Roche: Patriots A Different Team This Time Around
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FOXBORO (CBS) – As soon as the Baltimore Ravens topped the Houston Texans Sunday to advance to the AFC Championship game, Patriot fans hearkened back to January 2010.
And with not so good thoughts.
That’s because the Ravens came into Gillette Stadium and blew away the Pats to the tune of 33-14 in an AFC playoff match-up. Tom Brady and company gift-wrapped a 24-0 lead in the first quarter for the Ravens as Brady threw two picks (three overall for the day) while the Pats also added a fumble. Ray Rice set the tone for Baltimore too by scampering 83 yards for a TD on the first play from scrimmage.
Read: Dan Roche’s Sports Blog
All in all, it was not a good day. And, it was a shocking day for those in attendance as the Pats were at home and came in with a 6-0 mark all-time against the Ravens.
Meanwhile, the Ravens bring a lot of the same players from that game into Sunday’s AFC Title tilt: Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Ray Rice, and Joe Flacco, to name a few.
As for the Patriots, I think the cast this time around is much more balanced than what we saw that day.
On offense, Tom Brady was playing in his first season after tearing up his knee and wasn’t the same player. Add in a vicious Baltimore pass rush and I’m sure Brady was a little on edge.
Randy Moss was the only real weapon Brady had as Wes Welker’s season had ended the week before in the regular season finale in Houston, where he tore up his knee. That left Julian Edelman and Sam Aiken to go with Moss. The tight end was Chris Baker, while the running backs were Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and Fred Taylor. Yikes.
Tom Brady’s cast is much different this time around as he has the league’s most dangerous weapons at tight end in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Add to that a healthy Wes Welker as well as Deion Branch, Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis, Steven Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and to lesser degrees Faulk, Edelman, and Chad Ochocinco.
On defense, the Patriots featured a somewhat strange cast. Vince Wilfork was the staple in the middle, but you also had an aging Junior Seau, an angry Adalius Thomas, Derrick Burgess, Brandon Meriweather, etc. You still had some solid players such as Jerod Mayo, James Sanders, Ty Warren, and Tully Banta-Cain, though.
However, those pieces just didn’t mesh.
I feel like the current cast of Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Gerard Warren, Shaun Ellis, Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Pat Chung, and James Ihedigbo have come together and are making plays when they need to.
Of course, all this may mean is that we get a much closer game than last time around. However, I do think that the Patriots will find a way to prevail Sunday. And, the biggest reason I feel that way is because of number 12. Brady looks like a locked in man on a mission. He’s got the weapons and if he gets the protection from Matt Light, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Brian Waters, Nate Solder and co. then I feel there’s no way he loses this game.
Should be fun to watch it unfold Sunday afternoon.
Follow WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche on Twitter: @RochieWBZ