On Sunday in Foxborough, Ray Rice was again the Ravens’ most important weapon on offense, as evidenced by his 36 (!!) touches. However, all credit must be given to Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense, who figured out a way to keep Rice from going buck wild on them despite getting the ball nearly 40 times. His 28 carries went for only 88 yards (a 3.14 average), his longest run of the afternoon was 8 yards, he managed just 38 yards on 8 receptions (4.75 ypc), and he never really sniffed the end zone.
So, with Rice having a bit of an off day, who stepped up to pick up the slack?
Played Like a Raven – Derrick Mason
The 36 year old wide receiver notched his first 100-yard performance since Week 11 of last year, when he caught 9 balls for 142 yards in a loss to the Colts. Sunday, D-Mase was the Ravens’ most consistent weapon, catching 8 passes for exactly 100 yards. It appeared that he may have made the play that was ultimately going to lead to a win for the Ravens when he had his biggest gain of the day, a 20 yard reception down the left sideline with about 10 minutes left in the overtime period. That reception set the Ravens up at their own 48 yard line, where another two or three first downs (or one big play) would have put them in long Billy Cundiff field goal range.
Unfortunately, that was not to be the case, as the Ravens’ next three plays went:
1-10-BAL 48 (9:37) 27-R.Rice left guard to BLT 48 for no gain (55-B.Spikes).
2-10-BAL 48 (8:59) 5-J.Flacco pass short middle to 27-R.Rice to NE 48 for 4 yards (50-R.Ninkovich, 55-B.Spikes).
3-6-NE 48 (8:16) (Shotgun) 5-J.Flacco pass incomplete deep right to 86-T.Heap (32-D.McCourty).
One knock on Mason’s day, however: If he hauls in that likely touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Ravens are probably 5-1 right now.
Honorable Mentions: Joe Flacco, Haloti Ngata, Todd Heap
Did Not Play Coach Like a Raven – John Harbaugh, Greg Mattison, Cam Cameron
This isn’t the first time the coaches have found themselves in this spot. The last time I decided to pin some blame for a loss on John Harbaugh & Co. was the aforementioned Indianapolis game in Week 11 of 2009. That day, it was clock management from Harbaugh, and short-yardage failures from offensive coordinator Cam Cameron that drew my ire.
As for this loss to the Patriots, no coach escapes blame.
My buddy Glenn Clark damn near gave himself an aneurysm this morning on “The Morning Reaction” on WNST, going off on the “idiotic” notion that the Ravens lost the game due to conservative playcalling on both sides of the ball.
Well, I’m going to respectfully disagree here and instead side with the long list of people who are chalking this loss up to the Ravens “taking their foot off the pedal” after going up 20-10 early in the fourth quarter.
From the fishy situation of not giving Willis McGahee a single snap, to punting on 4th-and-a-football-length from the New England 47 late in the first half, to punting from their own 48 with 9 minutes to play, Harbaugh clearly made some questionable decisions Sunday.
As for Mattison, well…when Tom Brady knows you only have one of two defenses that you play in a given situation (third-and-goal), you clearly need to switch things up:
Mattison had the perfect blueprint to work with on how to beat Brady – the one he engineered in the Wild Card Playoff game in January. Pressure, pressure, and more pressure. However, in the fourth quarter and overtime, the Ravens were routinely bringing only 3 or 4 men at Brady, and he easily dissected the secondary as a result.
Mattison’s game plan wasn’t the only one the Patriots had figured out, though. According to 105.7 The Fan’s Casey Willet, the Patriots secondary has said in the days following the game that by the fourth quarter and overtime, they knew exactly what routes the Ravens’ receivers were going to run. They switched to Flacco’s kryptonite, the Cover 2, shut off those routes, and the result was the endless train of fruitless checkdowns to Ray Rice.
How the hell do the Ravens and Cam, after 2.5 years of Flacco struggling against this defense, not have a “OK, they’re in Cover 2, let’s use this package and tear that shit up” plan? Boggles the mind.
Even if you agree with Harbaugh’s assessment (and Clark’s mouth-frothing rant) that the Ravens did NOT get too conservative, when the other team comes out and says that they knew pretty much exactly what you were trying to do on both sides of the ball, there is no denying that you were thoroughly out-coached.
This one, like the one last November, is as much on the guys in polo shirts as the guys in jerseys.
Dishonorable Mentions: Michael Oher, Le’Ron McClain