BALTIMORE – Nothing that happened Sunday night at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore should have surprised anyone.
Everyone knows about Lamar Jackson and his skill set. Everyone knows about Mark Ingram. Everyone knows that a John Harbaugh team will never be afraid of the Patriots.
The Baltimore Ravens used a powerful running attack to control the ball, chew up the clock and confuse, if not expose, the Patriot defense. The Ravens shook off two potentially damaging first half turnovers to bully the previously undefeated Patriots, 37-20. The Patriots knew a tough game was coming, but perhaps didn’t expect the beat down they experienced. As has been the case many times over the years, the Patriots play their worst game of the year on Sunday night (the Ravens have only beaten the Patriots during the regular season twice; the other win was also on a Sunday night, 31-30 in 2012).
Jackson passed for a touchdown and ran for two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback to do this against a Bill Belichick defense. He befuddled the Patriots most all game long with play fakes, option plays and his running skills, and save for a few drives in the second quarter where the Patriots seemed to figure him out, the Patriots generally had no answer for Jackson. He finished with 194 all-purpose yards including 61 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns.
As a team, the Ravens finished with 210 yards rushing and a 5.1 yards per carry average. Ingram had 115 yards rushing on 15 carries, including a 53-yard burst on the first play of the second quarter.
The rushing attack helped the Ravens seal the game with two decisive drives in the third and fourth quarters. After James White scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter to make it 24-20 Baltimore, the Ravens went off on a 14-play, 81-yard drive that ate up 8:09 of game time, culminating with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Nick Boyle who was wide open in the left flat after a play fake by Jackson. After a Tom Brady interception by Earl Thomas, the Ravens then went on a 14-play, 68-yard drive that consumed 9:35 of game time. That drive ended with a one-yard plunge by Jackson. That’s two drives, 28 plays, and 17:44 of game time. In the end, Baltimore had the ball for 37:01, nearly a 2 to 1 advantage.
Uncharacteristic Patriot mistakes also helped send the Patriots to defeat, virtually negating the two turnovers the Ravens suffered in the second quarter.
On their first drive of the game, Baltimore drove to the Patriot 5-yard line. Lawrence Guy stuffed Gus Edwards for no gain, bringing up fourth down and goal. Justin Tucker comes out for a chip shot field goal, but Shilique Calhoun was duped into a neutral zone infraction, giving the Ravens first and goal at the 2. Jackson danced in for the touchdown on the next play after a fake to Ingram that the Patriots totally bit on, leaving the left side completely wide open.
After former Patriot Cyrus Jones fumbled a punt (honk if you’ve seen Jones muff a punt before) to open the flood gates, the Patriots went on a 13-0 run to wipe out a 17-0 deficit and make it 17-13 at the half. The Patriots got the ball for the start of the second half, and drove from their 25 to the Ravens’ 30. On first and ten, Julian Edelman took a dump pass in the left flat and was corralled immediately by linebacker Patrick Onwuasor. But Onwuasor stripped the ball out of Edelman’s hands, and Marion Humphrey picked up the loose ball and ran 70 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-20. The Patriots answered right back with a touchdown thanks to a hurry-up offense, but the Ravens then put the game away with those two 14-play drives.
Edelman’s fumble turned out to be the turning point of the game, and not Jones’ muffed punt. Against any other team, the Patriots use that muffed punt, and Ingram’s ensuing lost fumble, to probably win the game going away. But the Patriots were not in that position Sunday night. Baltimore took back the momentum at home, and never let go of it.
Jackson’s passing numbers were not astounding, but very good nonetheless. He finished 17 of 23 for 163 yards and one touchdown, and a passer rating of 107.7. Boyle had the most catches with five, while Marquise Brown led the Ravens with 48 receiving yards. Again, these numbers are not eye-popping. It was the ground game that helped destroy the Patriots, and various Patriot players were seen snapping on the sidelines over the frustration of the Ravens literally running the ball right down their throats.
If there was any positive to be taken from this game, it was the emergence of new veteran receiver Mohammed Sanu. He and Edelman both had ten catches, and they combined for 170 receiving yards with Sanu hauling in his first touchdown catch as a Patriot. The other positive which can be gleaned from this loss was that the Patriots averaged 4.4 yards per carry and that James White, Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel all averaged over four yards per carry. The Patriots never led in the game and therefore could not use the run game to beat the Ravens down, although the hurry-up offense was doing a nice job until the Ravens offense kept the ball away from Brady and the Patriot offense.
Brady finished with 30 of 46 passing for 285 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a passer rating of 80.5. His fourth quarter pick to Thomas was on a bad overthrow to Sanu on a deep post pattern, and Thomas wound up catching what amounted to a punt.
The Patriots now head into a bye week, then continue their five-week odyssey of great quarterback opponents, with the next matchup being a rematch of Super Bowl LII, only this time they will face Carson Wentz and not Nick Foles. Dallas, Houston and Kansas City will follow the Eagles before the Patriots catch a quarterback break. You can stop all the talk about this defense being “historical”, because all those experts who said “Wait until the Patriots face a real offense!” were right all along.
At season’s end, with 19-0 no longer a possibility, the Patriots may thank the Ravens for this spanking unless somehow the Ravens win a tiebreaker and host the AFC Championship Game. The Patriots can now spend the rest of the season thinking about nothing other than winning another Super Bowl. They will take a week, rest up, heal up, and get ready for the continuation of the toughest stretch of the regular season.
No loss is a good loss. The Ravens laid a whuppin’ on the Patriots, no question about it. Time to move on and to keep the eye on the big prize.