Sunday, January 10, 2010

Halftime analysis: Ravens 24, Patriots 7

Halftime observations from a game that could be far more out of hand than it is:

* Ray Rice doesn't waste any time. Center Matt Birk and right guard Marshal Yanda together shoved Vince Wilfork out of the way, and right tackle Michael Oher sealed off Ty Warren to create a seam for Ray Rice on the first snap of the game. Rice waited for a moment for the hole to develop and then cut to his right, back through the line. Left guard Ben Grubbs brushed against Wilfork and then got in the way of linebacker Jerod Mayo.

Only safety Brandon Meriweather was left -- that's Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather, to be specific -- and Rice torched Meriweather as easily as if Meriweather was standing still.

The result was a stadium-deflating 83-yard touchdown run -- and only a sign of what was to come.

* Ed Reed is everywhere. When a fluky turnover on a punt gave the Patriots the ball deep in Baltimore territory, Brady had a chance to throw a dart to Randy Moss in the back of the end zone. Ravens safety Ed Reed was eight or 10 feet from the Patriots' best wide receiver, probably not close enough to make up the distance if Brady really zipped it in there.

Brady instead threw the ball out the back of the end zone -- a sign of just how terrified he is to throw anywhere close to where Reed is.

Reed was in position on Moss when Terrell Suggs turnstiled Matt Light off the edge on the Patriots' first drive of the game, forcing the quarterback to hesitate long enough for Suggs to get there and knock the ball loose. Later in the first quarter, after Brady already had thrown an interception to Chris Carr, Reed pounced on a pass deflected by wide receiver Sam Aiken and intercepted it.

When you consider that the Patriots haven't really thrown a pass in the direction of Moss, presumably the primary assignment given to Reed, it's amazing he's made the number of plays as he has.

(In a related story, Brady looks awful: His first interception was even worse than his first, a short pass thrown right at the hands of Carr. The three-time Super Bowl winner has 38 passing yards so far.)

* Ray Lewis is everywhere, too. The Patriots have had no answer for the linebacker who made a compelling case this week that he has plenty of football left in him. He's making a compelling case today, too.

Lewis dodged Laurence Maroney and drilled Brady for a seven-yard loss on the first snap of the Patriots' second series. He then got back in Brady's face to force an incomplete pass on first-and-10 on the next series. Late in the second quarter, Lewis tore through a gap and dropped Kevin Faulk for no gain on a second-and-8 draw.

Lewis finished the first half with eight tackles, including four solo tackles.

* Julian Edelman is doing everything anyone could expect. The rookie wide receiver -- he was just learning how to play the position a year ago, don't forget -- caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter and broke three different tackles on a nifty 28-yard punt return just a few minutes later.

Injured wide receiver Wes Welker hobbled out for the opening coin flip on crutches and watched the rest of the game from Robert Kraft's box. Edelman, obstensibly his replacement as the Patriots' slot receiver, was dropped for a loss on his first reception but looked in the second quarter like he was starting to find some gaps in the defense.

* Kevin Faulk came to play. Not that this should be a surprise to anyone, but the versatile running back has been the Patriots' most dependable player on the field. Faulk has 36 rushing yards and 25 receiving yards, including an 18-yard catch-and-run to dig the Patriots out of their own end late in the first quarter.

Of the Patriots' 61 yards from scrimmage in the first half, Faulk has 61.

(Brady has lost 16 yards to sacks, and the entire rest of the roster has combined for 16 yards.)

No comments: