Patriots vs. Ravens: Baltimore's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 3
Just like last time, the duel between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots came down to a field goal. This time, though, the outcome was different, by the most narrowest margin imaginable.
Justin Tucker's 27-yard field goal barely squeaked past the right goalpost giving the Ravens a 31-30 victory in the wild Sunday night matchup. Gone was the defensive prowess of past Pats and Ravens defenses as they gave up 503 and 396 total net yards, respectively. Instead this game was an offensive shootout and the Ravens were finally the team to outshoot the opposition.
This victory gives the Ravens their first regular season victory ever against the Patriots. And though it can't take away from the heartbreaking AFC Championship loss of earlier this year, it does serve as a measure of revenge. More importantly, it pushes the Ravens to 2-1 and keeps them in first place in the AFC North.
Let's take a look at the team's winners and losers from this game.
Winner: Torrey Smith
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Yesterday will likely go down as one of the roughest days in Torrey Smith's entire life. At around 2:00 a.m. he received the news that his younger brother had died in an motorcycle accident.
Given the circumstances, it would be very understandable if Smith sat out for this week's game. The coaching staff wisely left the decision in his hands. Smith decided that he could best honor his brother by suiting up for the game and playing his heart out.
And Smith did exactly that, as this game was arguably the best of his entire career. He had six catches for 127 yards and two receiving touchdowns, making the biggest impact out of any of the Ravens receivers last night.
It was clearly an emotional night for Smith who clearly played with a heavy heart. His 25-yard touchdown scored in the second quarter was an extremely emotional moment for both Smith and the Ravens. He briefly knelt on the ground for a prayer and then embraced his fellow offensive starters.
This was an amazing game for Smith and given the personal circumstances, it's going to go down in the history books. No one could have blamed Smith for not playing given the dreadful circumstances. Yet Smith played and he played with so much heart that it's easy to think the Ravens would not have won without Smith.
Loser: Cary Williams
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So we go from the best of Sunday night to the worst. That's got to be Cary Williams, who was mercilessly picked on by the Patriots passing game the entire night.
Tom Brady seemed to be targeting Williams as a lot of passes were thrown in his direction. Although he only threw for one touchdown, Brady completed 28-of-41 passes for 335 yards. Both Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker came away with huge days as well as each receiver had over 100 receiving yards.
Lloyd in particular owned Williams during the night. His nine catches for 109 yards were mostly gotten against Williams, including an ugly 22-yard catch.
It was obviously not the kind of night that Williams wanted to have and now his decision to turn down the Ravens contract offer does not look like a wise one. It may be a good idea for the Ravens to look to Jimmy Smith as the starter with their next game only on Thursday night.
Winner: Joe Flacco
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In January, Joe Flacco essentially outdueled Tom Brady. The loss prevented people from really appreciating just how good the game was for Flacco as he had shown that he could go toe-to-toe with one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Now this game Flacco outdueled Brady and the Ravens got the victory. Like Brady, Flacco completed 28 passes but he had fewer incompletions as he was 28-of-39. He also had more yards with 382 of those and three passing touchdowns.
Of course Flacco did have some ugly plays in the game, particularly the early pick that helped the Pats get up 13-0 early on. Flacco also got a little lucky with a dropped interception and a somewhat sketchy defensive holding call against Devin McCourty in the fourth quarter.
When thinking of fourth quarter comebacks, though, this one might be Flacco's most beautiful one yet. They were down nine points when he got the ball with 7:29 left in the game. With nearly no margin for error, Flacco drove 92 yards that culminated with a five-yard pass to Torrey Smith.
The defense then got the ball back to the offense despite a frustrating drive that nearly saw the Patriots run out the clock. With 1:55 left, Flacco quickly got his team in field-goal range and then ran the clock down so there was no way Brady would get another chance. Flacco did everything that you could ask of a quarterback to win a game and this time he got a high-quality win that showed the nation how much of a great quarterback he's become.
Loser: Courtney Upshaw & the Ravens Pass Rush
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There were so many drives last night where the Ravens failed to generate sufficient pressure on Tom Brady. It seemed that early defensive coordinator Dean Pees was content to sit back and not blitz as much.
That changed at the end when Pees called more blitzes and heated up the pressure on Brady. Even so, the Ravens only had two sacks on the night. Dannell Ellerbe was responsible for 1.5 sacks and seven tackles in one of his finest days while Haloti Ngata also gathered a half sack.
While Ellerbe and Ngata had great games, others that should have contributed to the pass rush didn't. Courtney Upshaw in particular looked mediocre last night as he only had three tackles and zero sacks. He also collected a personal foul during a late hit of Brady.
The point is this was not the reason that Upshaw was drafted. He was supposed to be a legitimate pass-rusher, even more so with Terrell Suggs sitting out with injuries. Between Upshaw and Albert McClellan, the Ravens are going to need to manufacture more sacks if they are going to win more games.
Winner: Justin Tucker
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There is now no debate the Ravens made the right decision going with Justin Tucker instead of Billy Cundiff. Tucker has been nothing short of phenomenal through the first three weeks of the season. He's made all seven field goals and last week, he became the first Ravens kicker to make two kicks of longer than 50 yards in one game.
This isn't to say that it was a foregone conclusion Tucker would make the 27-yard kick at the end of the game. In fact, the Ravens and their fans had to be terrified watching that kick. It only passed by the right goalpost by inches, meaning the Ravens were so close to losing to the Patriots with a missed field goal again.
A make is a make, though, and Tucker has to be proud of his kick. The game-winner was his only field goal of the day; however, he did his part by making all four extra points early on.
It's amazing to consider that as a rookie Tucker has already got the poise needed to make game-winning field goals. That's a great component for the offense to have and now the Ravens have to be confidant that when Tucker trots out to the field, he's going to make his kicks.
Winner: Ed Reed
Although the secondary mostly struggled through the night, some of the players put up a great effort. Both Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard put up a respectable amount of tackles with seven and five, respectively.
Reed had one of the highlights of the night with this stinger against Deion Branch. Thankfully, Branch got up fine from the hit, one that Reed will certainly be fined for. It was still a good play even if the helmet-to-helmet component messed things up.
Reed made his presence known through the game and it was clear that Brady was keeping his eyes out for him. Even without any interceptions, that kind of fear is invaluable to have. Reed's hit on Branch last night showed that he's still got it and opposing offenses still have to fear him.