This game hasn’t had the big plays we all saw in the NFC Championship Game, the real story was the Ravens defense holding Tom Brady to just three points off of his first four drives, three of which finished in Ravens territory.
Wes Welker couldn’t come down with a catch on a long deep ball from Brady that would have set up the Patriots in field goal range. Welker burned Corey Graham bad on the play.
With the Patriots marching into the red zone on their second drive of the half, that man Graham came up big for the Ravens with an important tackle on Stevan Ridley on 3rd and two which forced the Patriots to take just a 3-0 led from their first two drives.
A dumb personal foul from Ray Lewis on Aaron Hernandez handed the Patriots a 15 yard penalty to add on to an eight yard reception put the Patriots down to the Baltimore 36 yard line. Some more solid Ravens defense kept the Patriots just out of field goal range.
The closest we came to seeing a big play actually came twice from the Ravens, Joe Flacco threw a deep bomb to a diving Dennis Pitta that went just off of his finger tips. Next would have been the strangest interception of all time probably to equal the immaculate reception. A pass intended for Brandon Lloyd was batted hard back towards the line of scrimmage, were a turning Paul Kruger almost came up with a huge pick.
Finally one of these teams put together a touchdown drive when the Ravens went 90 yards in 13 plays which culminated in Ray Rice bouncing to the outside to take the score to 7-3 in Baltimore’s favor.
Brady audibled into a nice little screen play that got Welker a 24 yard gain taking the Patriots to the Baltimore 16 yard line, which was finished off by Welker on a one yard touchdown pass.
After impressive touchdown drives from both teams, the Patriots drew first blood in the ‘big play’ stakes, with a crucial 4th down conversion on a direct snap to Danny Woodhead, followed by a 17 yard, 3rd down reception from Hernandez which took the ball to the Baltimore 10 yard line. Ultimately these plays end up not being as major as they could have been, as the Patriots could only convert a field goal to make it 13-7 going into the half.
Don’t get me wrong, this game is extremely fun to watch, but all in all the first half has been a tentative affair with both teams failing to take advantage of big play opportunities, something is going to have to give in the second half to really blow this game open, and in order for one of these teams to really grab the initiative.
Torrey Smith anyone?