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Snap Judgments: Patriots let one slip away

09.24.12 at 12:37 am ET
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BALTIMORE — In a wild finish to a game that had its share of controversy, the Ravens pulled out a 31-30 victory over the Patriots on a last-second field goal by Justin Tucker as Baltimore rallied from a 30-21 deficit in the final four minutes.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finished with 335 passing yards, while Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker both topped the century mark in receiving yards. On the other side of the ball, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco passed for 382 yards and the Ravens piled up over 500 yards of total offense.

The Patriots jumped to a 13-0 lead, and while the Ravens took brief leads of 14-13 and 21-20, New England was able to answer quickly with scores to regain control. The Patriots appeared to put the game out of reach with a 10-0 second-half run on scoring drives of 12 and 13 plays, but the Ravens rallied behind Flacco and Torrey Smith, who finished with 127 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

WHAT WENT WRONG

‘€¢ The Ravens put together their first scoring drive of the night in the second quarter, a 13-play, 82-yard sequence that ended with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Smith that cut New England’€™s lead to 13-7 with 9:45 left in the first half. The Ravens followed that up with a 10-play, 92-yard drive that was the unquestioned lowlight for the New England defense, one that ended with a 20-yard connection from Flacco to Dennis Pitta that featured Pitta leaping over Steve Gregory and easily skirting past a weak attempt at a tackle by Devin McCourty. Both drives features defensive breakdowns by the New England defense, particularly when it came to tackling.

‘€¢ The replacement referees had a bad night from start to finish. There was confusion throughout the contest, and players on both sides took advantage of the inexperience to do a little pushing and shoving and try to get away with as much as possible.

‘€¢ The defense couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter. A pair of defensive holding penalties on Brandon Spikes and McCourty proved costly, but Flacco was able to complete 5-of-6 passes on a drive that ended in a Smith touchdown to make it 30-28.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

‘€¢ The Patriots offense looked solid most of the night, and while the Ravens would take the lead from time-to-time, it wasn’€™t for long, as Brady and the passing game were in control. (New England had first-half scoring drives of eight and nine plays to get control of the contest early.) One of the reasons the Patriots enjoyed offensive success was because they were able to keep Brady upright much of the evening. The quarterback was sacked twice and had excellent time in the pocket for much of the game.

‘€¢ The first sequence was highlighted by a 59-yard pass play to Welker (and punctuated by a 2-yard touchdown run from rookie Brandon Bolden), and the second came just before the end of the half on a surgical drive for Brady that ended when he hit Julian Edelman with a 7-yard scoring strike to give New England a 20-14 lead just before the half. The Patriots were grinders in the third and fourth quarter — they had second-half drives of 12 plays (that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run from Woodhead) and 13 plays (on a 20-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski) that made it 30-21 early in the fourth quarter.

‘€¢ Part of the reason for the early lead was the fact that the defense played well throughout the first quarter-plus — the Ravens ran one play in New England territory in the first quarter and went three-and-out on two of their first three drives. (The Ravens didn’€™t get their initial first down until the start of the second quarter.) The defensive highlight early came when Gregory stepped in front of a Flacco pass and took it back 36 yards to help set up the Patriots’ first touchdown of the night. (There would be defensive breakdowns, but those would come later in the evening.)

‘€¢ After a rough outing last week, the Patriots’€™ specialists had a better night, with Gostkowski connecting on three of his field goal attempts (including a 49-yarder) and all of his extra-point attempts. Meanwhile, punter Zoltan Mesko didn’€™t get a punt blocked.

Read More: Brandon Lloyd, joe flacco, Tom Brady, Wes Welker
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