BALTIMORE — When the runup to Patriots-Ravens was just getting started last week, Ravens tight end Nick Boyle was asked about the Patriots historically stingy defense.
“We’ll see how good they are once we play them,” said Boyle. “I don’t think they’ve seen anyone like our offense or like Lamar (Jackson). They’re a good team and we’ll need to bring our ‘A’ game.”
It’s a bad idea to make sweeping pronouncements based on 60 minutes of football. Three weeks ago, the Jets beat the Cowboys and it was HERE COME THE JETS!!!! A little more than a month ago, the Ravens lost to the Browns by 15. In Baltimore.
You’re about to get two weeks of talk about how the Patriots were exposed Sunday night by the Ravens. Don’t take the bait. Yes, the Ravens and Jackson ran over, through and around the Patriots defense to the tune of 210 yards. But the first eight games of this season and the last five of 2018 — including the Super Bowl — is too much evidence that they’re really friggin’ good to be wiped away by one bad Sunday night.
This game wasn’t about what the Patriots defense isn’t.
It’s about what the Baltimore Ravens are. Legitimate.
The needle on the Fraud-O-Meter was pinned all week. The Ravens hadn’t beaten anyone save for a road win at Seattle.
Bill Belichick has defensive game plans from Super Bowls in the Hall of Fame. Lamar Jackson was going to melt his brain?
And Boyle was out here making, “Wait’ll they get a load of us!” pronouncements. Recipe for disaster.
Not only did the Ravens show up with a beautifully-scripted offensive plan for their first three drives (that bye week of preparation came in handy for offensive coordinator Greg Roman), they also didn’t come undone when the Patriots showed up in their rearview mirror and started closing on them.
When the Browns played the Patriots last week and the crap hit the fan, Baker Mayfield — the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft — flung more poo at the rotors. When the crap was headed for the fan for the Ravens, Jackson — the last pick in the first round of the 2018 draft — made sure it never got there.
The Patriots allowed four touchdowns in the first eight games of the year. The Ravens scored four last night.
How many times did Belichick self-flagellate about not doing a good job preparing the defense for Jackson? Four.
His most telling reply came when asked if there was anything specific he didn’t have the Patriots prepared for.
Belichick’s reply? “It’s obvious.”
And it was. On this night, the Patriots couldn’t deal with the Ravens ground game. And because of that — and the people they had to allocate to get it under control — Jackson was able to make enough simple throws to move the sticks.
“We knew they had one of the best running attacks in the NFL,” said safety Devin McCourty. “They were able to run the ball and I think because we struggled to stop the run, that gave them control of the game. Possessions, down and distance, they got to be comfortable all game.”
Now, back to Boyle. He was asked about his comment from earlier in the week.
“People thought I was taking a jab at them, but that’s not what I was saying,” he explained. “Every time you line up you’re literally going to see how good (the opponent is). They’re a good team. That’s what I meant. They’re a really good defense. They’re also a really good offense. They were super-physical out there on a lot of plays.”
In essence (if I’m interpreting Boyle-ese correctly), he was saying this was a checkpoint for the Ravens. And for Jackson who ran 16 times for 61 yards and two TDs, went 17 for 23 for 163 yards and a touchdown pass and didn’t turn it over.
Was this a statement win?
“Yeah, definitely,” said wide receiver Willie Snead. “These guys were undefeated. They were on top of the league and they were coming in here to try and win. We’ve got a little pride. I mean, this rivalry goes back further than when I was in the league.
“You can’t handle Lamar,” added Snead. “Lamar is just a game-breaker at any time. It’s hard for teams to game-plan for a guy like that. He’s special. He leads our team and we follow him.”
Tight end Mark Andrews, who had a big third-down catch for 18 yards after the Patriots closed to 24-20 in the third, said, “You see this Patriots defense and how good they are — and they are that good — and some of the things he was able to do against them was impressive.”
So while it’s a statement win for Baltimore, what does it say about the Patriots?
Are there other offenses out there that can steamroll them on the ground? I don’t think there are. Not like this. Besides that, what the Ravens did is shine a light on deficiencies that Belichick is going to harp on incessantly through this bye week.
The Patriots had self-inflicted harm. Going offsides on a field goal attempt in the first quarter cost them four points. The Julian Edelman fumble returned for a TD cost another seven. They had driving-extending penalties and protection breakdowns and drops.
It wasn’t just about the defense getting run over. It wasn’t just about Jackson.
The Patriots just wheeled into the bad neighborhood section of their schedule. It’s gonna get rough with the Eagles, Cowboys, Chiefs and Texans over the next month.
“Each week you’re going to get a challenge,” said McCourty. “Whether we play a team that runs the ball well or throws the ball 400 yards a game, we’ve got to be able to understand what they do well and stop them. It’s a week-by-week thing. This week, it didn’t work out. We didn’t win. But after the bye, we have the Eagles so we’ve got to watch them and see what they do well and figure out how to stop them. If we don’t do those things, it’s going to be the same result.”
Every team the Patriots play is looking to make a statement. For eight weeks, every opponent choked on its words. Sunday night, the Ravens got the whole statement out and it was, “Look at us, we’re pretty good ya know!”
The Patriots getting cuffed around by the very first competent team they faced this year is going to be interpreted as a statement too. That they aren’t who we thought they were.
I’d wait a little bit before buying in to that.
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