- Tedy Bruschi, Columnist, ESPN.com
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Observations from the Patriots' 27-21 win over the Ravens at Gillette Stadium:
1. The Welker effect: Tom Brady's problem-solver returned to the lineup today and the offensive impact was evident. The various blitz looks that the Baltimore Ravens attempted to run were nullified by the quick route adjustments Welker made. His six receptions for 48 yards were modest numbers at best, but it was Welker's ability to get open versus tight man coverage and to recognize soft spots in Baltimore's zone that made the biggest difference today.
2. Wake-up call to Galloway: With no injury reported during the week and a game-time deactivation, the message sent to wide receiver Joey Galloway was clear: If you don't get on board, the train is leaving without you. The problems with the veteran receiver have been obvious during the past two weeks. Dropped balls and miscommunication with Tom Brady has earned the wideout a spot on the bench. Veteran Sam Aiken (one catch, 26 yards) and rookie Julian Edelman (one catch, 12 yards) played in his place. Galloway must attempt to get on the same page as his quarterback or he will be watching from afar for the near future.
3. Defense steps up again: After many wondered if the defense could survive the losses of key veterans in the offseason and an opening-night injury to Jerod Mayo, this unit has stepped up in a huge way. Entering this game, opposing offenses were gaining fewer than 300 yards per game and the much-talked-about Ravens offense, led by quarterback Joe Flacco, put up 363. Mike Wright tallied two sacks, Ty Warren added a huge stop on third-and-1 late in the game and Leigh Bodden picked off Flacco with 1:11 remaining in the second quarter. It was the Patriots' first interception of the year. The defense also added two fourth-down stops, both in the fourth quarter. If the defense continues to play at this level, this team has a legitimate shot at the title.
4. Brady Rule in effect: Three roughing-the-passer calls were made in the game -- two against the Ravens, one against the Patriots. Brady was hit in the face for the Ravens' first infraction, but it was the second one that was cause for concern. Linebacker Terrell Suggs dove at Brady's leg, grazing his thigh. That play should be reviewed by the league. How many New England fans had flashbacks from last year? Flacco was hit in the head by Mike Wright for the other infraction.
5. Pats running backs: This was a big day for the Patriots' running backs. Up against the best defense in the NFL against the run, the Patriots still made an effort to run the ball, with Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and Laurence Maroney combining to rush for 85 yards on 30 carries. Not impressive numbers, but it kept the Ravens' defense honest. There were defining moments in the game that were won by the Patriots on the ground. With 27 seconds left in the first quarter, the Patriots were faced with a fourth-and-1. Morris bulled up the middle and met All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis in the hole and fell forward for a first down. To finish the drive, Tom Brady took a quarterback sneak into the teeth of the Ravens' defense and pushed forward for a touchdown. These two plays sent a message to the Ravens that the Patriots were just as physical as they were.
6. Real men wear pink: The last point on this week's game was added by my wife, Heidi Bruschi, who felt compelled to say thank you to the NFL: "Hats off to the NFL for teaming up with the American Cancer Society to form "Crucial Catch" in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. It takes a real man to strap on his shoulder pads and lace up his pink cleats for a battle on the gridiron. It was refreshing to see so many coaches and players take part in the campaign, to see celebrity QBs wearing pink gloves and high-flying receivers like Randy Moss and Chad Ochocinco sprinting down the sideline leaving a pink blur in their wake. There's something special about a 300-pound lineman who dons bright pink sweatbands to honor the hundreds of thousands of women affected by this disease each year. The NFL seems to be showing its affection for the ever-increasing number of female fans of this sport. As a player's wife for 13 seasons, a fan of the game for life and a daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I'd like to thank the NFL for making pink its team color this month."
Tedy Bruschi played 13 seasons for the New England Patriots and is a member of the franchise's 50th Anniversary team.
Thoughts on Sunday's Patriots victory, including Wes Welker's return.