Under the lights in a raucous environment at M&T Bank Stadium, the Ravens overcame some self-inflicted wounds early and rolled to a 17-point victory over the Patriots. Coming into the matchup, New England was undefeated and boasted the league’s No. 1 defense.
Not bad, not bad at all . . .
To the takeaway machine:
1) “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts . . .”
Much was made over Jets QB Sam Darnold’s comments during New York’s blowout loss to the Patriots in Week 7. While mic’d up, Darnold told a coach he was “seeing ghosts”, meaning that the Patriots defense was flustering him and it showed in the final stat line. This is no way a slight towards Darnold, but Lamar Jackson did not appear to see any ghosts against the Patriots vaunted defense on Sunday night.
Bill Belichick is notorious for his success against quarterbacks in their first and/or second years in the league. He’s done so this year, too, against the likes of Darnold, Daniel Jones and Baker Mayfield. Jackson responded well to the challenge and played mistake-free football. He completed all but six of his 17 pass attempts and while the majority of his throws were underneath, Jackson delivered some key strikes. New England fields one of the league’s best secondaries, so rather than attempt to attack them deep and force throws, Jackson took what the defense gave him and put forth an effective showing.
And of course, he had a few “wow” moments as a runner.
2) John Harbaugh and company are up to the challenge
Facing off against likely the greatest head coach of all time, the reigning super bowl champions and the league’s No. 1 defense, the Ravens proved up to the task. The players deserve credit for showing out on the field, but it’d be short-sighted not to show love to Baltimore’s coaching staff. After Sunday night, it’s clear that Harbaugh, Greg Roman and Don “Wink” Martindale were cooking up some serious stuff during the team’s bye week.
Roman drew up some impressive play-calls early in the game that put quick points on the board. While the offensive struggled a bit in the second quarter, the team’s commitment to their style and attack proved valuable late in the game. Baltimore responded to the Patriots cutting the deficit to four points with back-to-back impressive scoring drives. First, a 14-play, 81-yard possession that chewed up 8:09 minutes off the clock. Second, a 14-play, 68-yard drive that lasted a whopping 9:35 minutes. Keeping Tom Brady and the Patriots offense off of the field proved to be a difference-maker.
On the former of these two drives, Harbaugh opted to keep the offense on the field on fourth down, needing four yards to convert. Jackson hooked up with Willie Snead IV for a 7-yard completion and kept the chains moving. Without this, the Ravens give the ball back to a New England offense that had been moving the ball down the field. Frankly, if not for the Ravens fumbling twice in the second quarter, they likely win this game by more points.
3) Earl Thomas III has officially arrived in Baltimore
Earlier in the season, FS Earl Thomas III was at the forefront of criticism surrounding much of the team’s defensive struggles. More specifically, the secondary giving up big plays in the passing game. Thomas may not have been performing up his hall of fame standards but his impact was clear, as teams were not throwing his direction. You know why?
Because the dude is playmaker.
Thomas has really shown his worth over the past two weeks against two of the leagues best quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Tom Brady. Thomas was strong in the run game against Seattle and had a few pass breakups to his name. On Sunday night, his lone slip-up came when James White caught a 30-yard reception against Thomas in a 1-on-1 matchup. Outside of that, though, Thomas was terrific. He prevented a deep ball to Mohamed Sanu and pressured Tom Brady on a blitz early in the game. His biggest contribution, though, came in the third quarter. Thomas activated full-on centerfielder mode and intercepted a deep pass attempt from Brady. Not only did this interception occur with Ed Reed in attendance, but Thomas looked very much like Reed by returning the pick while one-handing the ball.
The Ravens are riding high after their two biggest wins of the season and the fingerprints of their prized offseason acquisition are all over both of them.
4) Nick Boyle is criminally underrated
The last memory of Nick Boyle you probably have from this game is him committing a false start at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter, which backed the Ravens up five yards before Lamar Jackson’s rushing touchdown. Don’t let this lone error overshadow an otherwise outstanding all-around effort.
Boyle is known for his blocking prowess but it’s often easy to forget just how important he is to the team’s offensive success. Boyle made several key blocks throughout Sunday night’s contest and was laying dudes out at times. In addition, Boyle was crucial as a pass-catcher for one of the first times this season. The Patriots clearly made an effort to take Jackson’s top receiving target - Mark Andrews - out of the game, and Boyle stepped up. He only recorded 27 receiving yards but led the team in receptions (5) and caught the first touchdown of his career.
5) “But it was only the Dolphins . . .”
After beating up some inferior opponents earlier in the season, there were questions as to how legitimate the Ravens actually were after dropping back-to-back games to the Chiefs and Browns. These questions remained present to many even after consecutive victories against the Steelers and Bengals, which were valid considering where both of those teams were at with injuries and such.
Heading into Week 10, though, it’s clear the Ravens are no flash in the pan.
Baltimore has now traveled to Seattle and hosted the undefeated Patriots in back-to-back games and came out on top of both games by a combined 31 points. It remains to be seen whether they can carry this momentum down the stretch but they’ve proven capable of having success against talented, playoff-caliber teams. Their stock is on the rise.