The hopes of an unbeaten season were shattered last night against the Ravens, but it may benefit New England down the road.
The Patriots suffered their first loss of the season in their week 9 match up against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night by a score of 37-20. The Ravens got off to a red-hot start, scoring 17 unanswered points less than 20 minutes into the game. After a brutal start on both sides of the ball, New England was able to respond in the second quarter and find some momentum as the closed the gap to 17-13 going into the half. New England did not do themselves a lot of favors with two costly turnovers and penalties on defense that extended drives for the Ravens, but kept focused and responded.
The final score of 37-20 does not tell the whole story of how the game went, given that the Patriots essentially spotted the Ravens 17 points, it was a very back and forth game after that.
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I think the Patriots‘ defense bought into their own hype a little bit and were punched in the mouth to start that game, they had some very uncharacteristic penalties and were unable to get the Ravens off the field. On offense, Mohamed Sanu had a his breakout game as a Patriot, catching 10 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. This performance came just 10 days after Sanu signed with the team. N’Keal Harry made the trip with the team, but was ruled inactive at the last minute. When Belichick was asked about the decision to rule Harry out for the game, he responded with a very Belichick-esque answer. “Because there were 46 other guys who were active”.
I think Belichick and the defensive staff found some defensive looks that gave the Ravens unique style of offense some trouble. Jackson’s favorite in the game was the to the tight ends in the flats. He was very cautious of testing New England’s secondary, so I suspect if the Patriots play them again in the playoffs, he will force Jackson to throw the ball downfield. As I previously mentioned, the defense was more successful when they sacrificed size for speed, especially with the linebackers. Guys like Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy had no chance of trying to run down Lamar Jackson when he took off, so they will probably find themselves in different roles in the rematch. The biggest thing that I took away from this game were the penalties. Baltimore was deafening in that game last night, which caused a few costly neutral zone infractions and offsides calls, but as it currently stands, the road to the Super Bowl still goes through New England. I believe home field advantage will play a huge factor in the playoffs.
The Ravens have such a unique style of offense that includes power running with a very good offensive line combined with a mobile quarterback. Unorthodox offenses like these are very tough to prepare for without experience. The Patriots were becoming used to blowing teams out, and were unfamiliar with playing from behind. Despite the early deficit, they continued to fight and were constantly nipping at the Ravens’ heels. They were resilient and did not roll over. The Patriots were punched in the mouth last night, but I know for a fact they are salivating at the opportunity for a rematch in the postseason.