Skip to main content

Injuries and Patriots Too Much for Ravens' Run Defense

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris gains yardage against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris gains yardage against the Baltimore Ravens in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Foxborough, Mass.

On a wet night in New England, injuries poured in for the Ravens and played into the Patriots' hands.

The defense was hit hardest with nose tackle Brandon Williams (ankle) leaving the game early during a 23-17 loss to the Patriots. That further depleted a defensive unit that was already without defensive tackle Calais Campbell (calf), cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) and linebacker L.J. Fort (finger).

Williams left the game in the first quarter and the Ravens struggled to stop the run without him. The Patriots controlled the game on the ground, rushing for 173 yards and averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Baltimore's run defense improved in the fourth quarter after the Patriots had built a 23-10 lead, but it was too late. Patriots running back Damien Harris had 121 yards on 22 carries, as his offensive line provided him with gaping holes to run through.

The Ravens were coming off a strong defensive performance in Week 9 against the Indianapolis Colts, when Fort and Marlon Humphrey didn't play and Campbell was injured in the first quarter. But New England had its way on the ground Sunday night, and the Ravens did not use injuries as an excuse.

Harbaugh said Baltimore expected the Patriots to be run-heavy, and the Ravens' early injuries and weather played even more into that.

"It wasn't any scheme thing," Harbaugh said. "On the inside runs, those are just plays where you've got to play better. That's not something that we are okay with at all. We might have lined up in a different front a few times in the second half. We might have moved a guy here and there. Those are just adjustments that we made but those aren't keys.

"The keys are how you play the runs. The fronts that we played in the first half were good fronts to stop those runs. They shouldn't have come through there like they did. They were pretty consistently getting four and five yards on first down when they ran those inside plays in the first half."

Baltimore's run defense has struggled before without Williams. In Week 6 when he was on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, the Philadelphia Eagles ran for 194 yards on 18 carries. When Williams did not play against the Cleveland Browns last year in Week 4, the Browns rushed for 193 yards.

The Patriots' success in the running game took pressure off quarterback Cam Newton (13 for 17, 118 yards, one touchdown) and it kept him away from obvious passing situations. The Patriots didn't throw much because they didn't have to, and they rarely had to face the Ravens' blitz packages. Baltimore will need to improve its run defense even if some of their starters remain out of the lineup.

"Whoever is in the game needs to play to a standard," outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. "When we let up that many rushing yards from a team, that's unacceptable. We're going to get on film and get it fixed. If a team runs the ball like that, you usually lose."

Next up for the Ravens (6-3) is a Sunday home game against the Tennessee Titans, led by running back Derrick Henry, who rushed for 195 yards against the Ravens in the playoffs last season. That will shed more light on where Baltimore's run defense stands.

"We're going to have to get to the film and figure it out," Judon said. "In the fourth quarter, we kind of stopped some stuff. But we were just kind of patching up the bleeding, because they were hitting us with a lot of runs early.

"It doesn't matter who we have in there. It doesn't matter who we're playing. We're going to continue to fight and put our best effort forward. We have seven games left, and our record is what our record is. If we want to change it, we have to change it in the locker room, and it starts probably on the plane – watching this film, being critical of ourselves and being real with ourselves."

Related Content