Strategy: It took a ton of wise decisions to triumph in the instant classic.
Personnel: With rookie
What went right: Flacco used a precise touch on two touchdowns to a streaking
What went wrong: The kick coverage was horrendous, allowing
Turning point: Running past
X-factor: Reed had zero impact, reacting slowly and breaking up none of Manning's 43 passes. Now, the 34-year-old former
Strategy: The Patriots, the league's highest-scoring team during the regular season, use their versatile offensive personnel in a variety of formations. They are running the ball more than they did in recent years, and quarterback Tom Brady is precise in the short and intermediate passing game. They keep the pressure on opposing defenses by often going with an up-tempo no-huddle offense. Defensively, they have a base 4-3 scheme, but they are blitzing more often and playing more man coverage than they did when the Ravens beat them in Week 3.
Personnel: Brady has one-of-a-kind weapons in shifty slot receiver
What went right: Brady and the Patriots dominated one of the NFL's best defenses. Keeping the Texans off balance with the no-huddle and an assortment of formations within their standard personnel groupings, Brady threw for 344 yards and three touchdowns, and the Patriots as a team rushed for 122 yards and two scores. They averaged 7.0 yards per play. The Texans had no answer for Welker, who had eight catches for 131 yards. The Patriots started to pull away from the Texans in the second half, forcing them to get away from their strength, which was running the ball. The defense played particularly well on third down, allowing the Texans to convert just four times.
What went wrong: Their kickoff coverage struggled as
Turning point: The Texans scored 10 points in the final two minutes of the first half to pull within four points, but the Patriots pulled away for good with a seven-play, 69-yard touchdown drive to open the second half. The key play was a short completion to Hernandez, who cut upfield and weaved through the Texans for a 40-yard gain. Ridley scored on a run two plays later.
X-factor: Losing Gronkowski will hurt the Patriots, but they still have another matchup-busting tight end in Hernandez, whom the Ravens may not be able to cover with a linebacker or safety in man-to-man. Much like the way the Ravens use Pitta, the Patriots move Hernandez all over the field, from the backfield to out wide, but he is most effective out of the slot. Against the Texans, Hernandez caught six passes for 85 yards. He has 20 touchdowns in 43 career games.