Through the first half, the Patriots defense had held firm against one of the league’s best offenses, led by MVP candidate Lamar Jackson. The Ravens came in averaging 36 points per game, and although the Patriots had given up two touchdowns, they also forced two three-and-outs and intercepted Jackson. The offense had even shown signs of life, scoring 13 points before starting the second half with a touchdown drive to take a 20-14 lead. The second play of the next Baltimore series would end up being this week’s turning point.
Yes, the Patriots made far too many mistakes of their own to win this football game. They outgained the Ravens 447-394, had three more first downs, averaged more yards per play and generated four sacks of Jackson. That should all be enough to win, but alas it is hard to overcome four turnovers. That was the deciding factor, but I believe this game turned once defensive tackle Lawrence Guy went down with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.
Guy is not someone who jumps off the page looking at the box score but prior to Guy’s shoulder injury, the big defensive tackle had done a good job of clogging up the middle against the run and supplying enough pressure where Jackson could not step up in the pocket. While Jackson was sacked four times in the first half, he also was unable to complete a pass to a wide receiver, as the defense did a good job making him uncomfortable.
Against the run, the Patriots had held the Ravens to 67 yards on the ground prior to Guy’s injury. Afterwards, they gave up 121 yards on 15 carries (an average of 8.1 yards per rush) as the Ravens were able to control the game and score 23 second-half points.
When asked about the second half difficulties, head coach Bill Belichick lauded Jackson while also pointing out his team’s mistakes.
"“They ran their C gap plays. Lamar did a good job on keeping some of those, not keeping those, the option choices that he made. We lost leverage, missed a couple of tackles there, so… Combination of all those things.”"
It might be a coincidence, it might not, but the play directly after Guy’s injury, Jackson was able to finally complete a pass to a wide receiver as he found Devin Duvernay for 21 yards on third and five. This would be the first of four scoring drives in the second half and would give the Ravens a lead they would never relinquish.
After recording four sacks of Jackson in the first half, the Patriots defense was shut out in the second half. And although they were able to force one turnover, the Ravens ability to score on four of the other five possessions in the half is what hurt the most.