This game was also a test for the Ravens as a whole team. Coming into the game at 5-2, the Ravens were steamrolling their opponents ever since losing two games in a row to the Chiefs and Browns. However, the 8-0 Patriots still remained the team to beat in the AFC as reflected in their record.
Tom Brady and his Patriots were looking to repeat Super Bowl victories, and early indications showed that the team was definitely capable of doing exactly that.
Then came the Ravens.
Let’s get into the game script.
In the opening drive of the game, Jackson and the Ravens used a healthy run-pass balance thanks to Greg Roman’s play-calling and picked apart New England’s top-ranked defense.
Deep in Patriots territory, Jackson and the Ravens were unable to come up with points. It wasn't until an offsides penalty was drawn while the Ravens were in kicking formation that allowed for Jackson and the Ravens offense to get back onto the field with a fresh set of downs.
On the very next play, Jackson took a zone read and scored using his legs — giving the Ravens a 7-0 lead about midway through the first quarter.
Looking to respond, Brady and the Patriots were unable to stymie Baltimore’s defense; their opening drive resulted in a three and out. A couple of nice runs from Mark Ingram in Baltimore’s following drive set the Ravens up with another opportunity for pay dirt but New England's defense made a stand and forced Justin Tucker to make a field goal.
The automatic Tucker extended the lead to 10-0.
Brady and the Patriots, once again, failed to get anything going against Baltimore’s defense and went three and out. “Wink” Martindale was especially adamant about getting pressure on Brady in this game, and Baltimore did exactly that as blitzes were frequently used to collapse Brady’s pocket.
On the very next drive to start the second quarter, Ingram broke off a 55-yard run to set the Ravens up with a prime opportunity to make it a three score game. They did exactly that as Gus Edwards took a zone read, cut it back, and eventually found his way into the end zone for six, giving the Ravens a 17-0 lead.
Brady and the Patriots again failed to orchestrate a meaningful drive and punted the ball away. However, in what was the turning point of the game for New England, Cyrus Jones muffed the punt, lost the fumble, and gave New England starting field position in the red zone.
As a result, Brady and the Patriots capitalized on the field position and scored as Brady found Mohamed Sanu for a four-yard touchdown, cutting the Ravens lead down to 10 points. The Ravens and Patriots then traded three and outs.
Deep in their own territory, Jackson and the Ravens looked to get things going in the run game. What appeared to be nice first-down gain from Ingram resulted in a turnover as he coughed up the football to set up Brady and the Patriots with primo field position.
Seeking to score in the red zone, Brady forced a pass to Julian Edelman. Earl Thomas made one of his best plays as a Raven on this play as he saw Brady’s read, jumped the route, and forced an incompletion. New England settled for three as Baltimore’s lead narrowed down to 17-10.
On their following drive, a third down pass batted down by a defensive lineman led to Sam Koch going out on the field for another punt. Looking to cut even further into Baltimore’s lead, Brady led a terrific two-minute drill and threw an especially pretty pass to Edelman for a big chunk gain.
Though in prime position, Brady and the offense were unable to score and settled for three with the help of Nick Folk. The Ravens lead 17-13 heading into halftime.
Starting out with the ball in the third quarter, the Patriots quickly end up in Baltimore territory.
A screen option play from Brady to Edelman only went for a couple of yards, but Patrick Onwuasor jarred the ball loose from Edelman, which allowed for Marlon Humphrey to scoop and score for the Ravens. The big defensive touchdown gave Baltimore a 24-13 lead.
Needing to respond, Brady and the Patriots do so as the offense finally put together a solid drive. A James White goal-line touchdown decreased New England’s deficit to just four.
Coach Harbaugh made some pretty gutsy calls to keep the Ravens ahead. Attempting a fourth down conversion and at New England’s 38-yard line late in the third quarter is what particularly comes to mind. In what initially appeared to be a busted rollout, Jackson made a very clean throw to Willie Snead IV, who was hugging the sideline in the process.
A few plays later, Jackson exhibited his MVP season magic. In a collapsing pocket, Jackson maneuvered his way and avoided defenders to find daylight in the open field and convert a first down. On a 2nd-&-Goal play action pass, Jackson found Nick Boyle for the tight end’s first career touchdown catch, pushing the Ravens lead back to 10 points after Tucker uncharacteristically missed an extra point.
In an effort to muster some sort of comeback, Brady looked to get a big chunk of yardage back in one deep throw to Sanu, which was intercepted by Earl Thomas III.
Jackson then led the Ravens down the field with the help of Ingram’s pass-catching abilities to score another touchdown. In a Cam Newton-esque manner, Jackson took a shotgun snap, waited for the offensive line to get the goal line push, and found a crease to extend the Baltimore lead to 17.
The Ravens defense didn't allow any more points; the final score was 37-20 as Baltimore came away with the victory and handed New England their first loss of the season.
What can we expect for this Sunday?
On the offensive side of things for Baltimore, a more up-tempo offense that really allows for Lamar Jackson to have the game come to him needs to be used. The up-tempo style was used at the beginning of the second half against the Colts where Jackson had one of his best drives all season. Further use of this style against a solid Patriots defense would really allow for more control and comfort for Jackson.
For the up-tempo style to be even more effective, the Ravens need to get their run offense going, too. Far too often has Jackson been the leading rusher for the Ravens. Though that’s not a bad thing, improved yards-per-carry production remains to be seen for Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins. Solid performances from the two running backs would greatly reduce the pressure on Jackson.
On the defensive side of things, the Ravens have to stop the fourth-ranked rushing offense of New England. New England’s strength on offense lies in Cam Newton and running backs like Damien Harris, James White, and Rex Burkhead. Expect a large share of creativity by Josh McDaniels in an attempt to throw off Baltimore’s aggressive defense.
The Ravens must also put pressure on Newton to make certain throws. New England’s receiving corps isn't exactly spectacular, so I anticipate that Baltimore’s secondary will have plenty of success on Sunday.
If you’re expecting a high scoring affair much like last year’s Ravens-Patriots game, I’d lower those expectations because the biggest strength of these two teams is their rush offense. New England will especially look to move the ball on the ground against the Ravens defense. Baltimore will most likely do, more or less, the same thing.
I look forward to what will be a battle in the trenches come Sunday.