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Ravens at Patriots final recap: A midnight dreary loss

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Ravens dropped a tough one in New England, something they are used to but were not expecting. The loss will make the Ravens’ path to the AFC North crown nearly insurmountable at this point in the season, and the way it happened bodes poorly for the next few weeks with tough opponents waiting. Let’s see what happened:

The weather was cold and rainy, but the Ravens offense came out hot on their first play from scrimmage with a 16-yard scamper up the right sideline by Mark Ingram II, who looked good on his first touch returning from injury. The drive sputtered quickly, however, with the Ravens punting after three more plays that combined for a loss of one yard.

New England’s first drive featured a fast-paced approach and they rattled off a few chunk plays on the ground, rushing eight straight times for three first downs, including a fourth down conversion. The drive came to an abrupt end three plays later, however, when Matthew Judon sacked Cam Newton for a loss on third down to push the Patriots out of field goal range and put Lamar Jackson and the offense back on the field.

With their second possession, the Ravens put together a classic clock-drainer. Starting on their own six yard line, they ran it on 10 of their first 12 plays, rumbling 90 yards down the field before calling a touch pass to Willie Snead IV for a six-yard touchdown. The drive consumed 8:04 of game time from the middle of the first quarter to the beginning of the second.

The Patriots came out and matched the Ravens in short order with a score of their own, racking up 75 yards and a touchdown on seven plays—helped along by an injury to stalwart run-stopper Brandon Williams and a 15-yard penalty on DeShon Elliott for lowering his helmet on the first play. Cam Newton rolled out and threw a seven yard strike to Rex Burkhead to seal the deal.

The offense came out with another extensive, run-heavy drive when they got the ball back, marching 69 yards down the field and grinding another 6:14 off the clock before being stopped and forced to send out Justin Tucker to hang three more on the board. The highlight of the drive was a 31-yard catch and run from Gus Edwards that pushed the offense into the red zone from midfield.

The Williams injury proved to be just as costly as it has been in the past, as the Patriots then went on another scoring drive that consisted of seven runs for 41 more yards, capped off by a touchdown pass from wide receiver Jakobi Meyers to Rex Burkhead with Patrick Queen in coverage.

New England kicker Nick Folk missed the ensuing extra point, however, putting the Patriots up only three over the Ravens.

Lamar Jackson and Co. walked back onto the field with 1:02 left in the half and a chance to knot the game at the half. The drive started just about as badly as it would end, though, with a seven-yard sack on the first play at the hands of rookie Josh Uche. Jackson managed to rebound impressively, pushing his offense down into Patriots territory with five passes for 38 yards. Sadly for Ravens fans, he also brought the drive to a premature end by throwing a jump ball interception to Patriots corner back J.C. Jackson, who was handcuffed to Marquise Brown down the right sideline.

After kneeling out the half, the Patriots offense stepped back on the field to start off the second half right where they left off, completely gashing the Ravens defense with two Damien Harris runs for 41 yards, a 20 yard pass to Jakobi Meyers with penalty yards tacked on after the play, and an walk-in touchdown from Cam Newton.

To add injury to insult, Terrell Bonds also went down with an injury after the extra point.

The Ravens came out in the second half with a new look on the offensive line, sitting right tackle DJ Fluker, scooting right guard Patrick Mekari over to tackle and replacing Mekari with second-year guard Ben Powers. Unfortunately, despite a few good runs to start the drive, this strategy did not prove fruitful as a bad direct snap from center Matt Skura to Mark Ingram caused the Ravens to eat a loss on fourth down and turn over the ball to the Patriots for the second consecutive drive.

It looked like the defensive nightmare was about to spiral out of control on the following Patriots possession, as the Ravens allowed another 12-yard rush to Harris on the first play and committed another (suspect) unnecessary roughness penalty to push New England down inside the red zone once again. But, although they bent, they did not break and kept the Patriots to just three points with a goal line stand to force fourth down.

Things somehow got tragically worse on the Ravens first play following the kickoff, as tight end Nick Boyle went down with a gruesome looking knee injury on a short pass play over the middle. Boyle may not be a stat sheet stuffer, but he has seen his target share and production increase over the years and does much more for the run game than could ever show up in a box score. Hopefully the injury is not as bad as it looks, as the loss of Boyle would surely be a brutal loss for both the offense and the locker room moving forward.

A depressingly familiar illegal formation penalty three plays later seemed like it might have the Ravens offense heading to the sideline early once again, but the team rallied with a gutsy, six minute-long push down the field on the back of some tough running, a fourth down conversion, and another Willie Snead IV touchdown reception, this one from 18 yards out.

The two defenses unsurprisingly buckled down in the fourth quarter, as the next three possessions featured two consecutive three-and-outs and then an eight-play drive that ended in a punt for the Patriots, with Yannick Ngakoue chipping in two straight pressures to help that happen. A 16-yard loss on an errant snap from Skura and a near interception on the following third down would kill that next Ravens drive, however.

The Patriots stepped back onto the field for a third time in the quarter with 4:20 left in the game and went to work trying to salt away the game. They converted a first down on three plays and then were gifted a second conversion when defensive captain Chuck Clark jumped offsides. The defense was able to keep them from converting a third time, but gave the offense the ball back with only 1:05 on the clock and 83 yards of grass in front of them.

As the offense stepped onto the field one final time, a biblical amount of rain began to fall from the Massachusetts sky. They spotted the New England defense eight yards with a holding call on Bradley Bozeman, and sulked off the field after a few meager pass attempts that inevitably ended with the ball splashing right off the hands of a wide open JK Dobbins to end the game.

Though the Ravens have plenty of excuses for why this one didn’t go their way, they certainly will not accept those as valid and this loss will serve as a gut check after they had appeared to exorcise their offensive demons in the second half of last week’s game. This loss was fairly unexpected, and only keeps the Ravens ahead of the Browns in the AFC North by head-to-head tiebreaker.

With a loss they could hardly afford coming before the two toughest matchups left on their schedule, Ravens fans will be praying the team can find a solution to the handful of problems this game proved them to have.