Fueled by a 23-point second half performance, the Baltimore Ravens earned an 11-point victory over the New England Patriots in Week 3. The Ravens eclipsed 37 points for the second consecutive week, and their defensive fortunes were much better this time around than last Sunday.
As per usual, there was a lot to unpack from all the action. Let’s break down the good, bad and ugly developments from the Ravens’ win in Foxborough.
Red zone offense
Any time your offense converts at a 100% rate in the red zone, that’s a positive. This is even more true when it’s a total of five times and all five resulted in touchdowns. That’s what the Ravens did in New England. The Ravens substituted the long scoring plays they executed the past two weeks for proficiency in the opponent’s 20 yard line.
Lamar Jackson found Mark Andrews twice in the first half for touchdowns of five yards and 16 yards, respectively. Then, Jackson connected with Josh Oliver and Devin Duvernay for short touchdown receptions of less than five yards. The nail in the coffin was Jackson’s nine-yard rushing score late in the fourth quarter.
If the Ravens can continue to operate with similar efficiency in the red zone moving forward, more 30+ point outings should be in store.
For the third straight game, the Ravens won the turnover battle. This time, it came in spite of the offense committing two turnovers of their own. The Ravens’ defense intercepted Patriots QB Mac Jones three times in the second half, and rookie safety Kyle Hamilton forced a fumble in the fourth quarter. These were paramount in keeping the Patriots’ offense at bay from mounting a late comeback effort.
Josh Bynes, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters were on the receiving end of the interceptions. Humphrey’s was especially critical, as it came in the end zone and eliminated the Patriots’ chances of scoring even a field goal with just minutes remaining.
If the Ravens continue to create more turnovers than they commit, they’re likely to win a good percentage of those games.
Rushes for long gains
One of the biggest offensive concerns through two weeks had been the Ravens’ inability to move the ball consistently on the ground. Jackson had been the team’s only real source of rushing success in Weeks 1 and 2. We saw progression in this area against the Patriots.
Jackson led the team in rushing again by a wide margin, but Justice Hill had his best game of the season in expanded snaps. Hill turned his six rushing attempts into 60 yards, highlighted by a 34-yard gain in the third quarter. He had a nine-yard rush on the next play and previously had a 12-yard rush earlier in the game.
Jackson, who rushed for 107 yards on the day, had gains of 38, 20, 17 and 11 yards, respectively. More than half of his 11 carries resulted in first-down conversions. J.K. Dobbins made his season debut and wasn’t able to break off any big gains, but consistently churned out positive yardage.
The Ravens were plagued by negative or no gain rushes in the first two games, and there was a lot of progression in that area today. Team totals of 188 ground yards and 7.2 yards per carry is much more in-line with the type of run-pass balance the Ravens want.
Third down defense
The Ravens’ third down defense regressed last week after previously forcing 12 of 14 unsuccessful conversions in Week 1. The Dolphins were successful on 7-of-11 tries last Sunday. Today, the Patriots attempted nine third down tries and converted just two. Patrick Queen and Justin Madubuike had third down sacks and multiple forced turnovers contributed to the stalwart effort, too.
Beating the blitz
The Ravens conquered the Dolphins’ defensive blitzing last week and again had success against the blitz in Week 3. According to NextGen Stats, Bill Belichick’s defense brought the blitz just under 50% of the time when Jackson dropped back to pass. Jackson threw three of his touchdown passes under duress and evaded pressure a number of times for other completions. Jackson is now +22.4 in Expected Points Added (EPA) against the blitz on the season, which leads the NFL.
Mark Andrews’ 16-yard touchdown reception put the Ravens up 14-10 just before halftime. The Patriots received the ball at their own 25 yard line with just 30 seconds remaining on the clock. This is normally a favorable situation for the defense, but the Patriots were able to quickly drive 43 yards across five plays and get into field goal range.
The final play of the drive saw the Ravens send zero pass-rushers on the play, and yet Mac Jones found Bourne for 10 yards on an out-route. Bourne got of bounds with one second to spare. Nick Folk’s ensuing 50-yard field goal ultimately didn’t damage the Ravens in the end, but it was a pretty poor defensive sequence.
Defending the run
Quietly, the Ravens’ run defense had not been stellar through two weeks. Because they jumped out to multiple-touchdown leads against both the Jets and Dolphins, the impact of opposing running games was nullified a bit. Today, in more of a back-and-forth affair, this problem was a bit more evident.
The Ravens had their issues bringing down Rhamondre Stevenson. The second-year running back gained 73 yards on 12 carries. He broke off several rushes of 10+ yards and had a number of first-down conversions. Damien Harris was less efficient but also had 41 yards and, like Stevenson, a touchdown. Even Mac Jones broke contain a couple times and scrambled for 31 yards and a touchdown on five attempts.
Ceding 5.2 yards per carry and three rushing touchdowns is not a recipe the Ravens would probably like to continue with moving forward.
Giving up chunk passing gains
This could also be called “defending Devante Parker in man coverage”, as that was really the crux of the Ravens’ defense’s big-play problems on Sunday. Parker had five receptions of 20+ yards and totaled 156 yards on the day. Four of his receptions came directly after getting past Jayln Armour-Davis and Brandon Stephens in one-on-one coverage.
Kendrick Bourne had a 20-yard catch, but no other pass-catcher really burned the Ravens’ secondary aside from Parker. Still, Parker’s multiple long receptions again magnified Baltimore’s struggles with allowing receptions for big gains.