Each week the crew at Patriots Insider share their thoughts on the Patriots game. Our staffers hand out their Game Balls (Good things) and Goats (bad things).
Deion Branch – Giving Branch a game ball for this 9-catch, 98-yard performance is a no brainer. He looked more in-sync with his QB than Moss did in Minny on Monday night. Though Branch is no Randy Moss, he’s already had a better game in one outing than Moss did in any of his last four in the same uniform.
Tom Brady – Easy to give Brady a game ball when the team wins, but Brady had to overcome a 10-point second half deficit to get to OT, then drive the ball downfield to position Gostkowski’s kick. Brady finished 27 of 44 for 292 yards a TD and a pair of INTs. The 69.5 rating masks how clutch Brady was late in the game.
Special Teams – The Patriots special teams came through big on Sunday. Though they didn’t break any big returns, the team’s avg starting position was the NE 24 while Baltimore was held to their own 18.
Third down defense -- after giving up easy third and longs in the first half, the Patriots held Baltimore to just 31% (5 of 16) for the game. Well below the woeful 55% they had entering the game.
Run Defense -- Held Baltimore to 99 yards (2.9 avg.) and 3 tackles for a loss.
The Defense - It is tough to single out one or two guys on a defense that played so well. Ray Rice was held in check all day by the stout defensive line. Joe Flacco moved the ball at times, but the secondary stepped up when it matters. There were still areas to improve on, but that was easily the best overall performance of the year by a defense that is starting to gel.
Danny Woodhead - I could have given this gameball to Joe McKnight, whose presence in New York led the Jets to release "Mighty Mouse". Woodhead was the perfect running back for the game, as when the holes are six inches wide, you want a guy that can fit through those holes. Answering one question that has lingered for us, Woodhead was effective in blitz pickup as well.
Deion Branch - What more can you say? Nine catches for 98 yards and a TD in the game, with almost all of them coming in crunch time. The chemistry between Branch and Brady was still evident, even after five years in Seattle for Branch. Welcome home.
Tom Brady, Kick Coverage, Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko
No Official Goats, just Dishonorable Mentions:
Brandon Meriweather -- that helmet to helmet smack of Todd Heap was a big hit, but completely unnecessary, the ball was near uncatchable and the move cost field position and will hurt his wallet.
Aaron Hernandez -- Crucual drops late in the game when the team needed those plays.
Ravens Defense Trash Talk -- Enough already. Stats only matter when you win. Ravens have a well-known rep for being big hitters, but the outcome on teh field is what matters.
ESPN's Pregame Experts -- 4 out of 5 of them picked the Ravens, some said it would be a statement game. Uh, nope. Sorry guys only Keyshawn had this one right.
We really can't call anyone a goat in such a great victory for the Patriots, but we will give a few dishonorable mentions.
Aaron Hernandez - Great game in regulation marred by two huge drops in overtime.
Brandon Meriweather - Meriweather needs to use his brain, not his helmet.
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