AFC Championship: Patriots D Improving Just in Time
Whose defense is better in the AFC Championship? It may not be the obvious answer.
The Baltimore Ravens still have all the names and the bravado to accompany it. Whether it's Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs or Ed Reed. They have the single most important players in Haloti Ngata and Reed. They win games when Joe Flacco and the offense have an off day.
On the other side of the field, the New England Patriots have looked like Swiss cheese for most of the year. They've had points rolled-up on them in many different games. They don't particularly have a household name on defense unless you live in the Boston area. And, conversely from the Ravens, Tom Brady and the offense has bailed-out the defense.
Now, rolling into championship weekend, I would debate the Patriots defense has gone about 170 degrees in the opposite direction. Don't get me wrong, they're not world beaters, but they're better. They really showed it against the Broncos by really taking what they do best, running, and doing a good job of limiting it.
Sure, they still have problems. Their corners, especially McCourty, still allow a lot of yards and sometimes look a little lost. And while Mayo—and especially Ninkovich—look solid, Spikes, although physically gifted, still makes mistakes.
This defense isn't too different from the Ravens. Vince Wilfork can still really be compared to Ngata and the defense is really built around him. Patrick Chung is growing into the strong safety position and seems to find the right place at the right time more and more often, although not to be compared to Ed Reed, yet. The biggest difference is the pass rush the Ravens are capable of bringing with Suggs and occasionally with Lewis.
The Ravens also have the presence that Lewis brings with him. Now, I'm not so sure the Patriots need a personality like Lewis on defense. First, Brady seems to assume that role on the Patriots and we've seem him yell at and motivate numerous players on that team. I also believe the Patriots emote the calm and emotionless personality of Belichick in stark contrast to the flashy personality of multiple Ravens defenders.
Throughout the season, we have seen the Ravens defense carry their team and the Patriots offense carry theirs. In the case of the Ravens, the offense hasn't particularly improved that much. On the other hand, the Patriots defense, although still rather porous, seems to improve every week and, to me, resembles the opportunistic Saints defense more and more.
That brings to the gem we've been awarded in the AFC Championship. Up until recently, if you told me the defenses would equal the oppositions offenses, I'd have agreed. Now I'm not so sure. Maybe Belichick really has known what he was doing all along with this defense. If Brady can manage to put 25-30 points on the board, the Ravens may be in trouble, because this defense may be arriving as we speak.
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