It’s been a hell of a weekend for the New England Patriots.
About 14 hours after they ended #TebowTime in a Picasso-like performance, the Patriots kicked back and watched as the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans tripped over each other for 60 minutes in the NFL’s version of a finger painting.
Ultimately, Baltimore survived at home. But now the Ravens have to travel to Foxboro after one of their worst performances of the year.
The Ravens got real lucky on Sunday. They beat a depleted Texans team on their third starting quarterback by only seven points despite winning the turnover battle 4-0. They won despite scoring only three points after the first quarter and only six points that didn’t come off of Houston turnovers.
They also recovered three of their own fumbles, took five sacks while registering none and converted only four of 16 third downs.
Turnovers notwithstanding, they were outplayed (at some points badly) by a team whose quarterback — T.J. Yates — posted a passer rating of 28.8 while tossing three interceptions.
That’s because Arian Foster (154 total yards on 32 touches) had the best game a running back’s had against the Ravens in almost two years.
It’s also because the Houston defense (I like to call them Baltimore, Jr.) was superb both in coverage and at the line of scrimmage, applying constant pressure on the statue that was Joe Flacco and stopping the Ravens on a fourth-quarter goal-line stand. Baltimore finished the game with a ridiculous eight three-and-outs, and the numbers would’ve been a lot worse had Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans not bailed Flacco out with highlight-reel catches.
And it’s also because Cam Cameron pulled another Cam Cameron, neglecting the run in important situations and displaying far too much confidence in Flacco, who — let’s face it — is a below-average quarterback regardless of his career postseason win-loss record. Flacco’s now 5-2 in the playoffs, but he’s completed only 53 percent of his passes and still has more picks than touchdowns.
It’s funny. The Texans lost Andre Johnson for a good chunk of this season, and he still wasn’t at full health today. They also haven’t had Mario Williams since Week 5. Those injuries worried Houston fans more than the loss of Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, because this was a team built to survive without its starting quarterback. With Foster and the defense dominating, they could win with anyone under center.
But in the end, Yates was the difference. It’s hard to pile on because it’s hard to expect better from a fifth-round rookie making his seventh-career start on the road in January against a historically intimidating defense. But some of Yates’ decisions Sunday — namely his unnecessary throw into double coverage near the end zone on first down with two minutes on the clock in a seven-point game, which resulted in an easy Ed Reed interception to pretty much wrap it up — made it almost impossible for the Texans to prevail.
The Texans might have at least played spoiler. Reed might be hurt after having to make a play on a ball that wouldn’t have been thrown had Baltimore been able to convert on third-and-short in the final moments.
And now the Patriots might have an even more clear blueprint for how to beat a flawed Baltimore team.