Tomorrow night at M & T Bank Stadium the Ravens will host the Patriots for Week 3 of this early NFL season. Most of the “experts” had this labeled as an early AFC Championship rematch, then during Week 2 both teams lost and set up a scenario in which the loser of this highly anticipated Sunday night tilt would drop below .500 and move to 1-2. Just to give you perspective, the Patriots haven’t been under the Mendoza line since September 2003 when Steve Spurrier was calling the shots in the nation’s capital. For those of you keeping score at home that’s 146 games since Bill Belichick had his team below .500. The next closest team happens to be the Ravens at 64 games. It’s another one of those incredible stats that jump off the page.
As we move closer to kick-off most pundits view the loss of Aaron Hernandez as a killer for New England. The” 12 personnel” formation that has made the Patriots offense roll the previous 2 seasons looks to take a hit until Hernandez returns from the ankle sprain he sustained versus the Arizona Cardinals a week ago. Then on Tuesday Belichick responded by bringing back Deon Branch and signing free agent tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. to soften the blow of losing the league’s most versatile player. Most believe the move to bring Deon back was a comfort for Brady.
Considering the gameplan for the hoodie, one has to think a return to the spread attack, making the opponent revert to more nickel and dime looks keeps them from deploying their traditional front seven formations makes perfect sense. Although we all know everything Bill Belichick does defies conventional wisdom. That said it’s hard to understand why this offense struggled for 57 minutes to move the football into the end zone. Certainly deploying Wes Welker in the slot for the balance offour4 quarters should kick-start the points scored situation.
The decision right guard Brian Waters made to essentially retire this season has turned out to be a decisive blow to the Patriots interior line and is having an effect on their right tackle situation where Sebastian Vollmer is not in the line up. Brady seems at moments to be under heavier duress, case in point on a critical series in the second quarter last week against Arizona. After the defense recovered a forced fumble, the offensive line proceeded to cave and allow the Cardinals to collapse the pocket and record two sacks on the ensuing series. Watching Donald Thomas follow the defensive tackle into the right tackle’s lap while allowing the end to move inside on the twist to sack Brady uncontested is a frustrating element of blown assignments not seen much of over the better part of the last 12 seasons.
The Patriots could not get any sort of momentum built up until the 4th quarter and put themselves in tough situations that seemed to be out of character for them, especially at home. Now they have this road test, it’s going to take a full team full 60 minute effort to walk out of Baltimore with a victory, there cannot be blown assignments or bad decisions by Brady, the resurgent defense will have to prove to everyone they can do this against a quality opponent on the road in a big spot and not just against young teams with questionable signal callers. Also, Nate Ebner cannot allow a punt to get blocked that will result in a easy touchdown for the Ravens. Odds say the Patriots will be under 500. for the first time since the country of Italy had 90 percent of its population without power due to a serious outage, or September 28th 2003, however you prefer to remember the last time Bill and Tom had a losing record. Should you be reading this and live in Italia, go to the store and stock up water and other non perishable goods, you may need it.