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Postgame Notes from Patriots-Ravens

10.17.10 at 6:48 pm ET
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Thanks to the Patriots’ PR staff, here are a few notes from today’s Patriots-Ravens game:

BRADY TALLIES 30th CAREER COMEBACK
Brady engineered his 30th career game-winning performance to lead his team to a victory from a fourth quarter deficit. The Patriots trailed Baltimore 20-10 following Billy Cundiff‘€™s 25-yard field goal with 14:53 remaining in the game. From there, Brady completed 16-of-24 passes for 156 yards, one touchdown and one interception as New England scored the game’€™s final 13 points in a 23-20 overtime win.

‘€¢New England’€™s defense forced punts on each of the Ravens’€™ five drives after Baltimore took its 20-10 lead, including forcing punts on each of the Ravens’€™ three overtime possessions.

‘€¢Today’€™s comeback was Brady’€™s seventh career comeback when trailing by 10 or more points in the fourth quarter. The others are vs. Buffalo (9/14/09, down 24-13 with 5:32 left in a 25-24 win); at Indianapolis (11/4/07, down 20-10 with 9:42 left in a 24-20 win); vs. Miami (12/29/02, down 24-13 with 4:59 left in a 27-24 overtime win); at Chicago (11/10/02, down 30-19 with 5:16 left in a 33-30 win); vs. Oakland (1/19/02, down 13-3 with 15:00 left in a 16-13 overtime win); and vs. San Diego (down 26-16 with 8:48 left in a 29-26 overtime win).

MESKO PUNT A GAME CHANGER
Rookie Zoltan Mesko boomed a 65-yard punt in overtime. The punt significantly changed field position, giving the Ravens possession at their own 19-yard line after the Patriots faced a fourth-and-6 from their own 16-yard line. Mesko’€™s 65-yard punt was the longest in Patriots history in overtime, besting Mike Saxon’€™s 46-yard punt in overtime on Nov. 7, 1993 in a 13-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Mesko’€™s 65-yard punt was the longest of his career and the longest for the Patriots since Chris Hanson boomed a 70-yard punt in 2008.

GOSTKOWSKI NAILS GAME-TYING AND GAME-WINNING FIELD GOALS
Stephen Gostkowski nailed a game-winning 35-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in overtime, marking his first career game-winning overtime field goal in his first career opportunity. Gostkowski also nailed a 24-yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20 with 1:51 remaining. Gostkowski improved to 17-for-18 in his career in close games in the fourth quarter or overtime (when the Patriots are trailing by seven or fewer points or leading by seven or fewer points). In the playoffs, Gostkowski has one game-winning field goal, a 31-yarder with 1:10 remaining in the game to give New England a 24-21 win at San Diego in the 2006 divisional playoffs (1/14/07).

MAYO ON HIGH TACKLE PACE
LB Jerod Mayo was credited with 18 total tackles by the day-of-game stats crew, his second highest career output, trailing only the 23 tackles he had as a rookie vs. NY Jets (11/23/08). Mayo has 64 total tackles in 2010 and is on pace for a career high 205 total tackles. Mayo had 139 tackles as a rookie in 2008 and 114 in 2009. If he reaches 100 tackles in 2010, he will be the first Patriots player to have three consecutive 100-tackle seasons since Milloy registered five straight 100-tackle seasons from 1997 through 2001.
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Wilfork: Everyone got the message

10.17.10 at 6:41 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork was about as honest and open as he could be following Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win against the Ravens at Gillette Stadium.

He knew his team and their defense looked downright shaky at times, falling behind 20-10, with just under a quarter remaining.

He knew that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was getting time to hit open receivers and not getting off the field on third down, helping the Ravens hold an overwhelming time of possession advantage.

And he heard the crowd’s disapproval over the course of the first three quarters.

“Everyone got the message,” Wilfork said. “A lot of guys here for the playoff game understood what this game meant. We fought back. At times, we were getting booed, but we looked right past that stuff, stuck together as true team.”

He also raised some eyebrows when he called Sunday’s dramatic 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens the most physical game he’s played in his seven-year career. The message – the Ravens with Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Haloti Ngata – weren’t the only ones on the field Sunday who deliver a hard hit.

“That was awesome,” Wilfork said. “Big win, one of the biggest wins around here in a long time. Most physical game I ever played in.”

Of course, one of those hits – a head shot by Brandon Meriweather on Baltimore’s Todd Heap in the first half – might result in a very, very hefty fine when they’re announced this week by the NFL.

“Brandon might have hefty one [fine] on the way but we’ll do our best to help him out,” defensive back Kyle Arrington said.

Adding to the sweet taste afterward was the fact the the Patriots fell behind 20-10 early in the fourth quarter before scoring 10 fourth quarter points to tie before Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal to end the game with 1:56 left in overtime. The win also avenged the 33-10 playoff loss to the Ravens on Jan. 10 that end the 2009 season.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Brandon Meriweather, joe flacco, New England Patriots

Snap judgments: Patriots 23, Ravens 20

10.17.10 at 4:46 pm ET
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The Patriots rallied from a 20-10 fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime before Stephen Gostkowski‘s 35-yard field-goal gave the club a 23-20 win. (Box score here.) It was an emotional win for the Patriots, who now can be safely placed among the elite teams in the league with the victory. The Patriots move to 4-1 on the season and hold a share of first place in the AFC East.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

– After a shaky first half, Tom Brady found his groove in the fourth quarter, leading the Pats back from a 20-10 deficit with a pair of scoring drives. Brady completed 11-of-14 passes for 118 yards and a TD in the fourth. Brady has always had trouble with the Ravens defense (ranked second against the pass this year), which makes his work in the final quarter in his first game without Randy Moss even more impressive. Then, on the Patriots’ third drive in overtime, Brady was 4-for-4 for 41 yards to lead the drive down the field for the winning field goal.

Vince Wilfork was (correctly) a main target of blame in last year’s playoff loss, getting pancaked by Matt Birk on Ray Rice‘s 83-yard TD on the opening play from scrimmage. But Wilfork — who started at right end with Gerard Warren on the nose — was a force Sunday, a constant disruption in the Baltimore running game (witness the first play, when the Ravens ran the same play with Rice that led to the opening score last year and Wilfork stuffed Rice for a two-yard loss).

(The defense did a solid job throughout the game, straight out of the bend-but-don’t-break school of 2003 and 2004. The Ravens’ headline play makers were limited, as Rice averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and Anquan Boldin finished with just four catches for 63 yards. Don’t forget, the defense gave the offense three chances to win with stops in the overtime.)

– Would you have signed on for eight catches for 88 yards and a TD from Randy Moss vs. the Ravens? Not so shabby, right? Well, those were Deion Branch‘s numbers in his first game back with the Pats. His fourth-quarter TD catch was his first as a Patriot in 1,750 days. Branch made a couple of catches in the first quarter but — as with the rest of the offense Sunday — didn’t seem to find his legs until the fourth quarter. There were lots of questions heading into this game regarding Branch’s role, but it now seems apparent he’ll be a major part of this offense. And in the Things You’ll Never See From Randy Files, Branch had a key block to set up Brandon Tate‘s 22-yard run in the first-quarter TD drive.

Danny Woodhead was the lead back Sunday and the best runner on the field, carrying the ball 11 times for 63 yards, and also catching five passes for 52 yards. It was a terrific effort against a physical team that entered the game ranked 10th in the league vs. the rush.

– Biggest play of the game? Could be Zoltan Mesko‘s 65-yard punt in overtime, which moved the ball from the Pats 16-yard line to the Ravens 19-yard line. It flipped the field over and gave the Patriots a short field for the winning drive after the defense came through with a stop.

WHAT WENT WRONG

– In last season’s playoff loss to the Ravens, about the only thing the Patriots did well was defend the pass, as Joe Flacco finished with just four completions and a passer rating of 10.0. All the talk heading into Sunday’s game was about slowing down a rushing attack that totaled 234 yards on the ground in the 33-14 wild-card victory. And for the most part, Ray Rice was quiet on Sunday, rushing 28 times for 88 yards. But it was Flacco who did damage in the 23-20 loss, completing 27-of-35 passes for 285 yards and a pair of TDs (good for a 119.3 passer rating), with the Patriots’ pass defense looking vulnerable for most of the day.

Brandon Meriweather probably cost himself 50K with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Heap in the second quarter that led to Bill Belichick benching the safety for a series. It was very close to dirty and certainly well past reckless, and it’s another step back for Meriweather, who launched himself head first into Heap when the tight end made his first-quarter TD reception.

– The offensive line had been a bright spot for the Patriots in 2010, but the group really struggled vs. one of the league’s elite defenses Sunday. Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs each picked up a sack vs. Brady, and the Ravens were able to knock Brady to the ground on four other occasions. Dawan Landry was able to get to the backfield untouched and get pressure on Brady to force a third-quarter INT. Give the unit credit, though, as they did nice work on the fourth-quarter TD drive, giving Brady plenty of time to make plays, including on the TD toss to Branch. Matt Light had a rough outing, giving up a pair of sacks to Ngata and picking up a big fourth-quarter holding penalty.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Danny Woodhead, Deion Branch, Tom Brady

Halftime analysis: Ravens 10, Patriots 7

10.17.10 at 2:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” Through two quarters here at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots and Ravens have engaged in a real tough, physical contest, and Baltimore holds a 10-7 lead. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢Baltimore stat leaders: Joe Flacco is 14-for-17 for 136 yards and one touchdown, while Ray Rice has 14 carries for 40 yards and Derrick Mason has four catches for 45 yards. New England stat leaders: Tom Brady is 7-for-13 for 90 yards, while Brandon Tate has one carry for 22 yards and Aaron Hernandez has two catches for 37 yards.

‘€¢The Patriots opened up in their traditional 3-4 set but with some serious personnel changes. Vince Wilfork was moved from nose tackle to right defensive end, Brandon Deaderick got the start at left defensive end and Gerard Warren was moved from defensive end to nose tackle. In addition, the Patriots went out Jermaine Cunningham at outside linebacker (instead of Tully Banta-Cain). New England struggled to stop the Baltimore offense early, but held the Ravens to a field goal on their first possession and a three-and-out the second time around.

‘€¢The Ravens first touchdown drive of the day came on their third sequence, and much of it came at the expense of rookie cornerback Devin McCourty. McCourty was flagged for an 18-yard pass interference penalty while trying to defend T.J. Houshmandzadeh. McCourty also yielded a first down when Flacco and Mason hooked up for a sizable gain in a third-and-long situation later in the same drive. Finally, a 13-yard completion from Flacco to Mason later that same drive also came at McCourty’€™s expense, and set up the Flacco-to-Todd Heap 16-yard touchdown pass to give Baltimore a 10-7 edge, a lead it would hold for the rest of the first half.

‘€¢The Patriots offense went three-and-out on its first series, but put together a nice second drive that went for six plays and 66 yards, and was highlighted by a 30-yard pass from Brady to Hernandez and a 22-yard run that came on a reverse to Tate that got the Patriots down to the two-yard line. That’€™s where BenJarvus Green-Ellis punched the ball in ‘€” he now has a rushing TD in three consecutive games ‘€” to make it 7-3. On New England’€™s third and fourth offensive sequences of the first half, it went to the no-huddle, but it wasn’€™t able to generate any real offensive success, with both series ending with punts from Zoltan Mesko.

‘€¢Brandon Meriweather was yanked from the field after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Baltimore tight end Todd Heap midway through the second quarter that will almost certainly bring a fine from the league and left Heap down for a few minutes. Meriweather missed a handful of plays, and was back on the field on New England’€™s next defensive series. It was the second time in the game he deliberately launched himself into Heap ‘€” he tried the same thing on the goal line when Heap scored Baltimore’€™s lone touchdown of the first half.

Patriots begin game in two tight-end set

10.17.10 at 1:23 pm ET
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The Patriots opened with the following offensive lineup:

OL: Matt Light, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, Sebastian Vollmer
QB: Tom Brady
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
TE: Aaron Henandez, Rob Gronkowski
WR: Deion Branch, Wes Welker

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Patriots open in 3-4 with Deaderick, Cunningham

10.17.10 at 1:08 pm ET
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The Patriots opened in a 3-4 defensive set with the following lineup:

DL: Vince Wilfork (DE), Gerard Warren (NT), Brandon Deaderick (DE)
OLB: Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich
ILB: Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo
CB: Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty
S: Brandon Meriweather, Pat Chung

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Why Wes Welker feels optimistic

10.17.10 at 12:24 pm ET
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FOXBORO — We’re about to find out just how different life is for Wes Welker without Randy Moss.

Welker heads into today’s game with all eyes focused on him. Coaches, fans and most of all, the defensive backfield of the Baltimore Ravens.

But Welker believes he is prepared to handle the added pressure with Moss now in Minnesota and Deion Branch still re-learning what the ‘Patriot Way’ is all about.

“I think we’ve adjusted real well,” Welker said this week. “We’ve had a pretty good week of practice and Deion’s come in and done really well in practice, picked up the offense really well. A lot of the stuff is the same as when he was here but a lot of things are different, too.”

Branch, of course was a Tom Brady favorite and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP.

“Tom’s talked about him forever so I knew about him for a long time, how much he loved having Deion out there,” Welker said. “They seem to have that same connection they had, that same chemistry. It’s great to have him back out there to help us win games.”

However many passes Branch catches and however many times he is targeted, Welker will be the one asked to make adjustments.

“I’m sure maybe a little bit different but we’ll just see what happens,” Welker said. “But that’s what adjustments are for and coming out there and seeing what they’re doing and making the adjustments off that.

“There’s always a new wrinkle here and there every year so you just have to be ready for everything and make the adjustments as you go.”

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Deion Branch, minnesota vikings, New England Patriots
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