Patriots vs Ravens: Final Report Card, Player Grades for New England

Dan HopeContributor IIISeptember 23, 2012

Patriots vs Ravens: Final Report Card, Player Grades for New England

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    The New England Patriots lost their second consecutive game on Sunday night, and once again, it came down to a game-winning field goal. This time, Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker barely sneaked a 27-yard field goal through the right upright, giving the Ravens a 31-30 victory, and the Patriots fell to 1-2 on the season as a result.

    The Patriots will now scrambling to pick up the pieces and turn their season around, but what went wrong in this loss for the Patriots, in which they lost to the team they beat the year before in the AFC Championship Game? Through the following slides, players from each positional unit’s success or failure in this defeat is assessed.

Quarterbacks

1 of 10

    Tom Brady: B+

    The Patriots may have lost their second game of the season, but it was not Tom Brady’s fault.

    Brady had a very strong performance overall, completing 28 of 41 passes for 335 yards and one touchdown. He looked sharp and threw accurate passes throughout the night.

    The reason he falls out of the A range, however, is a result of him being unable to come up with any big plays in the fourth quarter. As the Patriots were trying to preserve a lead, it should not have come down to him.

    Nonetheless, Brady had failures which led to the Patriots being unable to seal the game in the fourth quarter, especially on the final drive, on which he had an incompletion, followed by an interception overturned by a penalty and later a crucial sack.

Running Backs

2 of 10

    Stevan Ridley: C

    Stevan Ridley got off to a fantastic start as the Patriots’ feature back in the first two weeks of the season, but against the Ravens, he was not used as the feature back. Ridley’s snap count was heavily reduced, as the Patriots opted to use Danny Woodhead over him for the majority of snaps at running back.

    It’s hard to criticize the Patriots for this decision, because he was not particularly impressive when he was on the field. Ridley only had 37 yards on 13 carries, and aside from a 14-yard run late in the third quarter, he only had one other run of 5 yards or more.

    The Patriots did not show the faith in Ridley that one would expect to see after two strong opening weeks, but Ridley did not perform well against a tough Ravens’ defensive front seven.

    Danny Woodhead: C+

    While Danny Woodhead received the majority of snaps at running back in this game, he did not do much to make the decision of the Patriots’ coaches look good.

    Woodhead had his bright moments in the game, including one drive where he ran the ball six times, with the final two rushes coming in goal-to-go offense, and Woodhead gaining nine combined yards on those two runs, finishing it off with a three-yard touchdown.

    From that point on, however, Woodhead did not have a single play for positive yardage, and at the end of the day, he ran the ball 15 times for only 34 yards, while adding a 9-yard gain on a pass reception off of that.

    The Patriots relied heavily on Woodhead in this game, and maybe they should not have relied upon him as much as they did.

    Brandon Bolden: B

    Rookie running back Brandon Bolden was only brought into the game to run twice, but one of those times, he pounded the ball up the middle for the first touchdown of his career.

    He also had two tackles on special teams, which shows Bolden can contribute in more ways than just as the team’s third-string running back.

Wide Receivers

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    Wes Welker: A-

    If the Patriots were trying to “phase out” Wes Welker as some had whispered in the first two weeks of the season, that certainly was not the case against the Baltimore Ravens. Welker played a huge role in the Patriots’ offense, leading the team with 142 receiving yards on eight catches.

    Welker played nearly every offensive snap of the game, as he became the primary replacement for Aaron Hernandez as a slot receiver. The Patriots caught the Ravens sleeping early in the game, however, when they hit Welker for a 59-yard gain off play action.

    Welker did have one drop in this game, but for the most part, he proved to be both a consistent receiver and big-play threat in this game, and was the star of the Patriots’ offense.

    Brandon Lloyd: A-

    Brandon Lloyd continued to be the go-to wide receiver in this game for the Patriots, leading the team with nine receptions.

    Lloyd did have one highlight-reel catch in the first quarter of the game, when he made a very good catch by getting both of his feet down in bounds near the left sideline while having tight coverage on him. Most of his 108 yards, however, came off of short passes, as the Patriots tried to use him in a role more typical of their offense, and utilizing his speed and quickness to turn short yardage through the air into more significant gains.

    Lloyd has been a consistent source of offense in his first three regular-season game with the Patriots, and fans should be pleased with his performance in this defeat.

    Julian Edelman: C+

    Julian Edelman was among the focal points of the Patriots’ offense in the first half. He was used frequently as both a receiver and runner, and seemed to be emerging as Tom Brady’s go-to target on offense.

    Edelman, however, did not actually play great, even though he was used frequently. He let what would have been a 20-yard touchdown pass go through his hands (in his defense, he was hit hard by Ravens safety Ed Reed on the play), was flagged for two separate penalties, and lost yardage on plays both as a runner and as a receiver.

    Edelman did have a 7-yard touchdown reception, but ended the game with pedestrian numbers: four receptions for 28 yards, and two carries for -5 yards. Unfortunately for Edelman, he had to leave the game with a hand injury suffered on the touchdown catch, and did not return to play in the second half.

    Deion Branch: B

    Deion Branch, who was re-signed by the Patriots earlier in the week after being released in the preseason, made his return to the field against the Ravens.

    Branch made a tough catch away from his body which resulted in a 11-yard gain. He also caught another pass for no gain, but was lit up by a big hit on the play. That was the second big hit of the game that Branch took, but both times, he got right back up, showing his impressive toughness.

Tight Ends

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    Rob Gronkowski: C+

    With Aaron Hernandez out, it was expected that the Patriots’ other tight end, Rob Gronkowski, would step up in a big way against the Ravens. Instead, as the Patriots’ offense focused mostly on making plays outside the tackles, Gronkowski was not much of a factor.

    Gronkowski only caught two passes for 21 yards. He had a decent game blocking, but he was flagged for a holding penalty for the second consecutive week.

    The Patriots were unable to establish much of an offensive game in the middle of the field, and Gronkowski was not much of a factor as a result.

    Kellen Winslow: C-

    Coming into the game, the hope was that the Patriots would still be able to utilize two tight end sets often in this game with some success by using Kellen Winslow, who was signed this past week, in Aaron Hernandez’s role. That was not the case.

    When Winslow did play, his play was a disappointment. He dropped the first pass thrown to him right off of his hands. Winslow did have one catch for 12 yards, but made very little impact in his first game with the team.

    Michael Hoomanawanui: B-

    Michael Hoomanawanui did surprisingly get to become a part of the receiving offense for the Patriots in this game, as he caught a 4-yard pass in the Patriots’ red zone offense, but for the most part, he remained a non-factor as a receiving tight end.

    As a blocker, his play was subpar in this game. Hoomanawanui played a greater amount of snaps with Hernandez out of the lineup, but he was mostly a non-factor.

    Daniel Fells: DNP

    With Daniel Fells being active for his first game of the season, the hope was that he could come in and contribute as a receiver with Hernandez out of the lineup. Instead, he never saw the field on offense, and it appears ever more likely that his time will come to an end with the Patriots with him never making any sort of relevant impact in a regular-season impact.

Offensive Line

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    Nate Solder: B+

    Nate Solder has continued to get better each week. He did a good job of keeping pressure off of Tom Brady’s backside this week; while there was plenty of pressure in the backfield in this game, Solder was not responsible for much of that. After a very concerning preseason, Solder is starting to look more like a steady NFL left tackle each game.

    Sebastian Vollmer: B

    Sebastian Vollmer gave up some pressure on the right side of the offensive line, mostly working against Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger, and had some trouble with opening up holes in the rushing offense.

    The good news for Vollmer, however, is that he has made progress. After playing limited snaps while rotating with Marcus Cannon at right tackle in the first two games while continuing to recover from back surgery, Vollmer played the entire game against the Ravens, and his play was decent.

    Logan Mankins: B

    Left guard Logan Mankins made some very solid pull blocks in this game, but like the rest of the interior offensive line, he struggled in this game with the force of the Ravens’ interior defense. Mankins was pushed back more often than usual in this game, and play not up to his usual standard was one of the reasons that the Patriots were unable to established an interior offensive game against the Ravens.

    Ryan Wendell: C-

    Things got off to a very bad start for center Ryan Wendell in this game, and they didn’t get much better.

    On the third play from scrimmage, Wendell snapped before quarterback Tom Brady was ready to receive the snap, and this botched play resulted in a fumble on the Patriots’ own 28-yard line which the Patriots were lucky to recover.

    Wendell continued to struggle over the course of this game, as he was unable to generate any sort of consistent push against a tough Ravens’ interior defensive line, while allowing Ravens inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to blow through the middle of the line on multiple blitzes to make big plays in the backfield.

    The Patriots’ poor interior offensive line play resulted in the team’s inability to establish a ground game up the middle, and Wendell is responsible for considerable blame as the center.

    Dan Connolly: C

    As mentioned, it was a rough game for the Patriots’ interior offensive line, and right guard Dan Connolly was no exception.

    The Patriots were unable to establish any sort of power-based, between-the-tackles offensive production, and the fact that the Patriots were allowing players like Dannell Ellerbe and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata to penetrate the right side of the line was a big reason for that. After missing the Patriots’ Week 2 game to injury, Dan Connolly did not return at his strongest in Week 3.

Defensive Line

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    Chandler Jones: B

    After dominant performances in the Patriots’ first two games, rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was held in check by Ravens left tackle Michael Oher in this game.

    Jones did not play poorly; he was working hard all night against Oher, and late in the game, he started to break through more often to bring pressure against Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.

    In fact, Jones came up with a big sack on Joe Flacco late in the game, but it was called back due to a defensive holding call against middle linebacker Brandon Spikes. On the subsequent play, Jones also beat Oher to bring pressure, but Flacco was able to roll away and complete a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.

    For most of the game, Jones did not make a considerable impact, but he showed late that he is still the team’s best playmaking defensive end. He finished the game with two tackles.

    Vince Wilfork: B+

    On a day when the Patriots had some serious trouble stopping Ravens running back Ray Rice, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork actually did his job quite well. Wilfork had four tackles, the most among Patriots defensive linemen in this game, all of which stopped Rice for gains of 2 yards or less.

    Wilfork did not exactly stand out in this game, but his play is not to blame for the team’s bad defensive day in which they allowed 503 yards of offense.

    Rob Ninkovich: B

    Starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich did a solid job of bringing pressure in this game. He only had two tackles to finish the game, but did not make Ravens right tackle Kelechi Osemele’s job easy.

    Also, on one play where Ninkovich was lined up on the left side against Michael Oher, he likely would have had a sack against Joe Flacco had it not been for holding by Oher which went uncalled.

    Ninkovich may not have stood out in this game, but his game was solid overall.

    Kyle Love: C

    The Patriots did not have a very strong day defending Ravens running back Ray Rice, who gained 101 yards rushing, and one reason for that was a subpar game for defensive tackle Kyle Love. Next to Wilfork, Love did not generate much push or penetration in the middle of the Patriots’ defense, and he did not record a single tackle in the entire game.

    Love is a solid starter, but he didn’t have much to show for this game.

Linebackers

7 of 10

    Jerod Mayo: B

    Jerod Mayo led the Patriots with 11 total tackles in this game, but those statistics are somewhat deceiving of Mayo’s performances.

    While Mayo was in on many plays, he did not flash to the ball the way he often does in this game. On multiple occasions, Mayo looked hesitant in defending Ray Rice, and rather than aggressively pursuing Rice to stop him in his tracks, he allowed Rice to come to him and gain extra yardage before putting him down for the tackle.

    Mayo was the best linebacker on the field for the Patriots on Sunday night, but it was not a strong game for the linebacker corps, and Mayo was no exception.

    Dont’a Hightower: B

    Like fellow rookie first-round pick Chandler Jones, outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower had a solid game, but he didn’t stand out. Hightower had five tackles, but he also had some trouble getting off of blocks in this game when it came to stopping the run.

    For fans on the national stage watching Hightower play an NFL game for the first time, he hasn’t yet made a name for himself.

    Brandon Spikes: D

    Last week, Brandon Spikes graded out as the best player on the Patriots’ defense, but Week 3 was more like Week 1, as he very well may have been the worst.

    Spikes failed to establish any presence in the middle of the defense, allowing Ray Rice to continue to run through the middle and gain yardage. He also struggled immensely in pass coverage, especially when the Ravens went with short passes to Rice, and was called for a costly defensive holding penalty on the Ravens’ final touchdown drive, which nullified a big sack one play before the touchdown was scored.

    Spikes took to Twitter after the loss to complain about the game’s officiating, but rather than complaining, he would be better suited in improving upon his play and becoming a more consistent linebacker.

Defensive Backs

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    Devin McCourty: C+

    Devin McCourty may very well be the most wildly inconsistent defensive back in the entire National Football League, and that was certainly the case in his game on Sunday night.

    McCourty is also one of the league’s most talented cornerbacks, and he made many big plays in the game. For the most part, McCourty did a very good job of locking down opposing receivers, and broke up four passes in the game.

    On the other hand, McCourty made some costly mistakes and missed some big opportunities. At one point, McCourty made a perfect break on a pass but dropped an interception right out of his hands, and earlier in the game, another interception he could have had was broken up by Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.

    At the end of the game, however, McCourty just flat out blew it. He got beat downfield by Ravens wideout Jacoby Jones, and in order to stop Jones from making the catch, he had to take Jones down for pass interference. The result was a 27-yard penalty, which set the Ravens up at the 7-yard line to kick the game-winning field goal.

    McCourty was also beaten by Torrey Smith on multiple occasions, including the second of Smith’s two receiving touchdowns in this game.

    Even if McCourty had broken up eight passes in this game, he still may have graded this low because of giving up big plays late in the game. McCourty is a playmaker, but giving up big plays in the passing offense is unacceptable, and that happened to him too often in this contest.

    Kyle Arrington: C

    In the first quarter of the game, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington was tremendous, as he made three solid tackles in that quarter and covered his opposing receivers very well. For the rest of the game, however, his play was quite poor.

    Arrington was beaten on too many occasions in this game, including for the first of Torrey Smith’s two touchdown receptions, and on a 24-yard throw by Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin.

    Arrington’s worst gaffe of the game, however, came late. Flacco overthrew his receiver, and Arrington was in perfect position to make an interception, but he simply tripped over himself. In a position where the Patriots’ defense was against the wall, missing that opportunity is simply unacceptable.

    Through three games this season, Arrington has had three bad performances, and he probably would not be starting any longer on most NFL teams.

    Sterling Moore: C-

    Sterling Moore played the majority of snaps over Ras-I Dowling as the Patriots’ nickel cornerback, but he was not impressive. Moore was beaten on multiple occasions in pass coverage, and he consistently took bad angles, causing him to miss a number of tackles.

    The reasoning for the Patriots to continue playing Moore over Dowling is very questionable, as Moore’s play has been very poor so far this season.

    Patrick Chung: B

    Strong safety Patrick Chung made the biggest defensive play of the game when he stopped Ravens running back Bernard Pierce on a massive 4th and 1 stop early in the fourth quarter.

    However, Chung struggled in pass coverage. He was beaten by Torrey Smith on a 38-yard pass completion, and did not make any plays in the passing game. Of the five tackles he made in the game, the other four were all on passing gains of 15 yards or more, showing that Chung was responsible for plenty of gains through the air that he could not make a play on to break up.

    Steve Gregory: B-

    The Patriots did not make many big plays on defense in this game, but one was made in the first quarter, when Steve Gregory intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards to set the Patriots up at the 10-yard line for an easy touchdown drive.

    Gregory’s play was a huge spark for the Patriots early in the game, but the pass was thrown straight to him, so the biggest part of the play was the impressive return. For the rest of the game, though, Gregory’s play was very subpar.

    Gregory did not do much to stop Joe Flacco’s aerial assault for the Ravens’ offense, and had a very shaky game, including one time when he completely whiffed on a tackle attempt on Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, allowing Pitta to hop over him and score a 20-yard touchdown.

    Gregory may have been a slight upgrade for the Patriots at free safety, but he has not made a great impression through his first three games.

    Tavon Wilson: B

    Rookie safety Tavon Wilson did not play as often on defense against the Ravens as he had in the Patriots’ first two games, but he had a solid performance when he was on the field. Wilson had four tackles in the game, two of which came after short pass completions on defense, and two more which came on kickoff coverage.

    Wilson was not picked on for any big passing plays when he was on the field, and made some plays as well.

Special Teams

9 of 10

    Stephen Gostkowski: A-

    Stephen Gostkowski did not have to handle any big pressure kicks this time, but as had been the case before his 37-yard field goal attempt missed wide left against the Arizona Cardinals, he had a very solid showing. Gostkowski made all three of his field goal attempts, including one from 49 yards out, and his final three kickoffs were all touchbacks.

    Zoltan Mesko: A-

    Zoltan Mesko’s punting made a big improvement against the Ravens from his first two games of the season. He had a solid punting average of 43 yards per punt, with two of his four punts going for 50 yards or more, as well as two of his punts being downed at the 8-yard line.

Coaching

10 of 10

    Bill Belichick: C

    I can honestly say I’ve never seen Patriots head coach Bill Belichick look as furious as he did throughout the game on Sunday night.

    Belichick was clearly unhappy with the replacement officials throughout the night, and he could consistently be seen with an angry scowl or cursing on the sidelines. At the end of the night, Belichick took his anger with the officials a little too far, as he actually made contact with the official who was leaving the field.

    Belichick has reason to be unhappy, but not just with the official. His team fell apart in the fourth quarter, as the offense failed to effectively run out the clock and preserve a lead, in part due to some questionable playcalling late in the game, paired with a defense that never came up with the answer for stopping the Ravens’ offense late.

    Josh McDaniels: B-

    Early in the game, I applauded Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for his creativity and intelligence.

    McDaniels came into the game with a very sound offensive gameplan. The Patriots clearly came in with a gameplan of exposing a lack of speed for the Ravens’ defense outside of the tackles, and used players with speed and quickness to make plays—notably Danny Woodhead, Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd.

    Another great plan came when the Patriots ran Danny Woodhead on three consecutive plays for a first downs, then after setting up the run, the Patriots went with a play-action pass. Having not used Wes Welker yet in the game, they were able to break Welker out of the hiding that they had done with him early in the season for a 59-yard play.

    As the game progressed into the fourth quarter, however, this gameplan stopped working. One of their key players, Julian Edelman, did not play in the second half, and it seemed the Patriots kept going back to Woodhead as much as possible.

    When the Ravens figured out how to stop the Patriots’ offense, McDaniels never brought the Patriots back to basics that usually work, which is throwing the ball inside to Rob Gronkowski, and handing the ball off to Stevan Ridley. This was questionable on the part of McDaniels.

    Matt Patricia: C-

    Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia clearly has some work to be done. His defense may have made strides in the first two weeks, but they allowed 503 yards of offense to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.

    Following a strong first quarter, the Patriots’ defense became porous and easy to score on, and Patricia never was able to make adjustments to improve the situation. The Ravens scored on five of their final seven drives of the game, as the Patriots’ defense was both gashed by running back Ray Rice in the short game, and beat deep consistently by Joe Flacco and his dynamic wideouts.

    Dan Hope is the New England Patriots gameday correspondent and an NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Hope.