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Jerry Ballgame reacts to the AFC Championship and gives us his pick in Super Bowl XLVII.

I could have easily sub-titled this post as the “eating crow” edition, but that was a bit too distasteful. Besides, I was right about just about everything expect the score. Okay, maybe not everything, but my basic premise was sound, and my expectations reasonable. If you were to just look at the stats, you might even be inclined to think the the Patriots were surely the victorious team. Brady was 29/54 for 320 yards, compared to the Joe Flacco‘s 21/36 and 240 yards. In addition, the Pats accumulated 428 yards of total offense, or 72 yards more than Baltimore did. The Ravens did possess the ball more then New England, but only by a little more then two minutes. At the very least, you would have assumed that it was a close game. Well, this is one of those cases that proves why you should never assume too much…

For one thing, the Ravens did a nice job of taking away the middle, forcing Brady to throw wide. Actually, the first red flag that things didn’t go well for the Pats was that Brady threw 54 times, certainly not indicative of  the well-balanced, clock-eating approach that they had been utilizing earlier in the season. Wes Welker did have 8 catches for 117 yards and one TD, but he  also had a crucial third quarter drop. Aaron Hernandez had 9 catches for  catches for 83 yards, and Brandon Lloyd contributed 70 yards on 7 receptions, but was never a deep threat. These are realatively healthy numbers perhaps, but they really didn’t generate any big plays. You do not have to be a full fledged memeber of what the Boston Globe’s Chris Gaspar calls “The Foxboro Faithful”, to know that they badly missed 6’6″ TE Rob Gronkowski. “Gronk” certainly could have been used to open up the middle, and make it more likely that someone would hit the “homerun” to break the game open.

But as well as the Ravens’ defense played, I can’t shake the feeling that it was as much a case of bad karma and poor, mysteriously conservative, thinking and reacting on the Pats part that did them in. I have to believe that every member of the “Faithful” let out  groan when Aqib Talib pulled up lame with a sore hamstring. Up to that point, the New England’s “D” had played Baltimore tough, making it seem possible that the Pats could win a low scoring defensive battle rather then the shootout I was expecting. Talib has become the anchor of the secondary, allowing everyone else to play in the in their most effective position. When he goes down and they start moving people around, you weaken yourself in multiple positions and not just one. Although Kyle Arrington played well in his place, the “D” was decidely less confdent.

In the end, Brady struck an all too familiar pose. (Matthew West/Boston Herald)
In the end, Brady struck an all too familiar pose. (Matthew West/Boston Herald)

I’m also sure the “Faithful” let out a collective, “What the hell?”….with the way Brady handled the closing 20 seconds or so of the first half. It’s disturbing on a number of levels. For one thing, it was the second game in a row where they mishandled the closing moments of the half, and once again, it cost them points. This time it was just plain upsetting to see Brady, one of the best on-his-feet-thinkers the game has known, squander precious seconds that could have led to a late touchdown, and a 17-7 halftime lead. In the way of a refresher course, it was part of the sequence that lead to the awkward slide and apparent attempted “spiking” of Ed Reed. (Maybe he should leave the “spiking” to Gronkowski.)

It was first and goal from the ten, when Brady was forced to run, “sliding” into the five yard line, with about 20 seconds to go in the half. For some reason or another, the Patriots allowed the clock to run until there was only 5 seconds left and they had to settle for a field goal. If they called time right away, they realistically have enough left on the clock to attempt at at least two shots at getting into the end zone. I know I’m counting on a quite a few “if’s” here, but it could have changed the 4th quarter scenario so that with about 7:30 left to play they are only down 21-17, and in a position to score the potential winning TD, while eating up the clock.

Again, I know I’m assuming a great deal here (and still don’t understand their failure to utilize the hurry-up against the Ravens old legs) but to me their failure to manage the clock was inexcusable. There is much that happens in the course of a game you cannot control and can only hope to react to properly. But this was something they should have had a handle on, and-ironically enough- it’s likely to have earned a Super Bowl ring for old friend, Randy Moss. I say he catches at least one touchdown pass, as the ’49ers win, 34-17.

Stay tuned…

Featured image courtesy of: Mike Segar/Reuters

About Jerry Ballgame

The personification of "old school", Jerry Ballgame was born in the shadow of Dr. Naismith's peach basket, and baptized in that "Dirty Water." Designated by his "Uncle" Ted, to keep an eye on things, he's here to tell everyone what his view is like from the Hub of the Universe.