Sunday, December 22, 2013

Logan Ryan, stout Patriots' defense lead rout of rival Ravens

When the New England Patriots took the field at M&T Bank Field in Baltimore, Maryland late on Sunday afternoon, they knew that they were already the AFC East Division Champions.

When they walked off the field three hours later, they were the scariest team in professional football.

New England rode a dominant effort on the part of their much maligned and even more injured defense to a serious punking of the Baltimore Ravens, a beating so sound that the guys calling the game for CBS implored the Ravens to kneel on the ball rather than letting the Patriots' defense tee off on them...
Rookie Logan Ryan had the best day of his young career on Sunday

...because by that time, it was just plain dangerous to the Ravens to possess the football.

Rookie cornerback Logan Ryan led a defensive attack that forced four turnovers and sacked Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco four times, and the combination of LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley paced a Patriots ground game that ran the ball directly down the proud Ravens' defense's collective throat as the Patriots steamrolled Baltimore 41-7.

Ryan picked off two Flacco passes leading directly to 10 points, and the defense outscored the Ravens all by themselves, turning a fumble into a Chandler Jones recovery in the end zone for one score and topping things off with a Tavon Wilson interception - yes, that Tavon Wilson - that he took back the other way for a 74 yard touchdown.

In between, New England gave the Ravens and rest of the National Football League a peek at what the post-Gronk Patriots' offense would look like going forward, particularly when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels sticks to his running game and rides it to a balanced attack.

Quarterback Tom Brady went 14 of 26 for a modest 172 yards and one score - stats that aren't that efficient and nowhere near the numbers that he's had to put up in bringing his team back from huge second half deficits in recent weeks, but they didn't have to be.

Blount shredded the Ravens' run defense for 76 yards on just 16 carries, spelled by Ridley who rewarded Bill Belichick's confidence in his ball security with an additional 54 yards, including two first downs on the dagger drive, punishing tacklers and dragging them past the sticks - Blount finishing off the drive on a seven yard rumble up the middle that epitomized the entire game - for both clubs.

As has been the case all season, the Patriots scored their points in bunches, scoring on three consecutive six-play drives, Blount carrying the ball in from the one yard line after a ticky-tack pass interference call on the Ravens, then capitalizing on the first of Ryan's interceptions with running back Shane Vereen taking a quick out from Brady four yards to paydirt...

...a 45 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal giving New England a 17-0 lead just into the second quarter, rookie punter Ryan Allen pinning Baltimore's offense deep in their own territory when the Patriots didn't score, winning the field position battle and helping to maintain the 17 point bulge at the half.

Baltimore took the second half kickoff and finally was able to gain some traction on offense, but also showing a great amount of desperation for so early in the contest by challenging the Patriots' depleted secondary on a 4th and 3 from the New England 39 yard line, but Flacco's pass to Jacoby Jones was played perfectly by Ryan, who swatted it away and forced a turnover on downs.

The Ravens' defense forced a three and out and got the ball back for Flacco in short order, only to have Ryan pick him off with an athletic play over the middle while covering tight end Dennis Pitta, setting up Gostkowski for a 24 yard field goal attempt and a 20-0 lead headed into the fourth quarter.

On the ensuing Baltimore possession, Flacco finally found some room to get the ball to his wide receivers, hitting Torey Smith with a short pass that he turned into a 42 yard gain to the New England 13 - three plays later with a 4th and 1 from the Patriots' four, defensive tackle Sealver Siliga clogged the middle of the line...

...allowing defensive end Rob Ninkovich and safety Duron Harmon to stop Ravens' running back Ray Rice short of the sticks, causing another turnover on downs.

The Ravens finally did score with nine and a half minutes left in the game, a one yard Flacco keeper set up by a 25 yard Steve Gregory pass interference penalty to close the score to 20-7, but after a three and out by the suddenly stagnant Patriots' offense and yet another 4th down stop by their stout defense at midfield, McDaniels sent out his punishing ground attack and stepped on the Ravens' throats.

Ridley carried three consecutive times to get the ball to the Baltimore 36, then Blount twice for another first down - Ridley twice more, gaining a first down by dragging defenders in an impressive display of power, then Blount took the ball in for a score to put the game out of reach.

By that time, Ravens' coach John Harbaugh had replaced a gimpy Flacco with Tyrod Taylor, who inflated the Ravens rush numbers by 40 yards on three scrambles before becoming the New England defense's big play launching pad, not expecting a quick snap from his center that ended up with Chandler Jones with the ball in the end zone, and not expecting Tavon Wilson to pick him off and skirt the sidelines for the final score.

In a statement game that the Patriots absolutely had to have - a road win that kept them on track for a healing first round bye in the playoffs - New England showed everyone who doubted them, including just about any "expert" that offered an opinion that the team that appeared dead just last week in Miami very much had a heartbeat...

...a dull, quick sound made by a watch wrapped in cotton, as the great poet and Baltimore resident Edgar Allen Poe described in his masterpiece of horror the Tell-Tale Heart:

Almighty God! --no, no! They heard! --they suspected! --they knew! --they were making a mockery of my horror!-this I thought, and this I think. But anything was better than this agony! Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die! and now --again! --hark! louder! louder! louder! louder!

Villains! the Ravens shrieked, it is the beating of the Patriots' hideous heart!

A most horrifying sound, indeed - and not just for the vanquished Ravens, but for any team who might face New England in January.

No comments:

Post a Comment