What we learned from Sunday’s Week 9 games - Jeremy Bergman
The Patriots’ bend-don’t-break offense couldn’t keep pace with Baltimore, even as they tried to hurry up in playing catch-up. New England’s pass-heavy attack (46 attempts to 17 carries) leaned on its receivers -- Julian Edelman (89 yards) and newcomer Mohamed Sanu (81) became the first Patriotspair to each record 10-plus receptions in a game since Edelman and Danny Amendola in 2013 -- but also subjected Brady to more harassment than usual. The future Hall of Famer took two sacks and was hit 10 times by a rejuvenated Ravens pass rush starring Matt Judon and Patrick Onwuasor. New England’s ground game was ineffectual yet again. Worst of all, the Patriots made uncharacteristic mistakes. After Baltimore gifted New England a fumble in its red zone in the first half, the Patriots failed to convert it into six. Down just four points at half, the Patriots were moving on their first drive of the second half until Edelman fumbled on a first-down reception. Ravens corner Marlon Humphrey was there to clean up the mess and take the ball to the house to extend a lead that Baltimore hadn’t lost all the game and never would.
Patrick Onwuasor made the highlight play of the night, coming up with a strip of Julien Edelman on a catch in the flat at the beginning of the third quarter, which Marlon Humphrey scooped up and returned for six points. He also came up with a big sack on a third-down play at the end of the first quarter and racked up a few tackles in run defense.
The Ravens had a good deal of success when it came to pressuring Tom Brady. The Patriots combated the Ravens’ pass-rush somewhat at times with a quick passing game, but Baltimore came up with pressure in key moments. You have to tip your cap to the Ravens’ defensive staff after this one, as they schemed up blitzes on multiple occasions that resulted in an unblocked pass-rusher pressuring Brady.
Lamar Jackson was asked to throw a lot in this game, and that is exactly how the Ravens drew it up. Jackson was efficient and effective throwing the ball, completing over 70% of his passes for 163 yards. But the damage of Jackson as a runner gave the Pats’ defense all sorts of issues, as the Ravens milked the clock to nearly double the time of possession.
The Ravens’ run game collected 210 yards on the ground, a lot due to a combination of offensive scheme with Jackson as a runner and the offensive line play. In total, the Ravens averaged 5.1 yards per attempt.
The Breakdown: Five Thoughts on Ravens vs. Patriots - John Eisenberg
The buzz before the game centered on how the Patriots’ top-ranked defense would try to defend Jackson, who has proved too much for so many teams in 2019. What did the Patriots do? Let’s call it the “kitchen sink” approach. They mixed coverages and fronts, brought pressure from different angles, focused a “spy” defender on him on many plays – tried pretty much everything. “Nobody does it better than they do,” Harbaugh said. That may be true, but Jackson easily won the battle. He rushed for 61 yards and generated a triple-digit quarterback rating as the Baltimore offense moved so steadily that it possessed the ball for more than 37 minutes. It almost scored an early knockout, putting up 17 points in the game’s first 17 minutes as Jackson and Mark Ingram II ran wild behind a dominating offensive line. But the most impressive part of the offense’s night came late, after the Patriots had cut the lead to four (24-20) and a comeback win seemed possible. The Ravens’ offense refused to let it happen, generating two 14-play touchdown drives of 81 and 68 yards that took up more than eight and nine minutes, respectively. Jackson said he was ready for whatever the Patriots threw at him. “We have a good coaching staff,” he shrugged. The fans were chanting “M-V-P” in the final minutes, and that’s no longer a long shot by any means.
Jackson and Baltimore frustrated the Patriots from the jump. On their first touchdown of the game, Baltimore came out in a modernized heavy formation—nine men on or along the line of scrimmage with Jackson in pistol formation and a running back behind him. He faked the handoff up the gut to running back Gus Edwards and sprinted past the crashing linebacker Jamie Collins Sr., who was trying to tackle Edwards for a loss. Five yards behind the line of scrimmage, Jackson realized he was alone running to the pylon and began trotting to the end zone for the untouched score.
While Brady looked anxious (by his standards) toward the end of the game, Jackson was calm and collected against a defense that absolutely throttled the rest of the quarterbacks taken ahead of him in the 2018 NFL draft, from Josh Rosen (seven completions vs. three sacks) to Josh Allen (eight combined sacks, fumbles, and interceptions vs. 13 completions) to Sam Darnold (seeing the undead) to Baker Mayfield (aged approximately seven years in one week).
The Patriots defense got its first real test on Sunday night against the Ravens, and they didn’t fail as much as the Baltimore Ravens passed with flying colors.