Similarities Between Denver and NE Wins
The drama was reduced, but the game in New England was much like that in Denver.
The Ravens controlled the run effectively, holding the Pats to 3.9 YPC and no run longer than 9 yards (Denver 3.2 YPC, long 11). They did it despite playing nickel for 77 of the 80 contested snaps (Denver 80 of 86).
The Ravens faced a pair of drop back QBs who were both affected by the weather. Manning attempted just 1 pass of 20+ yards in the Denver cold and Brady completed just 1 of 5 such throws with the Foxborough wind. Meanwhile, Flacco was effective in both environs.
The Ravens rushed the passer patiently, but with some effect. The Ravens rushed more than 4 on just 8 of 52 drop backs. In the second half, Brady dropped back 28 times, the Ravens rushed 4 on 27 occasions, and they only had players drop from the line to coverage on 2 of those 27 snaps. The Ravens effectively showed Brady exactly what they would do defensively and Brady was able to complete only 2 passes for more than 13 yards en route to a 21-0 2nd-half shutout. While Manning made 2 mistakes as a direct result of pressure (the sack/fumble on the tuck and Graham’s 2nd INT), the Ravens would all but seal the game on Ellerbe’s interception off McPhee’s late tip (Q4, 6:57).
Both opposing QBs made frequent use of WR screens and short crosses to exploit the Ravens’ perceived coverage weaknesses.
The Ravens played very punishing physical football with each opponent and left each game largely unscathed despite some key opponent injuries that included the starting RB for each team. Personally, both Brady and Manning make every attempt to avoid big hits. In each case, that led to some sub-optimal throws. I think one could make the argument the Patriots receivers were also tentative given the big hits dished out by the Ravens’ defense.
And, of course, both QBs ran up gaudy offensive snap totals which have rarely resulted in losses in playoff history.
I am sure you can come up with many more similarities.
For the full set of defensive notes see: