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Ravens beat up Brady, open floor to questions about once-powerful Pats

by | National NFL Insider
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was no better example of how Tom Brady and the New England offense was completely discombobulated against the Ravens than the end of one of Brady's several awkward scrambles. Brady extended his right leg, kicking it aggressively high, and whipped it into the right knee area of Baltimore's Ed Reed.

Brady scrambling is like an elephant on a skateboard. There are limbs and elbows and wristbands flailing awkwardly. But Brady going Ty Cobb on Reed was a sign of frustration, not clumsiness. If any other quarterback did such a thing, he would be called dirty.

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Brady and the entire Patriots offense were out of sorts in what was almost a shocking 28-13 loss in the AFC Championship Game to Baltimore. Not shocking that New England lost, shocking that they had their rear ends so physically kicked.

Then again, the Ravens were angry coming into this game, and continued to be after it. On his way to the locker room after the victory Baltimore's Terrell Suggs screamed: "Tell them to have fun at the Pro Bowl, arrogant f------."

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said, "Taking a loss like this makes you question how long you want to play, but I'll get over it."

Few Patriots teams in the Bill Belichick-Brady Era have been beaten up this badly and, yes, intimidated. Flat-out intimidated. New England's offensive line was manhandled, particularly up the middle, leading Brady to hurried and panicked throws, and forcing some of those awkward scrambles.

At one point, Brady, one of the greatest competitors in the history of the NFL, looked slumped and defeated. It was the kind of body language normally displayed by Mark Sanchez. But that is what constant kidney shots will do to man.

"The name of the game is execution," said Brady, later adding, "They kept the pressure on and we just didn't stand up to the challenge."

That could be shortened to: Brady couldn't stand up.

In the most violent game of these playoffs, there was brutal hit after brutal hit. Wes Welker took his normal level of physical abuse but everyone on New England's offense took his turn in the Octagon. On one play, Patriots running back Stevan Ridley was knocked out by safety Bernard Pollard. Ridley was unconscious before he hit the ground.

With 6:49 left, following a healthy Welker gain, the Ravens again got a huge push in Brady's face. This time it was defensive end Pernell McPhee, who got his hand up, tipping the pass, and the Ravens picked it off. Game over.

The Ravens have a way of beating the snot out of many teams, but seem to save their best haymakers for the Patriots. Since 2008, the Patriots have had 13 turnovers in seven playoff games, with nine of those turnovers forced by Baltimore.

The Patriots didn't choke. They were choked out.

When Brady lights up a defense, he gets deserved credit. But in addition to the physicality of this contest, Brady was way off. It was one of the worst big games he's ever played.

Brady's legacy as an all-time great is secure, but this game definitely does some damage to the narrative that he's a big-game thrower. Doesn't destroy it, yet the evidence is undeniable.

 This is the second straight AFC title game where Joe Flacco outplayed Brady.

 Brady his past two Super Bowls as a favorite.

 He is now 7-7 in his past 14 playoff games after starting 10-0.

 Since last winning the Super Bowl in 2004 the Patriots have won 15 playoff games but zero Super Bowls.

 Before Sunday, Brady was 67-0 when leading at halftime; New England led 13-7 at the half.

 The last time the Patriots were held to under two touchdowns was Week 2 of the 2009 season against the New York Jets.

All this, of course, leads to the elephant in the room, an elephant Suggs was all too happy to rope around the neck, and bring to the front of the circus. He openly questioned why the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since Spygate.

That's probably unfair, but these are not the same dominant Patriots from those days. That once impermeable clutch gene has disappeared.

With less than two minutes left, Suggs smashed into Brady hard, knocking the quarterback down to the ground. Again.

And starting more questions about the Patriots.

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