If you’re tired of the dominance of the Patriots, that freeze frame of them holding the Lombardi Trophy aloft, the good news is Bill Belichick was described as grumpy Sunday after his team had its unbeaten season blown up by the surging Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore.
Of course, we’ll need to wait two months before we find out what if any long-term bearing this 37-20 rout has on the AFC season. You know, the Patriots are famous for recalibration and getting revenge when its most important.
But for this one night, an ebullient one on the banks of Baltimore’s harbor, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was just too much for even the vaunted Patriots defense to handle.
Seriously, after watching the Patriots breeze through the first eight games of the season, who knew it would be possible for anyone to rack up 37 against them.
“MVP, bro,” Ravens safety Earl Thomas told NFL.com after the win when asked about Jackson. “He’s separating himself right now, and it’s pretty special to watch.”
This Ravens-Patriots matchup was one of the most highly anticipated of the season, not so much for its impact on the standings, but as a barometer about the potential of a multi-talent like Jackson to torture a defense that’s been putting up historically sound numbers.
And it wasn’t even close, really. Filled with adrenaline, the Ravens rushed to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and would have glided to the finish line if not for a couple of turnovers.
The exclamation point of the win, was cornerback Marlon Humphrey’s 70-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the third quarter. As you likely know, one of the strong suits of the Patriots prior to Sunday was the ability of their defense to score. Humphrey’s run was a bit of payback.
One of the things that served as a challenge for Jackson was Belichick’s track record for stifling young quarterbacks. The Pats had won 24 straight against QBs under 25. Anyone who saw them intimidate Jets quarterback Sam Darnold on Monday Night Football a few weeks ago certainly understood how daunting the experience of matching up with Belichick’s genius could be.
Jackson never blinked. He attacked New England in the same fashion he had every other opponent this season, especially late in the game when his poise during a pair on long scoring drives was clear.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Jackson. “But I don’t care about the person I’m playing against [Brady] and I don’t care if it’s a prime-time game or a 1 o’clock game. I’m just trying to win. That’s all that matters.”
Jackson completed 17-of-23 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, a 5-yarder to tight end Nick Boyle to kick off the fourth quarter. And he ran for another 61 yards and two TDs.
There was more to Baltimore’s fourth straight win, of course. Mark Ingram pierced Pats for 115 yards. His signing to accessorize Jackson in the ground attack has been one of the major improvements to Baltimore’s offense.
It was not the best night for the Patriots. They were uncharacteristically mistake-prone. And Jackson was able to make them pay. That was especially true after New England cut Baltimore’s lead to 24-20 and was beginning to wear down the Ravens defense with sustained drives. The Pats were on the field for 19 straight plays to start the second half.
His best play was a an 18-yard completion to tight end Mark Andrews on a critical third-and-5 on the Ravens 24 midway through the third quarter.
“We had to keep the Patriots off the field,” said Jackson.
That sustained a drive which paid off with Jackson’s TD pass to Boyle, the first scoring pass of the tight end’s career.
“That’s just what we do. We’re built for that type of brand of football, and a lot of other teams are seeing that right now: just being physical, running the ball, coming right at folks,” Ravens wide receiver Willie Snead IV told The Athletic. “That’s how we’re winning games.”
In the end, the Patriots allowed four touchdowns, equaling the amount they had given up previously in the season.
“We competed out there. It just wasn’t good enough,” said Belichick, who now takes his team into its bye week. “So we’ve all got to do a better job and it starts with me.”
The Ravens gained 372 total yards against the league’s top-ranked defense allowing only 234 yards per game. The Ravens had 210 rushing yards against a defense that had been yielding only 85. And they possessed the ball for 37:01.
“Losses always find a way to recalibrate how you see yourself and we obviously have a lot of work to do,” said Brady. “It just wasn’t good enough. To get beat by 17 points, that’s not what we’re about.”
Thanks to Jackson, the Ravens lead the league in points per game (31.4) are second to the Dallas Cowboys in yards (427) and first in rushing yards (204.9).
“To me, that’s what winning football does,” said John Harbaugh, the Ravens head coach. “We’ve done that before. We looked like that in ‘08, ‘09, ‘10, ‘11 a number of times, too, but it’s a different offense now. We’re doing it at an even higher level than we did then. So, that’s a big part of our formula, and the guys have done a great job with it.”