The anticipation was palpable heading into Sunday night, and the result didn’t disappoint. Going up against the defending Super Bowl champs in primetime, the Ravens jumped out to an early lead and handled the New England Patriots, 37-20.
“The Patriots rolled into this perfect, unbeaten, the Ravens simply did not care,” NBC Sports’ Liam McHugh said. “They told anyone who would listen that they had an offense unlike any that the Pats had seen, they had a quarterback unlike anything the Pats had seen and Lamar Jackson went out and backed them up.”
Here are pundits’ takeaways from the win.
Time to Take the Ravens Seriously as Contenders
If you didn’t believe it after the win in Seattle, believe it now – pundits are taking the Ravens seriously as contenders.
“[T]he wider football world will no longer treat the Ravens as a semi-interesting team with an intriguing oddity at quarterback,” The Baltimore Sun’s Childs Walker wrote. “You don’t get to carry on in anonymity after you beat the NFL’s standard-bearer by 17 points after Lamar Jackson outdueled Tom Brady to establish himself as a serious MVP candidate at age 22.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley called it a “landmark” win.
“Baltimore not only showed it belongs in the same class as New England, but the Ravens are threatening the Patriots' hold on the AFC's top seed at the midway point of the season,” Hensley wrote.
The Ravens jumped out to an early 17-0 lead with touchdown runs by Jackson and Gus Edwards in a game that looked like a potential blowout. But Cyrus Jones’ muffed punt completely shifted the momentum of the game as the Patriots scored 13 unanswered points before the half.
“The Ravens, with consecutive wins over Seattle (by 14) and New England (by 17), have wedged their way into the discussion of teams that can play deep into January,” NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote. “You had to respect what Baltimore did in Seattle. But starting this game with drives of 72, 54 and 72 yards, and going up 17-0 on New England? I mean, no team had scored 17 on the Patriots this year. Baltimore did it in 16 minutes.”
Pundits were impressed with how the Ravens answered each blow against a Hall of Fame duo of Brady and Bill Belichick.
“The football wasn’t always that pretty from there on,” Walker wrote. “But the Ravens came back to finish the game with a pair of touchdown drives just as impressive as the first one. They scored 37 points against an unbeaten opponent that had not previously given up more than 14.
“It was the kind of stuff we expect to see from teams that might still be playing come late January. For the first time in seven years, the Ravens have put themselves in that class.”
With the win, the Ravens jump to the No. 2 seed in the AFC as one of the conference’s hottest teams. They’ve won four straight games, two straight against legitimate Super Bowl contenders, and NFL Network’s Deion Sanders is a firm believer the Ravens can compete come January.
“Any inclement that you may get in the playoffs, they can travel,” Sanders said. “The thing is, defensively and schematically, can you come up with a scheme once again to [stop] this Tom Brady-led team? … I don’t know if it’s going to be like this if they had to play this game in New England, but what Baltimore did tonight was let everyone know they are for real.”
King believes the success is sustainable long term. He pointed to the embracing of analytics and the focus on compensatory picks as the building blocks for General Manager Eric DeCosta.
“[T]he addition of Jackson, and DeCosta’s emphasis on the team being built to last, should make Baltimore a contender for a while,” King wrote.
Run Game Gashes Patriots’ Top-Ranked Defense
Heading into Sunday, pundits were anxious to see how Belichick and the Patriots’ defense would defend a Lamar Jackson-led offense. As it turns out, no team has quite figured out that blueprint, despite claims you may have heard after the wild-card loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last season.
“We’re gonna think back in a few years and go, ‘Remember the night that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens’ style of offense took apart the Patriots?’” NBC Sports’ Chris Collinsworth said. “And we’re going to be able to point to QBs in the NFL that got a chance because of this night”
The Ravens rushed for 210 yards and gashed New England’s top-ranked defense.
“You cannot stop that three-headed monster,” Sanders said. “You’ve got a fullback hitting it, now you’ve got a running back hitting it, then you’ve got the read-option and [Jackson] throws off all plays as well.”
On the first play of the second quarter, Mark Ingram II broke a 53-yard run to set up Gus Edwards’ 12-yard touchdown run.
From jet sweeps to option, Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman brought out the entire playbook, and there was nothing gimmicky about it. The Ravens averaged 5.1 yards per carry on the ground playing smash-mouth football.
“Baltimore played a brand of football unlike anything the Patriots have seen all season,” The Athletic’s Nick Underhill wrote. “The Ravens came out intent on setting a tone and letting New England know this was going to be a different kind of game.”
Underhill noted that even when the Patriots stacked the box with three defensive linemen and five linebackers, the Ravens weren’t deterred. Ingram and Jackson broke runs of 14 and 32 yards against that look.
ESPN’s Ryan Clark applauded Head Coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens’ commitment to engineering an offense around Jackson’s strengths.
“When you have a quarterback that can do the things running the football that Jackson can, you just have to buy into it,” Clark said. “You have to say, ‘We’re not going to make you a pocket passer, we’re not going to take these things away from you,’ and that’s exactly what Harbaugh and the Ravens did.”
Take away two kneel-downs at the end of the game, and Jackson rushed 14 times. The Ravens utilized designed quarterback runs, but when it was time for Jackson to make a signature play, he proved there’s really no scheme that can stop him.
But perhaps the biggest advantage of the Ravens’ run game was their ability to sustain long drives. They entered Week 9 leading the NFL in average time of possession (35:15) and dominated the Patriots 37:01 to 22:59 in that category.
Baltimore sustained two 14-play drives of over eight and nine minutes to end the game, and the best defense was the offense keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands.
“They wanted the offense to set the tone and then finish games off, rather than relying on the defense to come up with a late stand,” The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec wrote. “By no means is the offense a finished product, but the midseason returns are better than anybody could have realistically hoped. The Ravens currently lead the league in points per game (31.4), and they’re second to the Dallas Cowboys in yards per game (427). They’re also first in rushing yards per game (204.9).”
Pass Rush Hits Its Stride Against Brady
For the Ravens’ defense to be successful against Brady, the pass rush needed to get to him in the pocket. Baltimore sacked Brady just twice, but recorded 10 quarterback hits and racked up consistent pressure throughout the four quarters.
“The Patriots combated the Ravens’ pass-rush somewhat at times with a quick passing game, but Baltimore came up with pressure in key moments,” Pro Football Focus wrote. “You have to tip your cap to the Ravens’ defensive staff after this one, as they schemed up blitzes on multiple occasions that resulted in an unblocked pass-rusher pressuring Brady.”
Brady uses quick releases and gets the ball out of his hands before pass rushers even have a chance to touch him.
But the Ravens were still able to have success. They forced an intentional grounding penalty, and Matthew Judon’s hit on Brady forced an overthrow into the hands of Earl Thomas III.
The pass rush has been a concern throughout the season, but they’ve stepped up the last two weeks.
Pundits like Ravens Wire’s Matthew Stevens believe that bodes well for Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale’s unit going up against the Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers in the coming weeks.
“You really have to give Martindale a lot of credit,” Collinsworth said. “Think of all the signature front seven players we’ve seen over the years with the Ravens. Now, this team is built around the secondary and they are tremendous.”
Nick Boyle Is One of the Ravens’ ‘Criminally Underrated’ Assets
It took five seasons, but Nick Boyle finally got it. The tight end scored his first career touchdown on a 5-yard catch in the fourth quarter as he was swarmed by teammates in the end zone.
Boyle got his much-deserved moment, but it’s been his play, particularly as a blocker, that’s made him a “criminally underrated” asset to the Ravens.
There’s a reason Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris called Boyle a glorified guard playing tight end.
“Boyle is known for his blocking prowess but it’s often easy to forget just how important he is to the team’s offensive success,” Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko wrote. “Boyle made several key blocks throughout Sunday night’s contest and was laying dudes out at times ...The Patriots clearly made an effort to take Jackson’s top receiving target - Mark Andrews - out of the game, and Boyle stepped up.”
- We are all Judon.
- Jackson spoke with NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico about the influence his mom has had on his football career.