Everyone expected this game to be nasty, but no one was prepared for what happened Sunday night in Baltimore. The referees had no control over the game, which was marred by frequent fights between groups of players. In addition to the fights, the refs administered 24 penalties during the game — 10 to the Patriots and 14 to the Ravens. In addition, there were 13 first downs handed out as a result of penalties during the game, which was an NFL record. The terrible officiating overshadowed a hard-hitting and competitive game and disrupted any flow in the second half. To top it all off, the game ended on a seemingly impossible call on a game-winning field goal. Justin Tucker apparently hit a 27-yard field goal that sailed directly over the right upright. The NFL rulebook states that such a play cannot be reviewed if the ball is directly over the upright, but Coach Belichick wanted clarification from the referees to see if the ball was on one side of the upright, which would warrant a review. This led to Belichick grabbing the official at midfield after the game which will most likely result in a hefty fine for Belichick. Both coaches and players were critical of the officiating, and with good reason. In case you missed the last minutes of the game, you can see it here.
The game started off very well for the Patriots, as they jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Steve Gregory intercepted Joe Flacco and Brandon Bolden punched it in for the score. However, the Ravens came back with two scores through the air as Flacco found Torrey Smith and Dennis Pitta to go up 14-13 with 1:47 left in the 2nd quarter. I believe Torrey Smith’s touchdown was the early turning point in the game. Not only did it get the Raven’s offense back on track, but it fired up the Ravens emotionally. As many know, Torrey’s brother died earlier Sunday morning in a motorcycle accident. Torrey wanted to play despite the tragedy, and ended up with 127 yards and 2 touchdowns. Everyone knows the Raven’s play with more emotion than any other NFL team, and Torrey Smith’s amazing catch put them over the top. While Brady and Edelman hooked up for a touchdown before the end of the half, the Patriot’s weren’t ready for what was going to happen in the 2nd half.
The 3rd quarter consisted of both Flacco and Brady leading 80 yard touchdown drives which put the score at 27-21. The 4th quarter started with a Steven Gostkowski field goal, putting the Patriots up by 9. As I said in my article, the Patriot’s defense was not going to stop the Ravens from scoring points during this game. All they had to do was make a few plays late in the game to seal the deal. Unfortunately, the Raven’s offense and the terrible officiating prevented this from happening. Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith with 4 minutes left to bring the Ravens within 2 with 4 minutes left to play. All the Patriots had to do was hold onto the football and win the game. They even had a few penalties on the Ravens, including one on coach Harbaugh who was apparently just trying to call a time out. But the Baltimore defense held, and Flacco led the offense down the field with a series of spectacular sideline throws to set up Justin Tucker’s 27 yard game winner.
This was a brilliantly played game by both teams that was destroyed by pathetic officiating. It seemed like every time the ball was in the air, a flag would be thrown. Both teams were shafted by the referees and it made the game hard to watch for fans everywhere. The usually calm and well-mannered Bill Belichick was seen blowing up on the sideline throughout the game. Last nights game was an embarrassment for the NFL. For a league that places so much emphasis on “player safety”, there were more big hits and player fights in this game than an episode of “Jacked Up”. However, only half of these hits were called! In some cases, the less violent hits were called over the more violent. There was no consistency in the officiating and Patriots fans have the right to be upset with the league. All the Pats can do is learn from this game and look forward to next weeks match-up at the Buffalo Bills, Sunday at 1pm.