Picked-up pieces from reviewing the second quarter of the New England Patriots’ 41-7 win against the Ravens:
1. Last week, there were some questions about the Patriots lining cornerback Aqib Talib up on the inside part of the field, perhaps because there was some concern with how well he was running. But our hunch that it was game-plan specific seemed to be confirmed when Talib was back on the outside in this game and was running stride for stride with the likes of Jacoby Jones (incomplete pass, long bomb, 12:45 remaining).
2. Cornerback Kyle Arrington, who played one of his better games of the season, nicely executed a timely corner blitz call from coordinator Matt Patricia to bring down Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (12:37 remaining). While Arrington deserves credit for making the play, it also looked like a blocking breakdown by the Ravens, who didn’t slide to the right and had three offensive linemen blocking two rushers, allowing Arrington to come off the left side untouched.
3. Rookie left guard Josh Kline drew the illegal hands to the face penalty on defensive tackle Arthur Jones, hanging tough in a one-on-one matchup in his first career start. On the next play, Kline had his hands full with Haloti Ngata, who drove him back and got his hands up to bat down a Tom Brady pass.
4. On the third-and-9 play in which Tom Brady was sacked for the first time (8:38 remaining), the Ravens came with a five-man blitz, and it looked like they won every matchup, even with running back Brandon Bolden staying in as a sixth blocker. A play like that served as a reminder as to why it was so important for the Patriots to be balanced, make a commitment to the running game, and avoid being too pass-happy.
5. Why is Matthew Slater a Pro Bowl special teamer? His tackle on punt returner Jacoby Jones (8:21 remaining) is one example. Slater worked away from a double-team at the line of scrimmage (Chykie Brown/Jeromy Miles) and outran everyone up the middle of the field, located the ball, took a perfect angle and broke down perfectly from a full-sprint to bring down Jones after just 2 yards -- fighting through a stiff-arm. It doesn’t get any better than that. As for his post-tackle celebration, in which he motioned as if he was shoveling dirt multiple times before kicking his leg in the air, Slater said after the game it was a little something special for his guys.
6. Random thought: A little bit of a baptism by fire going on with second-year defensive tackle Sealver Siliga, who hung tough in a tough matchup against right guard Marshal Yanda, one of the better players at his position. One of the things we like about Siliga is that he generally plays with good leverage, holds his ground, and seems to have a little bit of a knack for being able to locate the ball and shed (7:16 remaining, Ray Rice 3-yard run). At 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, he’s a bigger body who has seemed to seize his extended opportunity in recent weeks.
7. More struggles for right tackle Marcus Cannon, who after missing two blocks in the first quarter, was penalized for a false start and later a hold on Ngata.
8. A good example of Brady checking out of a play and getting the Patriots into a play that had a higher probability for success came on LeGarrette Blount's 9-yard run (1:21 remaining). The Patriots had their two-tight-end package on the field, the Ravens countered with a nickel defense, and that’s a matchup you’d like to think you can win on offense in the running game. Brady called an “alert” and the Patriots powered through the Ravens for a 9-yard gain. So while the zone run was a key part of the Patriots’ ground-based approach, there was also some straight-ahead power.
9. Not quite sure why center Ryan Wendell was penalized for a false start on fourth-and-2 (25 seconds remaining). Wendell bobbed his head, which is allowed, but the umpire seemed to think he was making a movement to induce an offside penalty. But that is usually how the Patriots operate out of the shotgun as part of their communication. On a day when the referees were a bigger part of the action than desired, this penalty was a good example of it.