Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
By: Mitch Light | 10/15/10, 6:00 AM EDT
Given the amount of winning they’ve done over the last decade, the Patriots haven’t been in many revenge games, but this Sunday is certainly one of them. In January, Baltimore handed Bill Belichick and Tom Brady their first home playoff loss with a decisive 33–14 win that saw Ray Rice break off an 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
New England is coming off a much-needed total-team road win in Miami in Week 4, but during its bye week, the Pats underwent a major change, trading Randy Moss to Minnesota. Moss never missed a game with the team in three-plus years, so it has been awhile since Brady has played without him and looked at a defense not keyed to stop the big play. But with the move, it is clear the Patriots want to revert to the sort of ball-control, move-the-chains offense that brought them great success during their glory years. There are still questions about the defense, however, and the unit will face a tough test in an improved Ravens offense.
The schedule-makers were not kind to Baltimore, as this will be its fourth road game of the year against just two at home. But the Ravens’ offense has the potential to be as good as their defense has been for years, with Joe Flacco throwing to Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Todd Heap and Derrick Mason, plus handing off to Rice. Thanks to a strong front seven, the thin secondary is holding its own, and as a unit Baltimore leads the league in third down stops — a key against this Pats’ offense.
Keys for Patriots
• Control the tempo. This is a familiar refrain for New England this year, helping a young defense by keeping it off the field as much as possible, but this week it takes on greater importance. By moving the chains, grinding out drives and putting points on the board, not only will the D get to rest, it means Joe Flacco won’t be on the field.
• Dominate special teams. It played a large part in the win over Miami, and it can help against Baltimore. The Pats’ kickoff return unit is near the top of the league, while the Ravens’ coverage unit ranks near the bottom. Brandon Tate’s speed and vision have led to two return touchdowns already, and big returns can swing momentum quickly.
Keys for Ravens
• Control the tempo. Yes, this goes for Baltimore too. Hey, if the ball is in Flacco’s hands, that means Brady’s not on the field. While it is capable of forcing turnovers and making big plays, New England is dead last in the league in third down defense, so keeping that unit on the field can only help an offense’s cause.
• Be ready for anything. Without Moss, the playbook may be the same, but the plays called and personnel used could be vastly different. Rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are both a handful, and Wes Welker has shown time and again he can make the key catch. With extra time to prepare, the Pats could throw the kitchen sink at the Ravens.
The Pats are feeling good about themselves after the big win in Miami two weeks ago. They have a seven-game win streak coming off a bye, which gives them an edge. Patriots 27–24.