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5 Takeaways: Patriots vs. Ravens

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1. Blown opportunity: In a week where the Ravens saw the Miami Dolphins, their biggest competitor for the last playoff spot, lose to the Bills, the Ravens were embarrassed at home. They were unable to break double-digits on offense, and the defense didn’t put a hand on quarterback Tom Brady all game. And all of this happened at M&T Bank Stadium where the Ravens thrive. This loss is concerning given everything that was on the line. It was possible that they were going to lose this game, but no one could’ve expected that it would’ve happened in this fashion. Losing 41-7 in their home finale hurts. It hurts the team’s morale, and it hurts the team’s playoff chances. They had an opportunity to take one step closer to clinching a playoff spot and even possibly winning the division, but they blew that opportunity. Now they have to hope for the Chargers or Dolphins to lose next, along with a win against the Bengals. They better hope the new AFC North division champions rest their starters on Sunday.

2. Offense disappoints- The Ravens were shut out in the first half yesterday against an average defense. Not only that, but the Patriots defense was missing their two best players. The Ravens couldn’t run the ball against a weak front, and they couldn’t protect a gimpy Joe Flacco. This is concerning for a team with playoff aspirations. They have to find a way to put up more than seven points in a game of this magnitude. It was tough to watch this offense fail to convert multiple fourth down conversions, including a fourth and one that Ray Rice couldn’t pick up. It is just hard to believe that this offensive line is so weak that it can’t help Rice gain one yard. That is unacceptable. The Ravens had their opportunities to sneak back into this game, but the offense failed to capitalize on those opportunities.

3. Run defense struggles- When playing the Patriots it is paramount that you first are able to stop the run. That way you make Tom Brady one dimensional and can prepare for the aerial attack. New England running backs LeGarratte Blount and Stephan Ridley each had solid days with 76 and 54 rushing yards respectively, helping the Patriots gain 142 total rushing yards on the day. This allowed the Patriots to keep the Ravens defense on their toes the whole game, and helped them close the game out late. This unit has been very inconsistent against the run all year and yesterday we were reminded of their troubles this season.

4. Tucker is human- After kicker Justin Tucker’s MVP-type performance last Monday against the Lions, many considered Tucker to be Mr. Automatic. He had made 33 kicks in a row and was kicking the ball as well as anyone in the league. Then, he goes out and misses a 37-yard field goal, a chip shot for him. That kick showed that it just wasn’t the Ravens day. Now, I don’t blame Tucker remotely for yesterday’s performance because it wouldn’t have made a big difference in the game, but hopefully this doesn’t become a trend. I also don’t think he should’ve even attempted that kick because given the 20 point deficit there was nothing to gain by cutting it the lead to 17 points. They might as well have gone for it on fourth down. What we have learned is that Justin Tucker is a human being and that he is capable of missing. That is okay, though, but he is going to have to pick his play up again if the Ravens are going to make it to the playoffs given the offense’s red zone problems.

5. Time for the leaders to step up- It isn’t that farfetched to say that this year’s team has as much talent as last year’s Super Bowl team. The biggest difference, though, is leadership. Last year’s team had Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Matt Birk, and Anquan Boldin. Those four were the big voices in the locker room and helped push the Ravens over the hump in the playoffs. Their leadership helped mask the team’s problems and motivated them to play their best football. This year’s team lacks that same type of leadership. The new leaders, Ray Rice, Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata need to step up this week and get this team ready to play. Head Coach John Harbaugh has made his message clear this season and the coaches have had several months to install their formations and plays. It is now time for the players to do their jobs. It is win or go home for the defending Super Bowl champions and their leaders will have to get their team ready for the Bengals, or there won’t be anything left to play for after next week.

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