What's the biggest takeaway from Sunday's game that the Patriots can use as they head to the playoffs?
Rick: The biggest takeaway for the Patriots going into the playoffs from last week's win was their use of the run game. I like how the Patriots relied upon LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley in this game. With Shane Vereen's groin injury, New England's offense needs to take a different approach. When you have multiple running backs that average over four yards per carry, you have to put them to good use. In January, it is all about who plays the most physical style of football. Even with all the injuries, the Patriots can use the running game to set up the play action and give Tom Brady more time in the pocket. Yes, fans don't like when Brady only completes 50% of his passes and throws for less than 200 yards. However, could that actually be the formula for Patriots' playoff success? We shall see!
Jason: It was huge for this team to beat a quality team on the road even after suffering so many injuries. Given the extraordinary number of stars that have gone down this year, the Patriots have to feel like they are playing with house money. And the most important thing in the playoffs is getting positive momentum. It's not the best team that wins in January; it's the hottest team. If they can finish strong in Week 17, they can build confidence and momentum at a time when both are desperately needed.
Raj: Scoring points early. Honestly, we all love the mini heart attacks we get watching comebacks. But scoring a lot of points early has been tough for the Patriots and when they did that in Baltimore, they were motivated to keep going and possibly ran up the score. I would hope to see more of that because if they do that, then both the offense and defense are motivated to respectively score more and defend those big leads.
Derek: I think the Patriots need to continue to focus on having success in the run game, particularly once things get tight in the red zone. Last Sunday, the Patriots threw caution into the wind, handed the ball to their fumble-prone rushers, and drove the ball right into the teeth of the Ravens' defense. Not only did they have success, but they opened the door for play-action from Brady. When the running game is going, Brady ends up being at his best. The Patriots are going to need to sustain their ground game through the post-season to give themselves their best shot at the Lombardi.