Ravens: 31 Patriots: 30 - Week 3 Recap

What it Means – Replacement referee blunders aside, this last second loss for the Patriots should be a sign of how big a difference a few key plays down the stretch can make in the outcome of a game. New England had numerous chances in the 4th quarter to seal the win, but they let the Ravens stick around and that’s what brought the Pats down in the end.  It needs to be noted that the season is still very young and a bounce-back win in Buffalo will wash away any rough feelings for the Patriots coming out of yet another disappointing loss.

Brady to Lloyd Improving - Tom Brady and Brandon Lloyd had their miscues in the

first few weeks of the season, but they were right on point last night in Baltimore. Lloyd had 9 catches for 108 yards receiving, as he seemed to get open with ease throughout the game. While I expected more shots deep in this game from Brady to Lloyd, they were still able to pick the Ravens defense apart based solely on 10-15 yard out-routes. If Brady can get enough time in the pocket, expect Lloyd to fake these out-routes that opposing teams will now expect and turn a play deep for a long connection up the field. As of right now, Lloyd has been a bright side on an offense that is trying to adjust in the absence of tight end, Aaron Hernandez, with his high ankle injury from Week 2.

Defense Has Set-back – After two promising performances in the first few weeks of the season, the defense came up short last night as they couldn’t stop the Ravens when it really counted. Besides a solid start to the game and what seemed to be a big 4th down stop of Baltimore at the time in the 4th quarter, there was no consistency on the defensive end. Their run defense had been the specialty through the first two games, yet Ray Rice had his way with 101 yards on 20 carries. Add a couple dropped interception opportunities by Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington and this loss falls solely on the defense. From the look of it the Bills will be without their flashy running back, CJ Spiller, for this Sunday’s matchup, so New England should have an easier time defending the run this weekend.

Welker Delivers – While it seemed to take an injury to Julian Edeleman for Wes Welker to get his normal amount of targets, he certainly did not disappoint on Sunday night. Welker had 8 receptions for 142 yards and, in the process, silenced any critics that his production level was beginning to tail off. After the game, Welker deflected questions about his feelings on being on the field for less plays than Julian Edelman for all of last week and the first half of Sunday’s game against the Ravens. This was a wise approach by Wes, as he knows that biting the bait and expressing displeasure will only get him further in the dog house with coach Belichick. Look for Welker to continue to prove his role over the next few weeks, as he is determined to show that he can still play at a high level.

Gronkowski Less Effective – Rob Gronkowski, who was the main attraction to the Patriots high-powered offense last season, seemed to be much less effective without his tight end counterpart, Aaron Hernandez, being out on the field. Defenses will surely focus on double-teaming Gronkowski as long as Hernandez stays on the bench with his injury. This means the likes of Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelmen, and Deion Branch will have to step their game up to make up for their loss in production from the tight end position.

Replacement Refs Steal Spotlight – Last, but certainly not least, the replacement referees found themselves right in the middle of controversy yet again during last night’s game, and this surely does not reflect well on the NFL. Throughout the game there were questionable calls and no-calls by the referees that left players and fans shaking there heads in disbelief. While the NFL has made it clear that they are not going to back down to the old referees under any circumstances, there has to be a point where they notice the product on the field is diminishing and the negative reaction around the game is creating a poor image for the current state of the league. Unless a deal is made in the next few weeks, expect much more backlash in the form of players and coaches expressing displeasure with these referees and their questionable actions on the field.

Top Note – Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith had an inspiring performance with two touchdowns and 127 yards receiving, coming on the same day that his 19 year old brother passed away in a motorcycle accident.

Up Next – The Patriots head to Buffalo to take on the 2-1 Bills.  Kickoff is Sunday afternoon at 1 PM.

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