The Baltimore Ravens had their bye week to prepare to face the Patriots and it was obvious from the opening moments that they used their time wisely. And the Patriots now enter their own bye week with some work to do.
Baltimore’s running game was simple in its inception and executed wonderfully as they bludgeoned the Patriots defense to the tune of 214 yards and waltzed away with a 37-20 beatdown of the previously unbeaten Pats on Sunday night in Baltimore.
The Ravens completely dominated the first quarter of the game outscoring the Patriots 17-0 and did it by running the ball right down their throats. The Ravens said they wanted to punch New England in the mouth with their running game and they did just that.
The Patriots did a poor job of setting the edge, there were uncharacteristic huge swaths of open space for the runners to exploit and the Baltimore offensive line was clearly the winner of the trenches on Sunday night. The Patriots had never faced Lamar Jackson and it was clear, his speed was very much an issue for them all night long.
Baltimore dominated that first-quarter very much like the Patriots had dominated nearly every first quarter this year. It was ultimately too big a hole to fight out of. Baltimore ran for 142 yards in the first quarter, almost double what the Patriots had been allowing in a game.
As a result, it was New England who was making the mistakes that we normally see the opposition do. Shalique Calhoun jumping offside on the initial field goal attempt, giving the Ravens a first and goal was a harbinger of things to come.
And when the Patriots clawed back in the game at 17-13 and actually appeared to be ready to take the lead early in the third quarter, the Julian Edelman fumble and scoop for a 70-yard touchdown going the other way drove home that this wasn’t their night. Although the Patriots answered with a touchdown drive to close again to four at 24-20, one could sense the feeling that the Ravens weren’t going to bend anymore.
The Ravens dominated time of possession from there on going on two long, time-consuming touchdown drives to blow the game wide open. They converted several key third and fourth downs to keep the chains, and the clock moving in their favor.
The Patriots offense changed things up offensively tonight and eschewed the running formations that haven’t been bearing fruit this season and opted to spread Baltimore out with the receivers out wide, allowing Tom Brady to see the defense and adjust the protection and then hit the open man with a quick, short passing game. They went to a hurry-up offense, with the hope that it would gas the Ravens pass rushers and allow them to run the ball later in the game.
It was working for a bit, the Ravens defense appeared totally gassed at the end of the touchdown drive that cut the score to 24-20. The problem was that they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole to make it work. And the fact that because two wide receivers were inactive (N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski), the wide receivers were as gassed as the defense was. *Note* watch Julian Edelman on his fumble play. But it was all rendered moot when Baltimore answered with an eight-minute scoring drive that gave their defense the rest they needed.
On a bright note, Mohamed Sanu appears to be a great pickup for the offense. In just his second week with the Patriots, he caught 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. Edelman caught 10 passes for 89. The pair are going to be a handful for opponents to cover down the stretch.
The issue, however, continues to be the red zone and especially once the team gets inside the 10-yard line. They don’t have a go-to guy or a big target they trust enough to attack opponents once they get down close. And if we want to be nitpicky here, the team drafted a 6’4, 225-pound wide receiver in the 1st round who was inactive on Sunday night because he wasn’t conceivably “ready” but activated a tight end (Ryan Izzo) for the game who didn’t play a snap on offense?
So, the Patriots enter their bye week at 8-1 and the #1 seed in the AFC and yet to log onto social media tonight, one would think they are in dire straits at 1-8. They have some self-scouting to do and now have two weeks to prepare for the Eagles in Philadelphia who coincidentally are also on a bye week this week.
They’ll file away what they learned in what doesn’t work against the Ravens but this isn’t the time to dwell on rematches that won’t happen, if at all for two months. It is time to get back on track and move on to Philadelphia.
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