Here are some of the personnel highs and lows from the Patriots (11-2) impressive 30-23 victory over the Ravens (7-6), with plenty of impressive action on both offense and defense balanced out with a tough night in the kicking game.
LeGarrette Blount –The big back went up against the best run defense in the NFL, but that didn't keep him from helping to pave the way to victory. Blount's first-quarter touchdown – giving the Patriots a 9-0 lead – was his 14th of the season, tying Curtis Martin's Patriots franchise record. Things picked up in the second quarter with a pair of runs totaling 22 yards before the back eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season midway through the third quarter. Blount finished with 18 attempts for 72 yards (4.0 avg.) as he now has a career-best 1,021 yards for the year.
James White – The passing back continued to make plays as he's done for the better part of the last year. The biggest came in the second quarter when White lined up wide, caught a quick slant and ran 61 yards to set up a second-quarter touchdown. White then stepped in to help out on kickoff returns later during the special teams issues, and his 18-yard return seemed a mere step away from being a much bigger play.
Chris Hogan – With the game within a field goal at 23-20 in the fourth quarter, Eric Weddle and the Ravens defense somehow lost track of Hogan in the right slot. He ran untouched down the field, Tom Brady hit him in stride and he continued on for the incredibly-easy 79-yard touchdown. It closed the door on Baltimore. Hogan finished the day with five catches for 129 yards, including another nice play to wiggle free for a catch on a flea flicker.
Tackling – The Ravens focused on a short passing game but the Patriots made sure Baltimore never got much going thanks to some very sure gang tackling. Other than a catch-and-run by fullback Kyle Juszcyzyk for 40 yards, New England's tackling was on point. Patrick Chung and Shea McClellin led the way with nine tackles, but it was a great overall team effort by the defense. That included opening the scoring with a safety, with Patrick Chung and Malcom Brown tackling Kenneth Dixon for the two points.
Ed Hochuli –* *The famous referee had his usual long-winded explanations to the home crowd. He also had a couple questionable calls, even if they may have been technically accurate. He wiped out a potential Trey Flowers strip sack by saying Joe Flacco's forward progress had been stopped in his dropback. Yup, that's what he said. Later he ruled Devin McCourty down by contact after an interception thanks to a glancing blow from Mike Wallace's finger that had Hulk-like power to knock the safety down many steps later. The gimmick of Hochuli has worn off.
Cyrus Jones – The rookie was not only back deep again on punts and kicks, but also got the start at cornerback. As has been the case all season, it didn't go well. Jones nearly ran into a bouncing punt in the second quarter. He didn't seem to learn, though, and kicked both a bouncing punt and the door open for the Ravens midway through the third quarter. Making it worse, he seemed to not be overly aggressive to try to recover the ball. The Ravens recovered at the 3 and found the end zone a play later to pull to 23-10 and ignite the comeback. Later Jones allowed a 47-yard completion down the left sideline to Breshad Perriman that set up a field goal to pull the Ravens within 23-20. The rookie's tough season is getting tougher by the week.
Matthew Slater –The veteran special teams captain returned from a foot injury. But he became part of the problem on special teams when he fumbled the kickoff return just after the Ravens turned Jones' punt return muff into a touchdown. The second turnover led to another touchdown and turned what had been a comfortable lead into a dogfight.
Shea McClellin –The veteran looked like he'd be a part of the special teams problems early when he bumbled a punt that should have been downed inside the 10 and turned it into a touchback. But he more than made up for that later when he was able to leap Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox and block Justin Tucker's 34-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter to retain New England's 2-0 lead at the time. McClellin also had a very solid day on defense, tying for the team lead with nine tackles.
Tom Brady –* *It wasn't perfect early on, as Brady missed some throws and was forced into a couple bad decisions. He had an intentional grounding call in the first quarter that pushed New England out of field goal range and then threw a bad interception in the end zone to Weddle in the second quarter. Then, Brady got rolling. At the end of the day, Brady finished completing 25 of 38 passes for 406 yards with three touchdowns and the one interception for a 116.8 rating. Brady again showed solid movement in the pocket, especially early and overcame the relatively slow start for another big day to improve to 7-0 in his career at home in battle's against a No. 1 overall defense.
What do you think of our lists? Additions? Alterations? Let us know with a comment below!