Re: Ravens @ Patriots REPORT CARD
posted at 10/18/2010 12:28 PM EDT
Here is SI's Don Banks' take on the Pats:
• There still may not be any truly elite teams in the NFL this season, but I'm starting to think the most resourceful and resilient club I've seen so far is Bill Belichick's 4-1 Patriots. They're far from the flash and glitz of the record-breaking 2007 Patriots of 18-1 fame, but as I recall, that formula didn't wind up putting another ring on the hand of Tom Brady and Co.
Playing without Randy Moss for the first time on Sunday at home against Baltimore, the Patriots more resembled the gritty and determined New England teams of 2001-2004. They spread the ball around to a collection of no-names or role players, played just enough inspired defense and made almost all of the game's key plays en route to pulling out another close win.
Try these numbers on for size after New England's thrilling 23-20 overtime victory over a Ravens squad that pounded it 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in last year's first round of the playoffs:
• The Patriots, down 10 points early in the fourth quarter, scored the final 13 points of the game, rallying against a defense that entered the game allowing the fourth-fewest points at 14.4 per game. Despite struggling at times, New England moved the ball against Baltimore in crunch time and got the 10 fourth-quarter points it needed to force overtime.
• The New England running game was again led by the likes of Danny Woodhead (11 carries for 63 yards), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (20 yards on 10 rushes) and Sammy Morris. No superstars or first-round picks there. Six players had at least one rush. This is again something of a blue-collar Patriots team.
• The Patriots, in essence, exchanged Moss for old friend, Deion Branch, last week, and the former New England receiver picked up where he left off in Foxboro, leading the way with nine catches for 98 yards, including a five-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown reception. It was almost as if Branch had never left for Seattle five years ago, the year after he had earned Super Bowl MVP honors as a Patriot.
With Moss gone, and their defense still green and growing, the Patriots are not a star-driven team anymore. Outside of Brady, their biggest name player is Wes Welker, the catching machine who went undrafted out of Texas Tech. But the team-first Patriots have thrived before when they've had role players and less-heralded types in key roles, and maybe we're seeing a back-to-the-future approach unfold in Foxboro.
It's working so far. With three wins in a row, and really only one bad half of football played by New England (that second half against the Jets in Week 2), the Patriots look formidable once more. Maybe not elite, but that doesn't seem to be a necessity in this season's NFL. Beating the Ravens and Dolphins back-to-back settled a couple of key scores for New England. But you get the feeling there's plenty more to come from the Belichick-men this year, even if the dominance of 2007 has faded into the distant past.
Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/don_banks/10/17/week6.snaps/index.html#ixzz12jCsopK0