|Other Week 20 Game Recaps|
|BAL at NE||SF at ATL|
Week 20 Game Recap: Baltimore Ravens 28, New England Patriots 13
|QB Joe Flacco, Pass: 21 - 36 - 240 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 12 - 0|
The Ravens called a conservative offense in the first half as very few of Flacco's passes went deep down the field. He only completed one deep pass to Torrey Smith, a 25-yard deep crossing route between two defenders. Outside of that, his only completions were short passes to his running backs and tight ends. Flacco did find his tight ends twice down the field, however the wind appeared to cause Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta to misjudge the football at the last second for two drops. The Ravens changed their approach on the second drive of the second half, as they put the ball in Flacco's hands. Flacco marched his team down the field with good decisions and accurate throws. He moved them into position at the goalline, before Dennis Pitta lost Steve Gregory with an excellent route for an easy touchdown. Flacco made less plays on his next drive, because the running game featured more prominently, but he did throw another touchdown pass. This time he made an excellent read when Anquan Boldin was matched up with Devin McCourty running a crossing route. The Ravens' offensive line picked up the blitz, so Flacco was able to just loft the ball into the air for Boldin to catch. It wasn't a fancy, or even difficult, pass but it was certainly an intelligent one from a quarterback who understood his receiver's strengths. After a Stevan Ridley fumble, the Patriots took over at midfield. Flacco hit Torrey Smith for a big gain, before a short pass to Jacoby Jones and an easy touchdown down the seam to Boldin. Flacco also took off for a first down scramble and 10+ yards. He was locked in at this point.
|RB Ray Rice, Rush: 19 - 48 - 1, Rec: 3 - 22 - 0|
The Ravens' first three offensive plays were designed to go to Rice. He carried the ball up the middle twice for six yards combined, before Joe Flacco missed him in the flat with a swing pass. Rice could have caught the ball, but let it go as the blocking ahead of him had been beaten either way. Rice wasn't getting free with his carries initially, as the Patriots' defense swarmed to the football, but he finally found space after running an out route from the backfield and escaping single coverage for a first down. After a big pass to Torrey Smith, Rice finally found some space up the middle with an eight yard gain through right guard. Three plays later, Rice broke two tackles at the goalline to escape outside left tackle for a touchdown. Rice was contained again to start the third quarter, but on the Ravens' second drive in the half, he turned a broken screen play into a 10+ yard gain with his agility and awareness beating defenders. It was a play that would give San Diego Chargers fans nightmares of that 4th down conversion in the regular season. On first and 10 late in the third quarter, the Ravens lined Rice up as a wide receiver and tried to throw him a screen pass. Unfortunately for Rice, the defense read it and this time he couldn't escape. Rice had a five yard run over left guard that was negated for an accepted defensive penalty, before running for three yards on the next snap with the same call. With the Ravens trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter, they turned to Rice. His first carry was stuffed at the line, before he escaped outside left tackle for a nine yard gain. He then showed good patience in the backfield to side-step a defender before burrowing his way forward for a first down. Rice stepped aside for Pollard and Leach to earn the next first down, before coming in again after with his team already celebrating on the sideline.
|RB Bernard Pierce, Rush: 9 - 52 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0|
Pierce took Ray Rice's place to start the third drive. His first carry went over left guard, before he cut back and broke a tackle for a 10 yard gain and a first down. Pierce followed that up with a stretch play over left tackle, but the Patriots held him to just three yards. Pierce was back on the bench for the next drive, but came in as the drive extended down the field. He caught a quick pass in the flat before beating a defender and sprinting forward for 10 yards and a first down. The Ravens went straight back to him when he gained four yards running off right tackle. After the Patriots scored their opening touchdown, Pierce started the Ravens' next drive with a carry off right tackle that lost a yard. He came back outside left tackle on his next carry when he accelerated forward for a five yard gain. Pierce came in on second and five after a big play from Ray Rice and a catch from Torrey Smith. He took a draw play for seven yards and a first down with good awareness of his blocking. On third and two late in the third quarter, Pierce took a handoff from the shotgun formation with an edge defender coming free to tackle him behind the line of scrimmage. Pierce made a quick decision to cut outside before sprinting down the sideline for an 11 yard gain. He followed that up with six yard gain up the middle when he pushed his way through a small gap between the guard and tackle. After Ray Rice began the Ravens' attempts to run out the clock with three carries for a first down, Pierce burst through the middle of the line for a five yard gain. Pierce was stopped short of the first down with his next carry, but Vonta Leach came in to close out the game.
|WR Anquan Boldin, Rec: 5 - 60 - 2|
head as he ran with Aqib Talib down the left sideline, while Talib was able to knock the ball away when Flacco tried to hit Boldin over the middle on third and 13. Boldin's first reception came against a backup defensive back for the Patriots after Aquib Talib left the game injured. Flacco lofted the ball into the air and Boldin extended above his defender to make the big reception. Boldin moved into the slot, before running a slant against single coverage for a 12 yard gain on second and 10. In the Patriots' redzone at the end of the third quarter, Bodlin caught a quick out route for a short gain, before shaking the defender and finding his way downfield for an extra four yards. At the goalline to begin the fourth quarter, Boldin was lined up over Devin McCourty. Flacco immediately understood the coverage and lofted the ball into the air for Boldin to go up and get. Boldin outmuscled McCourty to highpoint the football for the score. Boldin was matched up with Marquis Cole in the slot 10 yards out of the endzone. Boldin just ran straight by him up the seam and Flacco hit him for his second touchdown. An easy catch for a veteran.
|WR Torrey Smith, Rec: 4 - 69 - 0|
Smith wasn't involved until the beginning of the second quarter when he caught a deep in route between two defenders. Smith had to extend to high point the football and did well to absorb a hit. Flacco couldn't connect with Smith deep on two attempts, but then found him across the middle for a five yard gain. On second and 14, Smith caught a 23 yard pass on a deep post route against zone coverage. Smith caught a deep in route on first and 10 for a first down.
|WR Jacoby Jones, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0|
Jones wasn't involved much. His first reception came in the fourth quarter when he caught a quick slant route for six yards on first and 10.
|WR Tandon Doss|
Flacco threw a backshoulder pass to Doss on first and 10 down the right sideline. Doss didn't make the reception, but he worked back to the football to draw a pass interference penalty on the defender.
|TE Dennis Pitta, Rec: 5 - 55 - 1|
After the wind caused Ed Dickson to drop a pass on second and seven over the middle, Flacco threw a sky ball down the right sideline to Pitta, but he couldn't make a difficult diving reception. Pitta came free over the middle on third and four for his first reception of the game, and a first down, before dragging a defender down the field. Pitta beat Brandon Spikes in single coverage a slant over the middle. He caught the ball five yards down the field, before sprinting away from the linebacker for a big gain. Pitta absorbed a huge hit running a five yard crossing route for his next reception. Flacco went straight back to Pitta when he ran an out route in the endzone for an easy touchdown reception. The throw was easy for Flacco because Pitta shook Steve Gregory at the top of his route with excellent quickness. Pitta's next reception came on second and four when he ran underneath the off coverage for a six yard gain and a first down.
|TE Ed Dickson|
Dickson dropped a pass over the middle when he was free on a crossing route that would have went for a first down. He appeared to extend to a point, before the wind caught the ball and it glided away from him.
New England Patriots
|QB Tom Brady, Pass: 29 - 54 - 320 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 5 - 0|
Because of the wind conditions, the Patriots' passing attack wasn't overly aggressive in the first half. They relied on a combination of Stevan Ridley's running between the tackles and quick passes/screens to the team's receivers. Brady wasn't doing too much, but he was making good, quick decisions to allow his playmakers outside to carry the offense down the field. His first touchdown pass of the game was as easy as a screen pass, as the Ravens blew a coverage at the goalline to allow Wes Welker a free release to the pylon. Regardless of the wind conditions, Brady didn't throw the ball as he typically does. He never really got into rhythm with his receivers and repeatedly missed them slightly throughout the game. While the wind obviously played a factor in that, it appeared to be affecting him much more than Joe Flacco. With his team down by 15 in the fourth quarter, nine minutes to go, Brady couldn't connect with Wes Welker on third down, before scrambling out of the pocket and essentially throwing the ball away on fourth down. At that point, it appeared the game had been lost. On the very next drive, Brady found Wes Welker for a 30+ yard gain, before he had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted. It was an interception that came completely from bad luck on Brady's part and excellent awareness from Parnell McPhee. Fittingly, the game came to a close when Brady underthrew Brandon Lloyd in the endzone for an easy interception by Cary Williams. Brady's deep passing had been off all night. It was a major reason his team lost.
|QB Ryan Mallett|
Mallett came in with the punt team at the end of the Patriots' first drive, but as soon as they shifted to an offensive formation, the Ravens called a timeout.
|RB Stevan Ridley, Rush: 18 - 70 - 0|
Ridley started the game and was the primary ball-carrier early on. He wasn't making any flashy moves or big plays on the edges, but consistently gained good yardage between the tackles and helped move the offense down the field. Ridley had 46 yards on 13 carries in the first half with a long of eight. He didn't break many tackles, but instead took advantage of good blocking between the tackles from his offensive line. After a third quarter when Ridley wasn't heavily involved, he opened the fourth quarter with three good carries for 11 yards. His fourth carry was worrying however. Ridley escaped at speed outside right tackle, before taking a massive helmet-to-helmet hit(a legal one) from Bernard Pollard that knocked him out. Ridley crumpled to the ground and lost the ball before his knee was down. The Ravens recovered the football.
|RB Shane Vereen, Rush: 4 - 16 - 0, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0|
Vereen started the third series in the backfield and sliced through the middle of the defense for a seven yard gain with his first carry. He was stopped for no gain over right guard with his next however. Vereen stayed in the game as the Patriots drove down the field, but couldn't escape outside with his next carry as he was tackled for one yard. After Ridley was knocked out in the fourth quarter, Vereen came in and caught a quick curl pass that he turned upfield for a first down.Vereen danced between the tackles for a first down and six yard gain soon after. Two plays later, Vereen caught a pass in the flat and went unopposed up the field for 15 yards before stepping out of bounds. Vereen followed that up with a drop in the flat as he turned his head upfield before watching the ball into his chest.
|RB Danny Woodhead, Rush: 3 - 11 - 0, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0|
Woodhead's first involvement was a run up the middle on third and two when he was stopped after a gain of a yard. On the very next play, fourth and one, the Patriots surprised the Ravens' defense with a direct snap to Woodhead for the conversion over left guard. Woodhead took a three yard carry over the center from the shotgun formation on second and 10. Woodhead was doing good things on his limited snaps. On third and three, he came out of the backfield for a first down reception that was negated by a holding penalty in the backfield. Woodhead caught a quick pass in the flat within the final two minutes of the game for 13 yards.
|WR Wes Welker, Rec: 8 - 117 - 1|
Welker beat the coverage on a deep crossing route when he escaped from press man coverage. Brady tried to hit him but they couldn't connect as the ball was just out of his reach. Welker's first reception was a quick out route for seven yards on first and 10. Three plays later, Welker caught a well designed screen pass in the flat with blockers leading the way downfield. Welker cut behind them and ran ahead for a 24 yard gain. A few plays later, on third down at the goalline, Welker stacked behind Brandon Lloyd to get a free release for a simple touchdown at the goalline. The Ravens defensive backs blew the coverage so Welker was wide open. In the third quarter, Welker's first target came deep down the field on a seam route. He caught the ball before absorbing a personal foul hit from Bernard Pollard, and held onto it falling to the ground. Welker came free on a deep out on third and seven that would have went for a first down, but he dropped a perfectly thrown pass. Welker beat Darnellle Ellerbe in single coverage over the middle for an eight yard gain on first and 10. His next screen pass didn't come until the fourth quarter, when he was stopped after a five yard gain by the pursuing Haloti Ngata. Against Corey Graham and a single high safety, Welker shook free to find a massive gap between the coverage for a 30+ yard gain. Welker caught a 12 yard pass over the middle within the last two minutes as the Ravens played prevent coverage.
|WR Brandon Lloyd, Rec: 7 - 70 - 0|
Lloyd beat single coverage on an in route for his first reception. He dived for the ball in the air after an eight yard gain. Lloyd absorbed a big hit after running a deep crossing route for his second reception. The play gained 15+ yards and Lloyd made another difficult reception. Lloyd added another 16 yards on a deep comeback route against single coverage. He came free with relative ease as a result of his crisp route running. Lloyd had made multiple difficult receptions, but after stumbling out of his break on third and eight, Lloyd couldn't coral a difficult diving reception. Most receivers probably wouldn't have even got their hands to the ball in that scenario. On second and three, Lloyd caught a quick pass in the flat against off-coverage. Two defenders arrived as soon as he had the ball, but he sidestepped safety Bernard Pollard well before diving forward for a first down. Lloyd caught a seven yard curl route against off coverage to start the third quarter on offense. To begin the fourth quarter, Lloyd caught a short curl route against off coverage before spinning away from a defender for a big gain and a first down. Lloyd caught a comeback route for 13 yards on the sideline on first and 10.
|WR Deion Branch, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0|
Deion Branch didn't see the field much in the first half, but he did come free in the endzone in the final minute but was overthrown by Tom Brady. Branch caught a short pass on an in route for six yards in the fourth quarter. Branch caught a 10 yard out for a first down against prevent coverage late in the game.
|TE Aaron Hernandez, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 9 - 83 - 0|
Hernandez caught Brady's first pass on a shallow crossing route against single coverage for a first down. Hernandez's second reception came soon after when he caught a short curl route before beating a defender and turning upfield for eight yards. The Patriots went back to Hernandez three plays later on a quick screen pass that went for a first down on second and 10. Hernandez shed a tackle initially to get free. The Patriots were being creative with their tight end, as they gained six yards with him on second and 9 with a well blocked end around. On third and three, Hernandez made a tough reception over the middle in between two defenders for a first down. He caught the ball, before taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ray Lewis for an extra 15 yards. For the second time in the game, Hernandez caught a very short curl route and quickly spun upfield to gain eight yards. On second and two, Hernandez caught a quick slant pass for a first down at the goalline. On a short out route, Hernandez caught a pass near the sidelines before turning upfield for a first down and a 10+ yard gain. Hernandez caught another short curl route for just two yards, but fought his way forward for an extra three yards on first and 10. Hernandez caught an 11 yard curl route against prevent coverage with a little more than a minute left in the game.