Patriots Overcome Elements in Key Victory
“I’m not dead yet…” Monty Python said in The Holy Grail, and that statement applies to the Patriots on a rainy, windswept night in Foxboro.
The Patriots were supposed to be dead and buried by late Sunday night. Even the analysts on television before the game stated that there was no way they could stop the Ravens offense…and those guys are supposed to entice viewers to watch.
They didn’t stop them for three quarters but did slow them down enough to remain ahead. But the defense DID shut them down in the final quarter allowing Baltimore only 25 yards of offense. And the running game with Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, and Cam Newton? They ran for 179 yards in a very impressive, smash-mouth football game the Ravens pride themselves in winning.
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Ravens game. With the win, they improved to 4-5 and showed increased life on offense and a surprising bit of run defense in slowing down the best running attack in the league.
Cam Newton had a huge game last night. Huge you say? Readers will look at the stat line and say that 13-17 for 118 yards with one TD and 0 INTs is hardly huge…and in a normal setting that may be true. But not on Sunday night. The Patriots game plan was to run the ball, eat the clock and bludgeon the Ravens defense, much like they did to the Patriots a year ago. The weather conditions also made things iffy in the passing game. Especially where an incompletion stops the clock.
In podcasts last week, I said if I were Baltimore, I’d blitz on every down and take away the check-downs and force them to beat you elsewhere. That has been absolute kryptonite for the Patriots offense in 2020. But not on Sunday. The Ravens love sending extra pass rushers from all over the field, but a combination of the Patriots running game and Newton’s coolness under fire kept that from being a big factor.
When Baltimore sent extra pass rushers, Newton was 9-12 for 105 yards and the TD to Burkhead. His familiarity with the offense is growing and recognizing the pre-snap reads of blitzes coming, he checked out of plays…signs that he’s improving and gaining comfort in the system. His only blemish was the skipped pass to Meyers in the end zone which should have been six.
Running Backs: A
Where are all those Damien Harris haters now? Last year’s red-shirt season had many questioning the decision to draft him. After landing on IR at the beginning of the season, those same people called him “a wasted pick”, “another BB bust” and…well you get the idea. Well, Harris has given those voices a huge dose of “STFU”.
In the last six games, Harris has rushed for 100 yards or more in three of them, including 121 yards on 22 carries Sunday night. This was going against one of the better run defenses in the NFL. His vision, toughness, and physicality were all on display against the Ravens.
Harris wasn’t alone. Rex Burkhead continues to show why…when he’s healthy why the coaching staff loves him. He averaged over five yards a carry (6-31) on the ground and caught four passes for 34 yards and two huge touchdowns.
Jakob Johnson did a very good job in run blocking, including springing Harris for 25 when he took out Malik Harrison and made a juggling catch in the rain for a big first down. James White took a screen pass that looked destined to lose yardage and turn it into a solid gain…classic White play.
Wide Receivers: B
This was supposed to be the game that Meyers turned into a pumpkin at midnight. After his huge game on Monday night, how many times last week on social media did we hear…” Yeah, but it was the Jets.” The Ravens DO have a much better secondary than Gang Green but Meyers still was the go-to guy for Newton and the Patriots.
He had five catches for 59 yards and his 26-yarder was a beauty as worked Marcus Peters faking an inside route, breaking to the outside where he set up a Patriots touchdown. Then the former QB launched a perfect arced pass to Burkhead for a 24-yard touchdown right before the half.
Damiere Byrd, N’Keal Harry as well as Meyers all did a very good job of blocking downfield in support of the running game.
Tight Ends: B-
Ryan Izzo arguably had his best game of the year. His blocking in the running game was excellent. He was sealing off lanes and pushing defenders back. And Josh McDaniels called a perfect antidote for the Ravens cheating their linebackers up in the box and selling out in run support. Faking a run, Izzo slipped past the defenders and was wide open where Newton hit him for a 20-yard gain, setting up a touchdown.
Offensive Line: A-
The offensive line had an outstanding night, and while play-calling had something to do with that, they were facing a defense selling out to stop the run and they bullied the bullies and helped spring the running game for 173 yards. With a heavy dose of the running game, they still converted 6-12 on third down.
Michael Onwenu was beaten badly by Matthew Judon early in the game, but he does that to a lot of offensive linemen and after that, the pass protection overall was pretty solid. When this unit is intact physically, they are very, very good. David Andrews had no issues snapping in the conditions (more below- see coaching).
Defensive Line: B
The defensive line was a major plus in this game, it looked like they began running a 3-3 defense with Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, and Byron Cowart inside with John Simon and Chase Winovich as OLBs on the edge clogging up the running lanes. Terez Hall was the MLB. Carl Davis and Deatrich Wise also saw a lot of action.
Having Guy, their best defensive lineman back was huge. He and Davis were very strong against an outstanding OL and running game of Baltimore.
The Patriots linebackers had one of their strongest games in quite some time. The coaches had them playing up close to the line (Winovich and Simon) and moved them around a bit, eventually sliding Simon back down to the line later in the game.
Chase Winovich played in 98 percent of the snaps (65 of 66 defensive snaps) and was all over the field, being a royal pain in the ass for the Ravens offense. He had seven tackles, one quarterback hit, and 10 quarterback pressures on the night while chasing down plays from sideline-to-sideline.
John Simon was even better, doing an excellent job of setting the edge, deflecting a pass, and doing a good job of defending the flat. Both dropped into coverage well at times. Terez Hall was the man in the middle and did a good job of defending there with 10 tackles. Josh Uche had a sack in limited snaps. Anfernee Jennings got on the field for 11 snaps. They lost containment of Jackson a couple of times, but Jackson is the reigning MVP for a reason. Overall, this was a much better job than we’ve recently seen.
The Patriots secondary had a strong game despite Jackson passing for 249 yards. Much of that was against zone coverage, however. But when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, the team buckled down and allowed nothing. The television crew was touting the Ravens secondary to being one of the best in the NFL. The Patriots, minus the reigning Defensive MVP and without nearly the pass rush that they enjoy is better if we do say so here.
J.C. Jackson shook off a pair of substandard games and registered one of his better ones. I heard many analysts bemoan the fact that Jackson didn’t target Marquise Brown nearly enough…Jackson had a big hand in that. He also notched an interception for the fifth game in a row…a Patriots record as well as his league-leading sixth.
The McCourty twins both had strong games as well as Jonathan Jones. And rookie Kyle Dugger got his first NFL start and played very strongly, leading the team with 12 tackles.
Special Teams: B
Joe Cardona, Jake Bailey, and Gunner Olszewski all get high marks for handling a wet ball and windy conditions well on Sunday night. It wasn’t the greatest of conditions for the kicking game but Bailey made two very solid punts.
Nick Folk missed an extra point but it didn’t seem to be weather-related at first glance. But other than that one miss, he was solid.
The Patriots coaching staff came up with a very solid game plan and Bill Belichick’s scheme of slowing down the Ravens running game worked, holding them to 55 yards under their season average.
There was a lot of talk about the weather influencing the game and that is true. But remember this, both teams play in the same weather. And while many poo-poo the idea of Belichick soaking the footballs during training camp and making the team practice outside in crappy weather conditions, this is all the proof you need that it pays off.
Josh McDaniels called a very strong game offensively, he recognized where the Ravens could be exploited and called the plays that allowed them to run the plays that were successful, the double pass from Meyers to Burkhead was brilliant and perfectly timed. He could have mixed in a few more first down passes, especially in the 4th quarter when the Ravens defense rallied.
We’re on to the Texans on Sunday. Don’t look now, but a win puts them back at .500
Posted Under: 2020 Patriots Season
Tags: Baltimore Ravens Bill Belichick Cam Newton Chase Winovich Damien Harris Devin McCourty Jakobi Meyers James White John Harbaugh John Simon Lamar Jackson Lawrence Guy Marcus Peters New England Patriots NFL Patriots Sony Michel