Coming out of halftime of the AFC Championship game, the coaching staffs for the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens had some adjustments that needed to be made. And as we enter the 4th quarter what can we say about what these coaches are doing to help their teams win?
New England Patriots
Head coach Bill Belichick is calling a great, albeit conservative game on offense, even if it’s not showing up on the scoreboard. Some missed throws by quarterback Tom Brady and some dropped passes by his skill players have stalled drives that normally would have turned into points. Going into the final quarter, it’s less about making more coaching adjustments and more about just great execution by the offense. Belichick is doing a great job working runs in with the pass, but the offensive line is getting beat by the Ravens defensive front. It’s going to be up to that line to win in the trenches and make that play-calling work. Maybe he needs to just open it up completely and go nuts throwing it. You know Brady would be fine with that.
On defense, the Patriots are committed to stopping running back Ray Rice and forcing quarterback Joe Flacco to beat them over the top. Having safety Devin McCourty back there has really been a boon for the Patriots’ defense and the coaches are calling great coverages to be sure every pass is contested. But it’s going to come down to what they do to stop the Ravens running game that will decide this game.
The Ravens must throw the ball, and they have to find spots to throw it other than just down-field. They have mismatches, but whether it’s head coach John Harbaugh not calling the plays to take advantage of them, or quarterback Joe Flacco not making the correct reads, they seem to just be thinking that if they just give it to running back Ray Rice enough, good things will happen. But with a lead, they do not want to get overly conservative and complacent. They must continue to push the football down the field with the intermediate routes. It will keep the Patriots’ offense off the field and let a tired defense rest.
For the Ravens’ defense, they better batten down the hatches and be ready for a 4th quarter where the Patriots are going to pull out all the stops to move the football. Play smart, disciplined football, and expect the Patriots to start throwing it down field. A lot. Getting some heat on Brady probably won’t happen, so instead they need to run smart coverages and try and force a turnover or two to get the Patriots off the field, and try and close this game out.
The coach that uses the last 15 or so minutes is going to win this game. Both teams have shown their hands and there’s really not a whole lot more they can put out there on either side of the ball. It’s going to come down to the best play calling late that will decide who goes to the Super Bowl.