Five thoughts on the Ravens' 37-20 win over the New England Patriots Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium:
If you have the Patriots down and don't put them away, you usually regret it. Well, the Ravens had the Patriots down, way down, early in this game, and committed the ultimate no-no of making mistakes that let the reigning Super Bowl champions back into the game. Uh, oh. You knew why the fans, who had been rocking the joint, went quiet. They'd seen this movie before. But the movie ended quite differently this time. The Ravens kept their poise, never gave up the lead and pulled away to win because, in the end, Lamar Jackson's offense was more dynamic than Tom Brady's offense – markedly so. The Patriots came in unbeaten, led by a stout defense that had allowed next to nothing all season, but they left town looking quite human, as simply the latest team to be dazzled by Jackson's running and passing. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh put it so well last week: "For those paying attention, something special is going on, and it's happening here in Baltimore." Indeed, by winning their last two games against the Seahawks and Patriots, the Ravens have earned the right to set their sights as high as sights can go.
The buzz before the game centered on how the Patriots' top-ranked defense would try to defend Jackson, who has proved too much for so many teams in 2019. What did the Patriots do? Let's call it the "kitchen sink" approach. They mixed coverages and fronts, brought pressure from different angles, focused a "spy" defender on him on many plays – tried pretty much everything. "Nobody does it better than they do," Harbaugh said. That may be true, but Jackson easily won the battle. He rushed for 61 yards and generated a triple-digit quarterback rating as the Baltimore offense moved so steadily that it possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes. It almost scored an early knockout, putting up 17 points in the game's first 17 minutes as Jackson and Mark Ingram II ran wild behind a dominating offensive line. But the most impressive part of the offense's night came late, after the Patriots had cut the lead to four (24-20) and a comeback win seemed possible. The Ravens' offense refused to let it happen, generating two 14-play touchdown drives of 81 and 68 yards that took up more than eight and nine minutes, respectively. Jackson said he was ready for whatever the Patriots threw at him. "We have a good coaching staff," he shrugged. The fans were chanting "M-V-P" in the final minutes, and that's no longer a long shot by any means.
The Ravens' defense got off to a great start, making three stops as Baltimore jumped out to a big lead early, but once the Patriots' offense got going in hurry-up mode, it moved the ball steadily with its familiar array of crossing routes, screens and draws – short plays that Tom Brady has mastered. But though it yielded, the Baltimore defense didn't give in by any means. It mustered an energetic pass rush that produced 10 quarterback hits and a pair of sacks. It generated two turnovers, including a game-changing fumble return for a touchdown by Marlon Humphrey. (Yes, that's two in two games for him.) Most importantly, the defense stiffened in the red zone, twice forcing the Patriots to settle for field goals. That may have been the difference in the game, as the Ravens went 4-for-4 in the red zone. It wasn't a lockdown outing for the defense, but no one should expect that against Brady. Marcus Peters, Patrick Onwuasor and Humphrey were the unit's top tacklers, Matthew Judon amassed almost half of the quarterback hits (four) and Earl Thomas III was all over the field.
The Ravens made mistakes, no doubt. Cyrus Jones muffed a punt, which led to a New England touchdown. Ingram lost a fumble, which led to a New England field goal. "But they made some mistakes, too," Harbaugh said of the Patriots. That was true and quite surprising, as the Patriots are famous for NOT beating themselves. But they had a hand in their demise Sunday night. It started early, when the Ravens seemed set to settle for a field goal on their first possession. The Patriots' Shilique Calhoun committed a neutral-zone infraction, giving the Ravens a first down. Jackson ran for a touchdown on the next play. Ouch. That was the first of four first downs the Ravens would achieve by way of a New England penalty. The final two came on the Ravens' late drive that clinched the game, enabling the Baltimore offense to retain possession. Throw in the Julian Edelman fumble that Humphrey ran back for a touchdown and you've got a night of key miscues by the Patriots. The Ravens won't complain.
Short takes – Thomas provided the quote of the night when asked how it felt to pick off Brady. "It's not my first time," he replied … The Patriots came in well below their league-leading scoring average of 31.3 points … Although a fumble marred his night, Ingram was a serious headache for the Patriots with 144 rushing and receiving yards on 17 touches … I'm not sure if the Ravens' players were more excited about winning or the fact that veteran tight end Nick Boyle scored the first touchdown of his career. It came on a night when he led the team in receptions with five … Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are now 33-13 overall in November and 21-4 at home in November. Both are league-best records since Harbaugh became the Ravens' coach in 2008 … The Ravens have won four games in a row. The last time they won that many in a row was 2013.