How Lamar Jackson and the RPO embarrassed the New England defense
What happened to the “Boogeymen” style of defense for the New England Patriots on Sunday night in their loss to the Baltimore Ravens?
The New England Patriots got steamrolled by the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night in all four phases of the game. The Patriots not only got outplayed on offense, defense, and special teams, but they got out-coached as well… something we don’t see too often from Bill Belichick or his staff.
Looking back on years past, the Patriots have had their share of problems in defending running quarterbacks. In recent seasons, the Pats have struggled against Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and now Lamar Jackson. Jackson and his Ravens offense weren’t anything like what the Patriots have seen so far either this season or for a very long time.
The narrative leading up to the game was all “the Patriots are going to contain Jackson” and “New England is going to make Jackson throw in order for the Ravens to win the game.” Turns out Lamar Jackson is pretty good at both running and throwing (especially in the short game), and he has a knack for confusing defenses and keeping them guessing as to what is going to happen next.
Jackson runs the RPO better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He knows he’s the fastest guy on the field at all times, and knows he will win his matchup every time if he decides to peel off and run. The speed that Jackson has from the quarterback position is what made the difference Sunday night; it’s obviously rare to see a QB with speed like that in the NFL.
The Patriots showed a lack of discipline while defending the run. With all of the focus on Jackson, New England seemed to forget at times about Mark Ingram. Eventually the defense made some adjustments to better stop the run, but by then it was too late.
Ingram tallied up 15 carries for 115 yards, while Lamar Jackson had 16 carries for 61 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens finished Week nine with 210 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns all told against this previously-unbeatable Patriots defense.
One of the most athletic and versatile linebackers on New England’s D – and maybe even in the NFL – is Jamie Collins. And yet, I think Collins was surprised by the speed of Jackson, as we saw Collins get beat on numerous occasions trying to read and defend the RPO Sunday night. In fact, Jackson scored the first touchdown of the game on a misread play by Collins.
Collins, who totaled only four tackles in the game, wasn’t the only Patriots defender who missed his assignments on Sunday. I noticed when the defense would blitz, they weren’t thinking of defending the RPO. Regardless of his team-high 13 tackles, Dont’a Hightower got caught missing plays a lot on stunts like this.
The inability to stay disciplined is what made the Pats look terrible in regards to the read option. The New England linebackers allowed themselves to get blocked while looking for the RPO from Jackson. That is not the way to defend the read-option, and I don’t think that’s the way Bill Belichick coached his players to prepare for it, either.
With the way the game of the NFL is changing, I’m glad the hard-nosed traditional New England Patriots football team faced some adversity in this loss to the Baltimore Ravens, because there’s a good chance these two teams could meet again in the playoffs.
It’s going to be hard for any squad to try and slow these Ravens down, as they are clearly poised to be a playoff team and a formidable out for any opponent this season. If they do indeed come up against New England in the postseason, let’s hope the Patriots have a better answer for these Ravens then.