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
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
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 ."
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'
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.
Game Balls & Goats: Playoffs - Ravens
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