Game Balls & Goats: Playoffs - Ravens

Each week we hand out our Game Balls (good things) and Goats (no so good) for each game. Awards can be given to players, coaches, officials, TV coverage, whatever. See who earned an award in the Patriots 23 - 20 win over the Ravens.

After reviewing the game tape to be sure, here are the Game Balls & Goats for the New England Patriots 23 - 20 win over the Baltimore Ravens.


1) Sterling Moore –
Although Moore had some lapses in the game (the missed tackle on Torrey Smith's TD catch and run), Moore played solid ball for much of the game. His two plays at the end of the game saved the day.  He knocked the ball out of Lee Evans' hands in the end zone wiping out a go ahead TD by Baltimore. Then Moore jumped in front of Dennis Pitta on third-and-goal to force the now famous missed kick.  Without those plays, the Patriots would be watching the Super Bowl from home.

2) Vince Wilfork – Wilfork was a man among boys Sunday.  We haven't seen that kind of dominance from him in a long time, though he's always been involved by chewing up double teams before.  He started strong early, forcing Flacco to step up into a Mark Anderson sack to kill one drive. Then Wilfork blew up a Ray Rice run for a 5-yard loss to put pressure on the Ravens offense on the next drive, killing the same drive two p[lays later with a sack of Flacco.

3)  Patriots Offensive line – Despite a couple of lapses, the offensive line cleared holes when it was important to do so in the running game, and protected Tom Brady from getting crushed.  Brady was sacked just once by a Ravens team that ranked 3rd in the league with 48 sacks (3/game avg.) during the year.

Honorable Mentions

BenJarvus Green-Ellis – The "Lawfirm" had 15 carries for 68 yards (4.5 avg.) and a touchdown.  After the score, BJGE held up his MHK patch and pointed it out to the camera, a classy move. Five of his carries (33%) went for first downs.  

Stephen Gostkowski – Gost was good on all three of his field goal attempts, and two PATs.  Five of Gostkowski's six kickoffs were touchbacks.

Patriots Defensive line – The entire group held Ray Rice under 100 yards, put pressure on Joe Flacco and disrupted plays before the Ravens could expose the holes in the Pats' secondary. Their push up the center affected the Ravens offense throughout the game


1) Bernard Pollard – Though his hit wasn't dirty, Pollard rode Rob Gronkowski to the ground landing on Gronk's ankle in the third quarter. Gronk missed a bit of the fourth until he returned with the ankle heavily taped. Pollard was responsible for the low hit which ended Tom Brady's 2008 season.  He was the guy in coverage with the Texans when Welker injured his knee. It's a curse.  Pollard's postgame comments cement his goat.

2) Billy Cundiff – Miss a game-tying field goal by that much, and you get the goat. With 15 seconds to play, Cundiff lined up for a 32-yard FG -- an almost automatic kick.   He hit earlier in the game from 39 yards out so the assumption was the kick would force overtime. Wide left on the shank mad Cundiff a goat Sunday, and evermore in Raven's fans' minds. Hats off to Cundiff for holding a postgame presser, that couldn't have been easy.

3)  Tom Brady – Brady threw two picks on the day, both of them were acrobatic flukes, but 2 none-the-less.  What isn't on the stat sheet is Brady's miss to Gronkowski in the first half (a sure TD), and the two passes he threw which were intercepted, but negated by penalty.  Brady finished 22 of 36 for 239 yards, 2 INTs and ran for a touchdown. Brady said it best in the trophy ceremony "I sucked pretty bad today, but our defense saved us.  I'm going to try to go out and do a better job in a couple weeks ."

Dishonorable Mentions

Nate Solder – In the running game Solder looked solid.  In pass protection, Solder gave up a key sack to Paul Kruger in the 1st quarter, and had all he could handle from the Ravens' pass rush.

Devin McCourty –
Don't mistake our intent, McCourty can play when he lines up at corner, but as a safety his blown coverage led to big plays by the Ravens.  A 42-yard pass in the 1stQ and a blown tackle here and there brought his grade down.    

TV coverage  –
We love CBS and Phil Simms, we really do. But, Simms has been making some key mistakes.  On the Ravens' first score (FG), Simms stated what he would do is line up for a QB sneak and then…  (we assume he was going to say run it if the alignment was right, or call timeout if it wasn't.) Instead he got cutoff, the Ravens ran the field goal unit on and kicked it.  Simms then said, "That was a good decision. No second guessing involved. Tie this game up and keep giving positive reinforcement to your team."  (what?)  To be fair,  CBS had time to let Simms make his point, but the commercial break could have thrown him. Simms was also wrong on Rob Gronkowski's catch (inbounds) just prior to Gostkowski's second FG where Simms stated flat out Gronk was out of bounds. The replay showed both feet in on replay. Boomer Esiason pointed out the play at halftime  (good for CBS).  The e-Trade baby interview, bad idea, please stop that nonsense.

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