Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday’s game against the Ravens and offers some of his second-quarter observations:
1. One of the factors in the Patriots’ decision to move Vince Wilfork to defensive end was likely the play of ILBs Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes. Both had solid performances against the Ravens, covering up for Gerard Warren, who was playing a new position at nose tackle. Spikes broke multiple blocks to make stops in the first quarter, while Mayo followed in the second quarter by beating guards to make some tackles of his own. Having Wilfork outside and Mayo and Spikes inside balanced out the areas of strength in the Patriots’ run defense and kept them relatively stout across the line throughout the game.
2. The Patriots’ pass rush had some success in the early stages of the game. After OLB Shawn Crable and DL Mike Wright combined on a sack of Ravens QB Joe Flacco late in the first quarter, OLB Jermaine Cunningham beat LT Michael Oher on the first play of the second quarter, stripping Flacco of the ball. He was able to recover his own fumble, but DL Vince Wilfork didn’t let Flacco recover and recorded the sack.
3. However, on the very next play, a six-man rush on third-and-11 was unable to get to Flacco, leaving the Patriots with a single-high safety in coverage and forcing LCB Devin McCourty to play more conservatively. Flacco was able to complete the 14-yard pass to WR Derrick Mason for the first down, although it should be noted that McCourty was easily five yards off his receiver when the throw was made.
4. Patriots DE Brandon Deaderick’s struggles continued as the Ravens approached the end zone on their touchdown drive. On a 5-yard run by RB Ray Rice, Deaderick was double-teamed by RG Chris Chester and RT Marshal Yanda and pushed three yards downfield. Deaderick tried to spin out of the block, putting his back to the runner. A blocker then pushed Deaderick to the ground and out of the way of Rice’s running lane.
5. While the Patriots' struggles to move the ball offensively in the first half could be attributed to a handful of questionable throws on well-defended receivers by QB Tom Brady, the Patriots were also unable to establish a consistent running game in the half. One example of this came on a Danny Woodhead run on second-and-2 in the second quarter. On the play, LT Matt Light and RT Sebastian Vollmer both could not contain their assigned defenders, who met in the backfield to stop Woodhead for no gain. On the Patriots’ next possession, Woodhead was held to a one-yard gain after Vollmer could again not corral OLB Jarret Johnson. Two plays later, DL Haloti Ngata beat center Dan Koppen to sack Brady and force a punt.