Lewis and Reed and Mason Oh My!

So the Patriots are playing the Ravens this weekend in the first round of the playoffs. This is going to be an interesting matchup, and the game is certainly going to be exciting.

To know why it is going to be exciting is to look back to the first time these two teams faced off in the regular season. It was the 4th game of the season and the Patriots were 2-1 while the Ravens were 3-0.

Neither team had a secure hold on the game at any point, and outside of Ray Rice, no one really had what could be considered a great game statistically. The Ravens were better though on the ground and through the air, while the Patriots managed to commit fewer penalties and control the time of possession better than the Ravens.

Now we come to the end of the season and the playoffs where these 2 teams meet again, a single game separating their regular season records.

Even as a diehard Patriots fan, the overwhelming majority of factors in this game favor the Ravens. The Patriots have 4 things in their favor on the field of play, their quarterback Tom Brady, their 3 man Defensive line, and their place kicker Stephen Gostowski. Wait, that is only 3, I will get to the fourth in a moment. The Ravens are better than the Patriots in pretty much every other category when it comes to running backs, offensive line, wide receivers, defensive backfield, and tight ends.

Then there is the 4th thing that I did not mention above, which probably gives the Patriots a slight edge in this entire situation. This is a desire for the young players, the stars of the future to make their mark and prove something to themselves, the press, their opponents and the rest of the league who are all calling them done, out of it, the end of an era. This is their time to step up and become what they know they can become.

Wes Welker went down with a serious injury last week, that is not good for the Patriots in general, he was their leading WR this season, near the top of the league in almost every WR category, 2nd all time in catches for a single season, and yet he also missed games 2 and 3 this year, as well as virtually all of the last game. To doubt or underestimate his importance to this team, and this team’s offense would be foolish. I do hope however that the opponents of the Patriots take this as an opportunity to overestimate how much his loss will affect the Patriots game plan and execution for the game.

I know I can be called crazy for what I am about to say, but so be it. I think that the loss of Wes Welker actually has the potential to be an advantage to the Patriots this post season and their ability to win. What? Yes, Yes I really did just type those words, and hear me out with this wild and crazy thought process.

Every team knows that Welker has been Tom Brady’s backup plan on nearly every play this year, he was the go to guy and was available on 2nd and 3rd looks all the time, and it worked. Teams didn’t try to stop him, they just tried to contain him, while also preventing the long ball to Sam Aiken or Randy Moss. Teams knew it would be him, it was always him, but who will it be now? Will it be Julian Edelman who filled in almost without a pause last week? Will it be Kevin Faulk who seems to step up and become the guy willing to do anything the coach asks him to? Will it be Ben Watson who steps it up to use his size and speed to his full potential? Will Sebastian Vollmer bouncing from the right side to the left side to mix it up against the defensive line make a difference?

I know I don’t know that, and I am guessing the Ravens, Colts, Chargers or whoever else the Patriots could be may not know that answer either. This is what gives the Patriots a slight advantage by not having Wes Welker in the game, it forces them to think of more and new options and use players in a way that the other team’s defenses don’t know how to defend.

Welker has been a mainstay in this offense for 3 years now, defenses are used to him and know what to expect and can study the film on him for the past 3 years, but what film is there from 4 or 5 years ago that would still be relevant to the Patriots now? Not a single WR was here 4 years ago, so it’s tough to really compare then to now with the passing offense.

If the Patriots want to win, they need to go back to 01, 03, 04 and do what was working for them and what made that team a winner. It wasn’t the big play, it wasn’t the long ball to Moss for 40+ yards that got them those wins. The things that will win this playoff run for the Patriots are screen passes, in routes, out routes, drag routes and curls to Edelman, Watson, Faulk, and Baker. While all those routes are going on, Moss needs to stick to it, run his come backs, go routes, and post patterns to be open in case that long shot is available.

If the Pats can do that, then I think they have the chance to go far, if not all the way in these playoffs.

Is this the only key to winning? No, definitely not. The defensive backfield needs to step up to not just the next level, but the level 1 step beyond that as well. They have been acceptable for most of the year, yes they give up yards and plays, but they have their moments when they are good at what they do, and while the WR against the Ravens this weekend hold the advantage, they also hold the disadvantage of having the ball thrown to them by Joe Flacco. Same goes for the defensive line, they need to step it up and get a better pass rush to force Flacco to make more errors than he normally would. These are definitely important, but I think the veteran leadership of Junior Seau on the field, and some motivation of the younger players like Butler, Mayo, Chung, and Meriweather to be stepping it up and being the players the patriots thing they can be.

Remember the beginning of this decade for the New England Patriots, it wasn’t the big name players who got those wins, it was the rough and tumble, hard playing almost unknown players who’s wins got them those big names.

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  1. #1 by nedster on 2010/01/09 - 2:43 PM

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