Three things we learned in the Patriots' 31-30 loss to Baltimore Sunday night:
Time to replace the replacements
The replacement referees had a big hand in a number of big plays in the fourth quarter, but it still all came down to the Patriots defense and the Ravens offense. Baltimore received ball deep in its own end, down 30-28, with one timeout and less than two minutes to go. After a couple of big completions, Joe Flacco took a chance deep down the sidelines to Jacoby Jones. Devin McCourty was called for pass interference, and all it took was a Baltimore chip shot field goal (that barely founds it's way inside the right goalpost) to win it as time expired. Ravens, 31-30.
The Patriots went into Baltimore with the underdog label attached to them, but taking a look at how things started off, New England wasn't buying it. The Pats jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, temporarily shell-shocking the Ravens in their home stadium. Undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden scored the team's first touchdown on a two-yard run set up by a Steven Gregory interception of Joe Flacco that was returned back to the Ravens' six-yard line. But Baltimore snapped out of it in the second quarter, erasing the Pats lead with two touchdowns. New England would get the last laugh before halftime though, as Brady found the team's new favorite weapon - Julian Edelman - for a score.
Defense? What defense?
Through the first two games, New England's defense was a major bright spot. It looks like the bright lights of Sunday Night Football got to them a bit this time around though, as the Pats were sharp early on, but let Baltimore pick away at them in the second and third quarters. The Ravens had not one, not two, but three touchdown drives of 80-plus yards or more. That's certainly not going to cut it. But the Ravens' staunch defense was nowhere to be found either. The Patriots made two touchdown drives of 80-plus yards themselves in the second and third quarters. It became clear that the low-scoring, defensive battle we envisioned wasn't happening.