BALTIMORE -- I don't know if Philadelphia gave the rest of the NFL a blueprint to beating New England eight days ago, and, frankly, I don't care. But what I do know is that the Baltimore Ravens just gave the league something more.
They gave it hope.
By pushing the Patriots to a last-minute, come-from-behind 27-24 victory, the Ravens demonstrated that bulletproof New England is not.
|Tom Brady found himself in some unusual positions Monday. (AP)|
OK, so the bottom line is: New England won, and that's all that matters. Fair enough.
But let's look at what we're talking about here: A month ago, we had talking heads across America lining up to nominate the Patriots as one of the best -- if not THE best -- teams in football history.
Now, we have that same New England club pushed to the mat in successive weeks by backup quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Kyle Boller.
In both instances, opponents controlled the football with prolonged drives -- a sign that maybe the Patriots' defense isn't as sound as we imagined or that age finally is catching up with the linebackers.
Baltimore, in particular, drove the ball on them again and again with Willis McGahee as the Ravens controlled the line of scrimmage. When it was over, McGahee had a season-best 138 yards rushing, and the Ravens wound up with 166.
"I felt that this was the first time all year that we got bullied," said New England safety Rodney Harrison. "We can't allow teams to run the ball and pound it like that. There are times this is a 'man-a-mano' battle, and they were winning it. Tonight's game showed we have a lot of problems."
I wouldn't go that far, but what Monday's victory demonstrated was that New England isn't impregnable -- and that's where the hope comes in.
This is the time of year when clubs start accelerating to the playoffs, making a push to play their best down the stretch. Only in New England, the Patriots just put together two lackluster performances.
Sure, the Eagles and Ravens played exceedingly well, but look at what we're talking about: These are two losing clubs going nowhere, with the Ravens caught in a six-game slide. If there were gimmes on the schedule, these should have been them.