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Matchup Winners: Brady leads the way

Tom Brady took a pounding but still delivered a memorable comeback to beat the Ravens in Foxborough.


When the Patriots ran:

It would be fair to say the Patriots forfeited this matchup but then again on the rare occasions they did try to run things weren't pretty. New England attempted 13 runs and gained a grand total of 14 yards. Even eliminating the four Tom Brady kneel downs and it was nine carries for 17 yards. Brady actually toted the rock six times all together – once on a sneak to move the chains and once on a 4-yard scramble for a touchdown. Brandon Bolden rushed three times for 7 yards, LeGarrette Blount added a yard on three attempts and Shane Vereen picked up 6 yards on his lone rush. The Ravens front was as stout as advertised, particularly second-year nose tackle Brandon Williams, who dominated the interior of the Patriots offensive line. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels clearly had no intentions of banging his head into that 340-pound wall often but it was apparent that things weren't going to get much better if he did.Edge: Ravens

When the Patriots passed:

Every once in a while Brady reminds us all why he is one of the greatest of all time. It wasn't always perfect for TB12 but when things got tight he delivered every time. Brady completed 33 of 50 passes, most of the short variety while under tremendous distress, and racked up 367 yards and three touchdowns. He did fire an ill-advised interception late in the first half that allowed the Ravens to take the lead into the locker room, but in leading his team out of a pair of 14-point holes it was the big plays with his back against the wall that will be remembered. He brilliantly read a blitz near the goal line before hitting Rob Gronkowski (seven catches, 108 yards) for an easy score on a slant, then won the game with a picture-perfect deep fade to Brandon LaFell for a 23-yard touchdown. Julian Edelman (eight catches, 74 yards) also chipped in with his arm, firing a 51-yard touchdown to Danny Amendola (five catches, 81 yards, two TDs). Brady was bloodied and battered by the vaunted Ravens front, which sacked him twice and hit and hurried him on countless others. But when the game was on the line Brady was at his best.Edge: Patriots

When the Ravens ran:

Unlike the Patriots who had no interest in running the ball, Baltimore expertly mixed Justin Forsett into the mix and carved through the Patriots front. Forsett was a going concern all evening, finishing with 24 carries for 129 yards for a 5.4-yard average. Forsett did the bulk of his damage between the tackles but also found gaps on the outside, consistently picking his way through the Ravens zone-blocking schemes to find his way to the second level. Even on the rare occasions when his runs were held to short gains he appeared to be a broken tackle away from much bigger plays. The Ravens finished with 136 yards on the ground on 28 attempts (4.9-yard average) and had 18 efficient runs on 28 attempts (4 yards or more, first down, touchdown). Forsett's work was even more impressive considering the banged up nature of Baltimore's offensive line, which was without starting left tackle Eugene Monroe and was forced to use guard Marshal Yanda at right tackle while undrafted rookie James Hurst took Monroe's spot. Edge: Ravens

When the Ravens passed:

Joe Flacco may be Average Joe in the regular season but once the playoffs come around he's definitely worthy of his Joe Cool moniker. Flacco was dynamite once again in Foxborough, firing four touchdown passes and staking his team to a pair of 14-point leads. He completed 28 of 45 passes for 292 yards, and he was victimized by a couple of drops from his receivers – none bigger than Owen Daniels' in the end zone in the fourth quarter that forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal. It was the lone red zone failure for Baltimore, which went 4-for-5 inside the 20. Flacco was not flawless, however. He misfired on a handful of throws, and two of those wound up getting picked off. The first was a simple overthrow of an open Torrey Smith on a deep out that sailed into Devin McCourty's arms. The second ended the game as his deep ball toward Smith floated to the inside and allowed Duron Harmon to intercept in the end zone. Flacco was otherwise brilliant, mixing his trademark deep throws with well-orchestrated boot-legs to open targets in the flat. He used 10 different receivers and put 31 points on the board. It just wasn't enough. Edge: Ravens

Special Teams

There wasn't much to choose from between these two strong special teams units but the Patriots get the slightest edge based on two factors. Edelman averaged 15 yards on his three punt returns while Jacoby Jones averaged just 6.7 yards on his three. And the Ravens picked up a pair of holding penalties on Jones kickoff returns that forced them to start drives from deep in their own end – including the final possession. Jones was a bit more effective on kickoffs, averaging 24.7 yards on six attempts, most of which came on shorter-than-normal kickoffs from Stephen Gostkowski. Amendola fumbled his first attempt and was fortunate when Chris Jones recovered. The Patriots also picked up a personal foul – called on Chris White but it appeared to be Akeem Ayers – while covering a punt. And Ryan Allen shanked a 17-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 20 on a second-half plus-50 attempt. Not a whole lot to distinguish between the two but Edelman's work earned the slight edge. Edge: Patriots

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