|01.11.15 at 1:06 pm ET|
The Broncos host the Colts at 4:40 this afternoon to determine who faces the Patriots in the AFC title game, and I’ll keep these thoughts brief, since there’s not much to say:
It doesn’t matter who wins, because neither one of them is touching the Pats.
The Patriots have already housed both, beating the Broncos 43-21 heading into the bye, and stampeding the Colts 42-20 coming out of it.
Those who considered the Ravens the greatest impediment to the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl were certainly validated in Saturday’s divisional round game, which Baltimore led virtually wire to wire before the Patriots rallied for a 35-31 victory.
And while the Ravens certainly exposed holes on both sides of the ball (protecting Tom Brady, attacking the middle of the field against the Patriots defense), neither the Colts nor Broncos seem particularly suited to exploiting those issues like Baltimore did.
Denver represents the tougher matchup, because Indianapolis is limited defensively, especially against the run, as the Pats proved when no-name Jonas Gray plowed them for 201 yards and four touchdowns.
Denver can at least stop the run (79.8 yards/game, 2nd in the NFL) and its middling secondary is still better than the Ravens’ porous unit. The Broncos’ problems, strangely enough, should come on offense, where the Patriots can gear up to stop running back C.J. Anderson, because quarterback Peyton Manning has spent the second half of the season looking like he’s throwing left-handed, with no zip on the ball and a penchant for turning it over.
The Manning the Patriots beat in November was still relatively on top of his game, throwing for 438 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. The Manning of the last month hasn’t resembled that player in the least. He started the year with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 36-to-9. He ended it with six picks and just three TDs in his last four games.
Maybe he was playing the ultimate rope-a-dope long con and is going to throw for six touchdowns this afternoon. Even if he does, he still doesn’t own a proud playoff tradition in general, but particularly in Foxboro, where his next postseason win will be his first.
As for the Colts, young Andrew Luck is turnover prone, and outside of corner Vontae Davis, the Colts lack impact defenders. The Ravens punched the Patriots in the face, and that’s not the style of either the Colts or Broncos.
The Seattle Seahawks, on the other hand, are a completely different story, but one for another day. For now, let’s acknowledge that even in the anything-can-happen-on-any-given-Sunday NFL, the Patriots are about a safe as bet as can be to be playing on Feb. 1 in Arizona.
|01.11.15 at 9:33 am ET|
Rex Ryan is staying in the AFC East.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the former Jets coach has been offered and accepted the head coaching job with the Bills, after being fired from the Jets following the season.
Ryan coached the Jets for six years, and led them to two AFC championship games. He was 46-50.
‘ Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 11, 2015
|01.11.15 at 1:33 am ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady set a number of playoff records Saturday night, but it may have been a 4-yard run that may have been his biggest play of the night.
The Patriots got off to another slow start and trailed the Ravens 14-0 late in the opening quarter. On third-and-4 from the 4-yard line, all of Brady’s receivers were covered, so the 37-year-old quarterback decided to do it himself and ran it into the end zone, cutting the deficit to 14-7, and giving Gillette Stadium some much-needed life.
The touchdown run tied Brady with Curtis Martin for the franchise record for career touchdown runs, with five. That wasn’t the only good play, and only record Brady would break, in the Patriots’ come-from-behind, 35-31, win over the Ravens to advance to the AFC championship next Sunday.
After trailing 14-0 and 28-14, Brady led the team back and connected with Brandon LaFell for a 23-yard touchdown with 5:13 to play in the game, putting his team ahead 35-31, which proved to be the game-winning score.
“It was man-to-man coverage and Jojo [LaFell] got a great release, so it made it easy on me,” Brady said. “He made a great catch. They guy looked like he had his other ‘ his right arm kind of arm-barred and he caught it with his left and was able to get his right hand on it, so it was a great play. We needed it. It was the first time we really got ahead in the game. So it was a big play.”
Brady finished 33-of-50 for 367 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. His 367 yards passing were the most in a game in the playoffs in franchise history, and it was his seventh career 300-yard passing game, which has him two behind Peyton Manning for the all-time lead.
|01.11.15 at 12:14 am ET|
FOXBORO — Duron Harmon beat Joe Flacco at his own game.
The Ravens quarterback came in the winner of five straight in the postseason and appeared on the brink of doing it again late in the fourth quarter. That’s when he lofted a pass for Torrey Smith down the left sideline, with Logan Ryan on him.
Ryan, filling in for the injured Brandon Browner, stayed tight in coverage as another pair of eyes watched Flacco. Those eyes belonged to Harmon who read the play perfectly. He drifted over and then, once the ball left Flacco’s right hand, raced over and leaped at the right time to pick off Flacco in the end zone with 1:39 left.
“I told the guys [in practice] that I was going to get one this week,” Harmon said. “I’m just glad it helped us win the game.”
Harmon was asked if he were serious about making that bold prediction.
“Yeah, I knew I was going to have a pick this week,” Harmon said.
“Yeah, he said that in practice but he says that every week,” Brandon Browner confirmed. “But I’m really happy for him. He had a great week of practice.”
Flacco would get the ball back for one final “Hail Mary” but that fell incomplete on the game’s last play. It was Harmon that, for all intents and purposes, put the stake in a 35-31 Patriots win.
“It was just me reading the quarterback,” Harmon said. “He threw the ball up there and gave me a chance and I just came down with it. I’m glad I caught it and it ended the game for us.”
|01.10.15 at 11:41 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork totally understands why people might have given up on the Patriots Saturday.
He also knows, more importantly, that’s not something the Patriots would ever do themselves.
The second-longest tenured Patriots player behind Tom Brady explained how his teammates displayed Patriot Pride during a 35-31 comeback win over the Ravens in the AFC divisional round.
“A lot is about heart,” Wilfork said. “I think it showed tonight, being down 14 two times. I’m pretty sure a lot of people wrote us off after that, I’m pretty sure. Even at the end of the game, I’m pretty sure a lot of people had a lot of things to say about this team, the New England Patriots. But we didn’t [quit]. We fought our tails off and played together and proved a lot of people wrong once again.
“But we know what we have in here. We know how hard we work. We know what we put in it. We know what we have in each other. And nobody ever lost faith in this ballgame, no matter what the outcome [of a play] was. We never lost faith. We always believed. Until the final buzzer, we’re always going to have a shot, until that final whistle. Tonight was one of those nights. We just had to make a few more plays, play good situational football and we did.”
Before playing good situational football, Wilfork had to find a way to stiffen at the line of scrimmage, stop the Ravens offensive line push and solve the misdirection plays from Joe Flacco that were giving the defense fits. Read the rest of this entry »
|01.10.15 at 11:13 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Coming into the game it was expected the two potential Hall of Famers would go against one another, at least on a few plays.
Both players in their first years with their new teams — Darrelle Revis in New England, and Steve Smith Sr. in Baltimore — the two didn’t disappoint and went back-and-forth all night, with Smith seemingly getting the better of the matchup (at least early on, all his catches game in the first quarter), but ultimately it was the Patriots coming away with a 35-31 win over the Ravens in an AFC divisional round game at Gillette Stadium.
Smith, who was fighting back tears sitting at his locker postgame, had nothing but good things to say about Revis.
“Every team does not have a great corner like [Darrelle] Revis and it was a game like a chess match,” Smith said. “There were times we both did some savvy veteran moves against each other and it was a great battle. I respect the heck out of him and he played a great game. He is a good player.”
Smith finished with three catches for 44 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came with 4:44 in the first quarter, and was against Revis, which gave the Ravens a 14-0 lead at the time. Smith also drew a pass interference penalty on Revis in the second half.
Even though the Ravens blew two, 14-point leads — 14-0 and 28-14 — Smith said the team doesn’t have anything to hang their heads about, as they left it all on the field.
“It was a great game and as a Baltimore Raven there is nothing to be disappointed about,” said Smith. “It was a lot of back-and-forth and there were some stalls on offense on both sides. Each team’s offense and defense made mistakes, but it was a good game. In the end, we just didn’t have enough points.”
The Patriots advanced to their fourth consecutive AFC championship game, becoming the fourth team in NFL history to advance to at least four straight championship games.
“I am not disappointed by any means and it was a hard fought game,” Smith said. “I give hats off to the New England Patriots. We battled our tails off and it was a fun game.”
|01.10.15 at 11:08 pm ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price break down one of the most dramatic playoff wins in Patriots history as they became the first NFL team ever to erase a pair of 14-point deficits and win a playoff game. Tom Brady threw three touchdowns and ran for one while Julian Edelman threw one to Danny Amendola as the Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens, 35-31, at Gillette Stadium Saturday, advancing to their fourth consecutive AFC championship next week at Gillette Stadium.
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