Quick-hit thoughts after 3rd quarter

January, 22, 2012
1/22/12
5:27
PM ET
RavensDavid Butler II/US PresswireTorrey Smith reaches out to give the Ravens their first lead on a 29-yard pass play.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts after the third quarter of the AFC Championship Game (New England trails 20-16):

1. The red zone has been a big story of the game. The Patriots were held to a field goal on their opening drive of the third quarter after advancing to the Ravens’ 6. On the day, the Ravens have held the Patriots to three field goals and one touchdown in four red-zone trips.

2. Could be a big loss with tight end Rob Gronkowski leaving with an injury. Safety Bernard Pollard, who Patriots fans know well from his involvement in plays in which Tom Brady and Wes Welker tore ACLs, was in on the tackle on the play Gronkowski was hurt. It didn't look good as Gronkowski needed help coming off the field and went back to the locker room with the medical staff.

3. Watching quarterback Tom Brady jawing with linebacker Ray Lewis after a QB rush. Classic stuff between two of the game’s greats.

4. A missed tackle by cornerback Sterling Moore, on a quick pass to receiver Torrey Smith, led to Smith’s 29-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Moore has to make that tackle. There was no safety help behind him. The Patriots were in a nickel defense with Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung at safety, with Moore, Julian Edelman and Antwaun Molden at cornerback.

5. Third-down defense hurt the Patriots on the Ravens’ first possession of the half, which culminated in the 29-yard touchdown catch-and-run by Smith. The Ravens converted third-and-11 and third-and-6 situations, and the Smith touchdown came on third-and-4.

6. The kickoff return unit has been one of the Patriots' bigger disappointments this season, ranking 29th in the NFL in terms of average per return. The unit contributed one of the biggest mistakes of the day when Danny Woodhead lost a fumble after the Ravens' touchdown to go ahead 17-16. The defense helped limit the damage by holding the Ravens to a field goal, with safety James Ihedigbo darting through to register a sack on third down. Huge defensive stop there.

7. Turnovers today -- Patriots 2, Ravens 0. Winning the turnover battle, and winning in the red zone battle has been a winning formula for the Ravens to this point.

8. Linebacker Brandon Spikes got away with a cheap shot on right guard Marshall Yanda after pushing Yanda when the play had been whistled dead after a false start. The Patriots were fortunate there.

9. In the first half, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was on for eight plays and he rushed on each of them. That trend continued with four rushes on his first four snaps of the second half, before he lined up as an outside receiver on the Patriots’ first drive of the second half to break the streak.

10. More handoffs and pitches out of the backfield for tight end Aaron Hernandez. Those are coming out of the 3 WR/2 TE package, which as the Patriots want to make the Ravens respect the threat of a run even without a pure running back in the game.

11. Cornerback Kyle Arrington, who left the game late in the second quarter with an eye injury, has not returned.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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