After a disappointing loss in Week 2, Baltimore's defense bounced back, producing timely fourth-quarter turnovers that sealed Sunday's victory over New England.
Top draft pick Kyle Hamilton made a heads-up play, stripping the ball away from Nelson Agholor to force a fumble that was recovered by Marcus Peters. Marlon Humphrey had a fourth-quarter interception, then Peters sealed the 37-26 victory with another pick.
It was a major response by a Baltimore defense that was forced to do some soul-searching after giving up 28 points in the fourth quarter in Week 2 against the Miami Dolphins and squandering a 21-point fourth-quarter lead. But with the game on the line against New England, the Ravens' defense took charge with takeaways.
Inside linebacker Josh Bynes, who also had an interception in the second half, said the defense tuned out all the criticism after last week and just focused on doing its job.
"For us, it was just making sure we fight to the end, to make sure we finish the right way," Bynes said. "We wanted to give the ball back to the offense as much as possible. It's about overcoming adversity. This league, and this business, is all about adversity and how you overcome it. You can't let last week get to you, otherwise it's going to take you down. I think the guys did a really good job just taking this week as it is."
Humphrey had the first interception of the fourth quarter, chasing down an errant throw by quarterback Mac Jones in the corner of the end zone. It was a poor decision by Jones on third-and-goal, as he threw the ball up for grabs after being pressured by Baltimore's blitz. Instead of making sure he threw the ball out of play, Jones gave Humphrey a chance to make a play and he didn't squander it.
"It was tough last week knowing our offense scored that many points and in the fourth quarter, the defense just could not get a stop – touchdown after touchdown after touchdown," Humphrey said. "For us to have these big plays at the end, it's huge. It's a confidence boost and a pride thing that we can be this defense."
Then Hamilton made perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game, permanently changing the momentum in Baltimore's favor. The Ravens were still clinging to a 31-26 lead when Jones connected with Nelson Agholor on a crossing pattern that sent Agholor running down the middle of the field for a potential big gain.
However, Hamilton showed presence of mind and hustle by chasing Agholor and punching the ball from his grasp. As the ball rolled toward the sideline, Peters made the recovery at Baltimore's 27-yard line, giving the football back to the Ravens with just over 5 ½ minutes left to play.
Forcing a turnover at a key moment should serve as a confidence boost to Hamilton, the 14th-overall pick, who bounced back from a disappointing performance against the Dolphins.
"Kyle Hamilton with the effort play, knocks the ball out, Marcus Peters with the unbelievable recovery on the sideline of the fumble," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "Those are plays -- they're just great football plays."
"He's a young guy and he wants to make plays, because he knows he's gifted," veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell said. "I think this one feels good because you can get that monkey off your back and get that first big play that was huge."
That play set up the Ravens' final touchdown drive, a 75-yard march that gave Baltimore an 11-point lead. Now the Patriots had no choice but to throw, and under duress, Jones threw another errant pass that was picked off by Peters, the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback whose 32 career interceptions are the NFL's most since he entered the league in 2015. In his second game back from last year's knee injury, Peters nabbed two takeaways.
Peters, Humphrey and Hamilton continued to show that the Ravens' secondary has the ability to produce turnovers that can swing games in Baltimore's favor. The Ravens couldn't afford to lose another fourth-quarter lead after their demise in Week 2, and this time the defense made sure the outcome was in their favor.
"There is no better (seed) than adversity," Harbaugh said. "Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss contains its own seed, its lesson on how to improve your performance next time. That's Malcolm X. That's the lesson to me."