravens bore down on him, but not nearly in time. Vereen secured the pass and darted for the pylon. Sharp execution by the offense in the early going.
...Again Cannon was burned, this time by OLB Terrell Suggs, who just tossed Cannon aside as he shot into the backfield to bring Blount down for a 3-yard loss.
...Vereen injured a groin running a wheel route down the left sideline along the Patriots bench. He pulled up short as the pass to him sailed over his head and out of bounds. He just seemed to suffer the injury while trying to accelerate past his defender. Unfortunate, but it's unclear how long he'll be on the shelf. He never returned to the game, although he was still in uniform on the sideline for the second half and was seen walked out of the locker room after the game.
* 1st Quarter – Defense*
...The first of rookie Logan Ryan's two INTs on the day came when he was chasing WR Jacoby Jones across the field from the defensive right to left. Jones got a step ahead of Ryan and QB Joe Flacco lofted the ball in his direction, but LB Dont'a Hightower had dropped into coverage on that side and jumped for the ball as it was falling to Jones. Hightower couldn't keep his hands on the ball, but he altered its flight enough so that it changed direction and fell right to Ryan, who collected it as he slid to the ground. Nice awareness by both defenders.
...Ryan, by the way, started the game at RCB in place of Alfonzo Dennard, who subbed in later, but was limited with knee and shoulder injuries. He was, in fact, a game-time decision and almost didn't play at all.
...The defense lucked out on a sack of Flacco when he stumbled (foot caught in the turf) and fell on a 3rd-and-5. Andre Carter got credit for the sack for touching Flacco first when he was on the ground, but the whole pocket collapsed on Flacco at that point. It looked like he didn't have any open receivers anyway and may have been brought down eventually, but the play nevertheless forced a Ravens punt.
2nd Quarter – Defense
...LB Brandon Spikes made a nice play to shoot into the backfield and bring RB Bernard Pierce down for a 1-yard loss. It was just a great individual effort by Spikes, who read the play pre-snap and shot through the middle of the o-line, fighting past two blockers to get Pierce by the ankles.
...The next sack of Flacco was all Kyle Arrington. The corner came on a blitz on 3rd-and-8 from Baltimore's 42. No Ravens accounted for Arrington, who'd lined up in the slot, close to the trenches, and just darted toward Flacco at the snap. He wrapped up the QB around the waist and dragged him down. Nice play by the much smaller Arrington to take down a big guy like Flacco.
...Spikes made another nice play on the next series. He snuck into the backfield again and helped limit Pierce to just a 2-yard gain by chasing him down from behind.
...Flacco was sacked again on 3rd-and-6 from the Patriots' 46. DE Rob Ninkovich, from the left side of the defense, just bull-rushed right tackle Michael Oher, bulldozing him back toward the QB. Flacco, whose left knee was ailing, couldn't elude the rush and Ninko, using one arm while Oher continued blocking him, wrestled Flacco to the ground. Awesome athletic play by Ninko.
* 2nd Quarter – Offense*
...Not a great day again for Cannon, whose false start penalty contributed to the next play – a Brady sack.
...The right interior of the o-line broke down on that Brady sack. It was a well-timed blitz call by defensive coordinator Dean Pees and the Ryan Wendell-Dan Connolly-Cannon portion of the line just couldn't contain the pressure.
...The final plays of the first half were a disastrous mess of penalties for New England which thwarted an otherwise productive drive. The Patriots were running well and getting open on pass routes, but the o-line's mental mistakes were costly in terms of putting more points on the board before the half. Turned out not to be a problem in the end, of course, but unfortunate nonetheless.
3rd and 4th Quarter –Defense
...Ryan made a nice play on 4th-and-3 on Baltimore's first series at the start of the second half. The rookie was lined up right, covering TE Dennis Pitta, who ran a short curl route at the sticks. But WR Jacoby Jones was lined up in the slot on that side and went on a corner route. He was initially open as safety Steve Gregory came racing over, but Ryan abandoned Pitta, as he was watching Flacco's eyes. Ryan ran a few steps back and timed his jump just right to get a hand on the pass and knock the ball down. Really nice, instinctive play by the young player.
...The second pick of the day by Ryan was a result of a dropped ball by Pitta on the following series. Flacco's ball was on target and hit the tight end square in the hands on a short out-route, but he couldn't snag it and it continued on its trajectory into the arms of Ryan, who was coming over ostensibly to make the tackle. But the ball and the defender met in mid-air and Ryan did what Pitta couldn't: hold onto the ball. It was a product of being in the right place at the right time, coupled with a bit of good fortune. But the fact is, Ryan was where he was supposed to be.
...The Ravens finally found success moving the football by going no-huddle/shotgun for the entire next possession. They wound up with a 4th down on the New England 4 and elected to go for it rather than kick a chip-shot field goal. At the last moment pre-snap, Flacco left the shotgun and took the ball from under center, hoping to catch the Patriots off-guard. But Ninko made a great play, swim-moving from a three-point stance over Oher to get in the backfield and bring RB Ray Rice down from behind. He stopped Rice just inches short of the first-down marker. That might've been the momentum killing play of the game for Baltimore, even though they'd go on to add a touchdown in the 4th quarter.
...DT Sealver Siliga collected the 4th and final sack of the day on Flacco early in the 4th quarter. Right guard Marshal Yanda was engaged with Siliga, but the defender was quicker on his feet, faking an inside rush before shooting to the outside and around Yanda. At that point, he had a clear shot on Flacco and brought him down easily just outside the Baltimore goal line. The addition of Siliga to the d-tackle rotation (he's now starting next to rookie Chris Jones) seems to have helped New England's heretofore struggled rush defense as well as given a slight boost to the pass rush.
...Again, the no-huddle/shotgun worked on that drive that started with Siliga's sack. The Ravens drove down to the Patriots' 25, when Gregory was flagged for a pass interference that gave them the ball at the NE 2. Rice gained a yard before Flacco stuffed it in with a QB sneak.
3rd and 4th Quarter – Offense
...The passing offense sputtered a bit in the 3rd quarter, with some drops by receivers and poor throws by Brady.
...Brady was sacked a second time on 3rd down at the end of the 3rd. Suggs imply beat Mankins with a speed move to the inside. He faked slightly like he was going to the outside, then ducked under Mankins and shot inside. It was a rare miscue by Mankins and the o-line in pass protection Sunday.
...Ridley did a very nice job protecting the football late in the game when the coaches gave him several opportunities to help run out the clock. Ravens defenders, certainly aware of his recent struggles, tried desperately to pry the ball loose from his hands, but he held on tight.
...Just before the 2-minute warning, Blount's second and final touchdown came as a result of precise blocking by the o-line. The play was designed to go left with an overloaded formation to that side. Hooman and Mulligan were both lined up in three-point stances on that end. Blount looked like he was going to bounce outside them, but the o-line did such a good job of sweeping the Ravens defense to that side that it opened up a line in the middle. Blount read this well and cut inside. He was met by a few Ravens defenders, but they couldn't slow down his full head of steam. Tremendous job all around by the offense.