Cathartic analysis of the Patriots’ defeat
Posted on January 21, 2013
The Patriots performance was so dismal yesterday that I have to summarize my analysis as a cathartic act so I can let it go. I do this wholly for my own state of mind and if you have no interest in the Pats please stop here. Why did they lose?
1. Injuries. The winners hate to hear this sort of thing, but we lost the best TE in the league and our best red zone weapon, Gronk. Look at the dismal red zone #s for the game. We lost Talib, our best guy in the secondary, and Jones, our best pass rusher, and Love, one of our best linesman. No rush and a weakened secondary makes any QB look like a star as they have all day to throw and even the best secondary can’t hold that long — see those early season games. The D returned to that dismal earlier form. Some will say that all teams have injuries, but the Ravens had none. Quite the opposite – -they had everyone back to health. This is sheer bad luck and while a healthy Pats team would still have faced a tough and close game, an injury wracked Pats team couldn’t play D and yet again made a decent B look like an all-star.
2. Drive killers. Welker drops a 3rd down ball at a key moment (Again, Wes? Really — we love you, but these are your moments.). A holding penalty reverses a key 3rd down conversion. Another ill-timed Ridley fumble (though you can hardly blame him as he was knocked out and btw, wasn’t that a penalty, leading with the helmet). Turnovers are the most obvious and complete way to kill a drive and the Pats, who had an absurd turnover differential all season, came up on the wrong side of this one most important stat at the wrong time.
3. The uncomfortable truth. We worship Brady in these parts and a lot of people would argue that he is the NFL’s greatest QB, as Phil Sims did before the game. But this is the latest in a series of recent subpar playoff performances and included clock mismanagement at the end of the first half, more interceptions than touchdowns, and what we know from the Giants and now the Ravens is that Brady is no more immune from a pass rush than any other QB. Simply, the Pats struggle with rugged smash mouth teams. Thus Brady struggled to make third downs and had almost no big plays. Like the Giants before them, the Ravens won the battle of the line (on both sides of the ball for that matter — how many times was Wilfork’s name called?). Combine that with key turnovers and it was a done deal as playoff games (like most games really) hinge on those two items. The Gronk factor comes in here again: he is the best blocking TE in the league and he is a constant match up/big play problem for opponents. Brady is great in the pocket, but that pocket was compromised again and again and he doesn’t have the mobility that a Kaepernick can use to make plays. Brady is great, but not great enough to overcome constant, tough pressure of the kind the Giants and Ravens bring.
I still believe that a healthy Patriots team beats the Ravens. That’s it. I’m done — no more mental energy on this depressing topic. It’s only sports — not life and death.
By the way, when does spring training start?