The Patriots, realizing that Talib would not be returning, and cognizant of the way Baltimore’s Torrey Smith had torched Denver’s Champ Bailey one week prior, switched to a very conservative zone scheme that left the middle of the field wide-open. The Ravens, meanwhile, were well aware that Talib was out of the picture, and they opened the playbook and put the game in Flacco’s hands. In the first half, the Ravens had more runs (14) than passing plays (13), but they opened the second half with 25 passes and eight runs before adding 11 runs (and no passes) on their last two clock-killing drives. New England’s strategy slowed Flacco down, but they couldn’t keep him out of the end zone. He only averaged 10.6 yards per completion after halftime, but he also threw touchdowns on three straight drives. The first step for the Patriots is re-signing Talib in free agency, but even if they get that done, it’s not enough. As more and more teams use three wide receivers in their base offense, it’s going to be critical that teams have at least three starting-caliber cornerbacks on their roster.

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