Patriots defense struggles against Ravens

Ravens got open early, often. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
The New England Patriot's "bend, don't break" defense was pushed to the limit Saturday, and at times, they broke. The defense allowed the Ravens to score 31 points, run 73 plays, and tally 428 total yards. All abnormal numbers from this defense that has proven, at times, to be downright dominating, specifically in the second half of games. Here is a look at how the Baltimore Ravens were able to move the ball and score.

Things started to go wrong right out of the gate for the Patriots defense. Joe Flacco went 9-10 for over 100 yards and two touchdowns in his first two drives, giving his team an earlier 14-0 lead. Flacco & Co. took advantage of the Patriots attempt to go into a soft zone coverage, which was likely their attempt to confuse Flacco into making an early mistake given the Patriots typical look of man coverage. It badly backfired on the Patriots. Steve Smith, Torrey Smith, and Kamar Aiken took off into gaps in the zones and made big plays at will. Eventually, Belichick and Patricia reverted back to their one high safety, man coverage scheme that has been their bread and butter all year.

Overall, Flacco had a great game, if not for his two interceptions. Completing 28 of 45 passes for 292 yards and 4 touchdowns is a phenomenal game, and how he did it was the biggest reason why the Ravens had success. Flacco was able to distribute the passes to 10 different receivers and completed no more than five passes to any one receiver. This kept the Patriots from being able to key in on certain players such as Steve Smith or Owne Daniels. Often Flacco was able to check down to a releasing running back or tight end and pick up five or more yards when options weren't open deep. This kept the ball moving forward and allowed the Ravens to be able to convert shorter distances.

On the ground, Justin Forsett gashed the Patriots. Averaging 5.4 yards per carry, Forsett ran the ball 24 times for an impressive 129 yards. No other running back was able to get more than two carries of their own. Forsett was key in keeping the ball going forward, and out of the hands of Tom Brady. The Ravens were able to have 5:18 more minutes of possession than the Patriots, which was a direct result of the Ravens being able to run the ball effectively.

The Ravens very well could have won this game, but the Patriots defense stepped up when it mattered. The Raven were only able to convert one of their nine first downs, despite going three for three on 4th down. In terms of turnovers, the Patriots two interceptions came at key moments later in the game. McCourty's pick came right after the Patriots tied it up, furthering their momentum. Duron Harmon's pick iced the game, ending Baltimore's last drive in the end zone.

Did the defense play great? No, but they were able to recover after an awful start and get the team back in position to win the game. They made plays when it mattered, came up with turnovers, and won the game. Next week they will up against be a significantly better offense with the Colts, but the Patriots match up much more favorably than they did against the Ravens.

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