The New England Patriots defense imploded against the Baltimore Ravens and their dynamic rushing offense, losing 20-37 on Sunday night.
For at least one night, everything the doubters and naysayers have been talking about regarding this New England Patriots team came to fruition.
The defense, which had looked so dominant for half a season, wilted under pressure from a top-ranked offense. Baltimore came into this game averaging well over 200 rushing yards per game – the best mark in the league – and they wasted no time in pounding the ball straight up the gut of the New England defense. By the time the smoke cleared, this proud Patriots D had surrendered 37 points and 373 total yards of offense (210 of which came on the ground).
The Patriots offense continued to get nothing going in the run game. Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead each had matching stat-lines of four carries for 18 yards, and James White got just 38 yards on his nine attempts. Even worse, the offensive line was under constant duress from the Ravens pass rush. Tom Brady was sacked twice for 17 yards, and on multiple occasions had to throw the ball away to escape oncoming blitzers.
The end result was a 37-20 smackdown on Sunday Night Football that could have been much, much worse. The Patriots were fortunate that Baltimore returner Cyrus Jones and running back Mark Ingram each lost a fumble that New England recovered deep in Ravens territory and converted into points… otherwise this game may have been even more lopsided.
To the Patriots’ credit, they did show mental toughness and impressive fortitude in weathering the storm and patiently waiting for their opportunities to strike back. After finding themselves in a quick and early 17-0 hole, New England’s defense stiffened up after impassioned speeches from Bill Belichick, Steve Belichick, and Dont’a Hightower.
The Patriots managed to cut the deficit to four points on two separate occasions, and were even poised to potentially take the lead early in the third quarter before Julian Edelman lost a fumble that was returned 70 yards for a touchdown. James White ran in a one-yard touchdown shortly after, but back-to-back Baltimore touchdowns in the fourth quarter essentially put the game out of reach for good for New England.
The Pats now have one week to lick their wounds and figure out all that went wrong before they hit the road again after their bye to take on the 5-4 Philadelphia Eagles. Philly will no doubt study the game tape from this Patriots/Ravens contest to see if they can emulate Baltimore’s winning blueprint; it will be up to Belichick and the Pats to prove that this loss was an aberration and not a sign of things to come.
The Patriots desperately need Isaiah Wynn back at left tackle. The former first-round draft pick has missed most of this season on IR with a turf toe injury, but he’s resumed practicing with the team and looks poised to get activated and make his official return against the Dallas Cowboys the week after the game against the Eagles. Fill-in left tackle Marshall Newhouse has been a leaky sieve all season, and it’s obvious that the Pats need Wynn back in order to shore up their pass protection.
The sky is certainly not falling for New England just because of this loss. While the dream of posting another undefeated regular season was a fun thought, it was always a long shot considering the dramatic increase in quality of the competition during this five-game stretch (at Ravens, at Eagles, vs Cowboys, at Texans, vs Chiefs). More than anything, the Patriots should focus on wrapping up the top seed in the AFC, a postseason bye, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
They’re still well-positioned to do all those things, but they’ll need a better overall effort from here on out. New England can probably afford to drop one more game – maybe two – this year and still finish as the No. 1 seed. What they can’t afford is to play like they did against Baltimore again… especially in the postseason.