OK. In case you don't know the drill.
Post your decision to award Game Balls (for good things) and Goats (for bad things), on tonight's game. You can choose to award a game ball or goat to anyone or anything. If it's the players on the field, the stadium, the refs or something else, it's your choice.
You can award up to 3 of each. Honorable mentions also allowed and encouraged. Just post what you're awarding the game ball or goat for, and why.
OUR GAME BALLS AND GOATS
Tom Brady -- Captain comeback. The guy just finds ways to win. After watching the Patriots dismantle opponents in the first half of the season, we tend to forget Brady made his name famous by pulling out improbable late game comebacks. More fourth quarter magic and Brady adds two more TDs to his record and another win on Monday night.
Kevin Faulk -- How can you fault Faulk for what he does? There are flashier and more durable backs in the league, but Faulk keeps getting the job done when it counts. His strip of Ed Reed on Reed's long interception return overcame a blown call by the official on what should have been pass interference. Faulk finished with 7 carries for 33 yards and 2 receptions for 18 yards.
Laurence Maroney -- Maroney came up huge in the passing game with his runs after the catch. Although downfield blocking had a lot to do with Maroney's gains, he provided the spark the Patriots needed when their vaunted receiving corps had a tough time. Maroney finished with 13 rushes for 44 yards ( 3.4 avg.) and added 2 receptions for 79 yards (39.5 avg.).
Late game defense -- Although the Patriots were shredded by Willis McGahee for most of the game, when it came down to crunch time, the Patriots rush defense stepped up the game to get the ball back for New England's offense. Without a couple of late stands, the quest for the perfect season would have been history.
S James Sanders - Nice performance. Down 17-24 in the fourth quarter, Sanders stuffed Willis McGahee on one play for no gain, then intercepted a deep pass intended for Devard Darling a few plays later to snuff out the Ravens' opportunity to put the game away. Sanders returned the ball for 42 yards, and the Pats managed 3 points off the turnover.
Kyle Boller -- For all the crap Boller has taken as the Ravens' QB, it's about time the kid gets some props. He managed to get the ball to a number of players deep downfield when it mattered. The former Cal product kept shredding the Patriots defense as if it was a JV unit at times. Although he made a late game gaffe, Boller deserves credit for playing better than expected. Notably impressive was one play where he managed to not only escape a head tackle by the Pats pass rush, but ran like a wild man and threw deep downfield for a first down. True grit. The kid deserved a game ball until he threw the pick.
Jabar Gaffney -- Nice catch. The game winner, was truly a great catch.
Washington Redskins -- We would be remiss if we did not mention what the Redskins did to honor Sean Taylor this weekend. Playing the first play on defense with only 10 men... Despite the obvious disadvantage, THAT was a classy way to honor your teammate. God bless you, your family, friends and your teammates Sean Taylor. We will remember you.
Rush Defense -- We keep saying the Patriots' rush defense will be their downfall. Although it could have been one side or the other at fault, we'll just give the goat to the whole unit. Bad tackling, bad gap control, and the Ravens had had a well balanced attack for the entire game.
Lack of Adjustments -- The Patriots' defense could have earned this, but well hand it out to the coaching staff. When the Ravens ran a number of blitzes to get pressure on Brady (See our keys to the game for a prediction), it took nearly 3 quarters before the team figured out how to get rolling on offense. Call it adjustments, call it coaching. Either way, the Patriots turned to the screen and the draw far too late to take pressure off Tom Brady. We'll need a complete review of game tape to verify, but it seemed like the Ravens defensive staff was one step ahead of New England's offensive play-calling all night. The 4th quarter was when things changed.
Refs -- (this is a tie with the cheerleading coverage by ESPN). the non-call on the Ravens defense that turned into an Ed Reed long interception return. The receiver was held by one arm before he tried to reach the other arm out to make the catch and tipped it to Reed. The play should have been a pass interference or holding penalty, but instead it was a non call. Although the refs made a number of good calls (and they always draw ire from one side or teh other), they deserved mention in the postgame recap earning them a Goat.
TV Coverage -- The cheerleading by the ESPN crew was distracting enough to force us to turn off the audio. We could elaborate for a multitude of reasons, but you know what we mean. When they get a goat, you know they did some bad things as journalists.
Who called the Time Out -- Whichever Ravens coach called the time out when the Pats tried a QB sneak which was stuffed for a loss, deserves a goat. The Ravens could have ended the game, but the TO gaffe gave New England another shot. The Pats took advantage. Even after a false start, the Pats converted the 4th down when Tom Brady ran for the first.