Now that the 49ers, Giants, and Ravens have all won games with great defense we can pull out the “defense wins championships” narrative. And really, we can keep it out unless the Patriots win the Super Bowl and then we’d have to put it away. But as we talk about great defenses–my favorite thing to do–we can’t forget about matchups. And that’s why when I think of Patriots-Ravens, I’m less inclined to say the Ravens will win this one with their defense. I’m more inclined to say that this game will come down to which team’s weaker side of the ball performs better. And in the Ravens’ case it’s their offense and for the Patriots it’s the defense.
I said the same thing about the 49ers and the New Orleans Saints. The 9ers pedestrian offense stepped it up when it mattered and the Saints barely-there D couldn’t get it done. The weaker side of the 49ers righted its ship (temporarily) and they won.
You didn’t really need to catch the Ravens/Texans game today to know that the offense almost blew it for the Ravens. But what you may not know is that it wasn’t just Flacco. It was the receivers and the overall game plan. The Ravens really never got into any sort of rhythm during the game. They didn’t seem to have any “plan of attack” to speak of. The Texans, on the other hand, clearly came in ready to run the ball and get a nice mid-game going on those few times when passing was preferred. I think the rookie QB Yates had a pretty good showing, but the downfield passes weren’t clicking, and that resulted in 3 interceptions (2 by CB Webb and 1 by FS Reed).
The Ravens weren’t able to capitalize the way they should have been able to on those mistakes. They were up by 4 for what seems like forever. Punt punt punt punt punt. That simply won’t work against the Patriots unless the Patriots totally fall apart on offense the way the Packers did against the Giants. And yes, the Giants played well on defense, but 8 drops by 7 different receivers, among other foolishness committed by the Packers, is a horse of a different color. I don’t think the Ravens can depend on the Patriots to make many mistakes that aren’t directly forced by their smothering defense. And that’s why they are going to have to score at regular intervals and not spend an entire quarter not putting points on the board.
Earlier, because the Texans and Ravens were so sloppy, I said whichever team goes on to play the Patriots might be looking at a slaughter. I’ve softened my position…sort of.
The Patriots defense showed a lot of effort against the Broncos but they weren’t “great.” And if they let the Ravens hang around you just never know when Ray Rice will come up with a big play that will win the game for his team. The Broncos were no such threat because not only did they struggle in the passing game, they struggled with what was supposed to be their bread and butter–their run game and rushing by their QB Tim Tebow. In the Patriots game, Tebow struggled mightily (does that sound biblical? It’s not intentional) with reading the option and making the appropriate decision. As inconsistent as Flacco can be, the Patriots can’t rely on him to have difficulty with the basics…and given the fact that Flacco was able to have his offense hang in there against a strong Texans D, there’s no reason to believe that he can’t hang around against the Patriots and give his team a chance.
But damn that Brady sure knows how to get a ball into…well…into wherever he wants it to go.