FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The Ravens are hanging with the high-powered Patriots through the first two quarters of the AFC championship, and trail just 13-10 at halftime.
Here are a few quick-hit notes on the first half of play:
* After an incredibly sluggish start on the offensive side of the ball, the Ravens came alive, scoring 10 points on consecutive drives in the second quarter. After putting up minus-six yards on their first three drives, Baltimore finishes the half with 175 total yards.
* Can we all please show Joe Flacco some love? He’s been beaten down enough in his four-year career, so it’s only fair for us to give him props when he shows up on a big stage. Flacco had a fantastic first half, going 11-of-16 for 162 yards and a touchdown, good for a 122.4 quarterback rating. Just as a comparison, Tom Brady went 14-of-24 for 146 yards and an INT, and has a QB rating of 58.7.
* The Ravens’ linebackers are getting burned in coverage almost every single play. Ray Lewis on Wes Welker is a mismatch. Dannell Ellerbe on Aaron Hernandez is a mismatch. Anyone on Rob Gronkowski is a mismatch. Brady is picking out whichever receiver is in single coverage on a linebacker, and putting the ball right on him.
* It might go unnoticed tomorrow, but Flacco’s third-down hook-up with Dennis Pitta with two minutes left in the second quarter was massive. Facing a third-and-14, Flacco hit Pitta for a 15-yard gain, moving the chains. While the Ravens didn’t score on the drive, the first down allowed them to take another minute off the clock, and when the Pats got the ball with just 58 seconds left, they took a knee. If Brady gets possession with close to two minutes left and two timeouts, you have to believe he’ll give New England a good chance to score again right before the break.
* Baltimore’s rush defense has struggled of late, and the Ravens had their issues defending the run in the first half, allowing 52 yards on the ground. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 50 of those yards on just eight carries.
* I completely agree with John Harbaugh’s decision to kick the field goal early in the second quarter when the Ravens were facing a fourth down and less than a yard. Some might say that you need touchdowns to beat the Patriots, and that’s true, but the Ravens’ short-yardage rushing offense has been poor lately, the Pats were stuffing the run early and it would have been a killer to drive all the way down the field and come away without any points.
* Terrell Suggs needs to step it up in the second half. He got two pressures from what I saw, but Sizzle needs to become more of a force, especially when he sees one-on-one matchups, as he did quite often in the first 30 minutes.