Lamar Jackson Takes Over; Patriots Can’t Answer
Week 3 of the Patriots season was a big test for the defense as Lamar Jackson and the Ravens came into town, smarting off of a late meltdown against Miami. Jackson is already an uber-talented QB and has a talented group of skill position players around him. The final score reflected that.
The defense, however, wasn’t all bad, they made a concerted effort to get after and pressure Jackson, and they were able to do that for chunks of the game. But in the second half, Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Norman called a fantastic game, he could tell what the Patriots were going to do, and he made several great calls to unleash Jackson, which opened up all of the skill position players.
The Patriots’ offense had moments where they were very explosive and were attacking Baltimore’s defense deep. They had plenty of chunk plays and rolled up 447 yards of offense, actually outgaining Baltimore (396). But the difference was that the Ravens made the plays at crunch time, the Patriots turned the ball over four times and once again had penalty issues.
Worse still was the fact that Mac Jones suffered what appeared to be a pretty significant ankle injury. Thankfully the results of the X-rays were negative, but an MRI on his ligaments and tendons is still pending (at noon Monday, at the time of writing).
So, here are our grades this week for the Patriots-Ravens game.
Like many of his teammates here, Mac Jones had a mixed day on the field. He finished with a career-high 321 yards passing, completing 22-32, with 0 TDs and 3 INTs. At times he was brilliant with movement in the pocket and delivering the ball into some tough situations. PFF credited Jones with making five “big-time throws” judged to be the toughest, the most in his career to date.
Jones also rushed the ball for 31 yards, including his first NFL touchdown. While no one ever will ever confuse him with Jackson, it was a testament to his seeing openings and taking them.
But the three interceptions are a huge stain on his game and grade overall. I didn’t have an issue with the first one to Parker in the end zone; it was a 50/50 jump ball, but Marlon Humphrey just made a better play on it than Parker. Jones was under heavy pressure, and it wasn’t the best throw.
The second pick was a bad decision, where the Patriots tried to fake Baltimore into reacting to a wide zone run. They didn’t take the cheese, and Josh Bynes was in perfect position. Bad throw, worse decision.
The worst throw he made was the one that the Ravens dropped. That could have been a 96-yard pick-six. But attacking deep (Jones’ average depth of pass was 12.1 yards) is realizing those are not high percentage passes. Good and bad yesterday. He has to be better but the offense moved the ball well, now they have to cut out the mistakes.
Running Backs: B
The running game was led by Rhamondre Stevenson, who had 101 yards on 16 touches. He ran for 73 yards on 12 carries (6.1-yard average) and a touchdown and added 28 yards on four catches out of the backfield. He showed that he’s becoming more of a 3-down back and displayed nice vision of where the gaps were.
Damien Harris chipped in with 41 yards on 11 carries, including a touchdown. He added two catches, but just for five yards. The backs had a good day together against a tough, physical defense, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Wide Receivers: B
DeVante Parker was brought in here as a big target who can win the 50/50 passes. After a great training camp, he fell off the face of the earth for the first two games, catching one (1) pass for nine yards. That changed yesterday afternoon. Parker caught 5 passes for a whopping 156 yards, averaging 31 yards per reception. Every reception was a big chunk play, but the 29-yard pitch and catch from Jones down the sideline was an absolute beauty, both the throw and the catch.
With Jakobi Meyers out with a knee injury, one would think that it would open the door for Kendrick Bourne to play more. Nope, he actually played less than last week. Despite garnering only 18 snaps, Bourne was the Patriots’ second most productive receiver catching four passes for 58 yards on five targets. Go figure, right?
Lil’ Jordan Humphrey got the lion’s share of the snaps with 54, but for the vast majority of those, he was used as a blocker; he was only targeted once and didn’t have a catch. Also surprising was the lack of targets for Nelson Agholor, who had a big game last week against the Steelers. He caught two passes for 41 yards on three targets. But his big 28-yard catch was fumbled, the second time he’s put the ball on the ground this season.
Tight Ends: C-
Jonnu Smith had four catches, but for only 25 yards, and Hunter Henry had one catch for eight. This is not nearly enough production for a pair of talented tight ends, and it is (IMO) more of an issue with HOW they’re used. In three games this year, they have combined for 10 catches for 86 yards. In this game alone, Mark Andrews had eight catches for 89 yards and two TDs.
Offensive Line: C-
The offensive line gets very good marks for holes they cleared for the running game; when you run for 145 yards, three touchdowns, and average 5.2 yards per carry as a team, then the big guys up front are doing their job…That’s the good news.
The not-so-good news is that Jones was seeming under pressure for almost half of his dropbacks. The Ravens had three sacks and four QB hits. On two of his interceptions, he was under heavy pressure.
Miscommunication remains an issue; penalties (two by Isaiah Wynn) are drive killers. There were some good moments and some bad ones. Jones was hurt on the last bad one.
Defensive Line: B-
The defensive line’s grade was saved (from a C-) by Deatrich Wise, who is having an outstanding start to the season. The game plan this week was to pressure Jackson, and they did a great job of that in the first half. Wise had three sacks, three QB hits, and four tackles for loss (TFL), included in his six tackles. Christian Barmore broke through and pressured Jackson into his first half interception by Jonathan Jones.
But the Ravens schemed up some great run plays for Jackson, and he torched them for 107 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown. Once Jackson started running well, it opened up avenues for the rest of Baltimore’s skill position players. Justice Hill had a couple of outstanding runs and finished with 60 yards on just six carries.
Jackson is a unique talent, and they have to get this stuff figured out because they’ll face more of the mobile QBs down the road.
Matthew Judon was his usual disruptive self with a sack, a QB hit, and four QB pressures on Jackson. But the backers suffered the same fate as the defensive line. They tried blitzing a few times, but Jackson made them appear well out of position. The containment broke down in the second half, and the unit struggled in both coverage and in the running game.
The Patriots’ secondary was led by Jonathan Jones, who had a strong game with a nice interception and later forced a fumble on a play downfield. The cornerbacks weren’t bad, holding Rashod Bateman and Devin Duvernay to four catches. Yes, they had a couple of big plays, but those happen when Jackson starts breaking containment.
The issue was the safeties, who had a rough day covering the Ravens’ tight ends. They have several good ones and know how to use them. The Baltimore tight ends combined for 11 catches for 105 yards and three touchdowns…Yikes.
Special Teams: C-
Nick Folk set the NFL record for consecutive field goals inside of 50 yards in the first half. He has run his streak to 57 straight. He later hit a 50-yarder. His counterpart on the Ravens, Justin Tucker, made a 56-yarder look easy but later doinked an extra point.
Myles Bryant had another muff of a punt, although he once again escaped total disaster when he was able to recover it. But this is two weeks in a row. His other punt return was for 13 yards. They eased Marcus Jones into the kick returner slot, but although Belichick likes Bryant, it may be time for a change.
The coverage units gave up two returns to Duvernay that covered 55 yards, including a 43-yarder.
Are we seeing the trend here yet? The Patriots’ coaching staff had a good game plan, and it was working. It was a back and forth with the Ravens, something we’ve seen for years facing them. But in the second half, Baltimore offensive coordinator Greg Roman made adjustments that Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick couldn’t answer.
The offensive game plan was sound, and they were moving the ball well all game, but the self-inflicted gaffes are a coaching issue. While disagreeing with play calls is easy when things go awry, if they work, then we’re praising them. But some of their players’ usage remains “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
We’re on to the Packers…
Posted Under: Patriots Report Card
Tags: Baltimore Ravens Bill Belichick Damien Harris Deatrich Wise Devante Parker Devin Duvernay Devin McCourty Greg Norman Jakobi Meyers Justin Tucker Kendrick Bourne Lamar Jackson Mac Jones Nelson Agholor New England Patriots NFL Patriots Rashod Bateman