Here are our immediate takeaways from the New England Patriots 30-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
QB Tom Brady is back atop the MVP conversation
The Most Valuable Player in the NFL needs to elevate his play in prime time when his team needs him most. There is no bigger stage than Monday Night Football against the #1 ranked defense in the NFL. Brady went 25 for 38 (65.8%) for 406 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception for a passer rating of 116.8. He’s the best player on the team with the best record in the NFL and he’s carried the offense. He’s the league MVP right now.
RB LeGarrette Blount has set a new career high in yards
Blount picked up 72 yards on 18 carries (4.0 yards per carry) against the #1 run defense in the NFL. Blount now has 1,029 rushing yards, eclipsing his career high of 1,007 from his rookie year. He added a 7 yard reception for 79 total yards on the day; his 1,067 yards from scrimmage is also a career high.
Blount added another rushing touchdown, his 14th of the year, tying Curtis Martin for the most in a single season in Patriot franchise history.
A ridiculous 5 players recorded 70+ yards from scrimmage on the day
Blount’s 79 yards from scrimmage ranked third on the team. WR Chris Hogan picked up 129 yards, including a game-sealing 79-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter. RB James White added 84 yards, including a 61-yard reception. WR Julian Edelman added 73 yards on a ridiculous 15 targets (Brady needs to stop locking onto Edelman), and TE Martellus Bennett added 70 yards and a touchdown.
WR Malcolm Mitchell chipped in 41 yards and a touchdown, while Dion Lewis had a quiet 19 yards on 4 touches. In other words, this Patriots offense is still scratching the surface.
The defense was excellent for the fourth straight game
The Patriots didn’t put together a performance to match the Rams game, but it was close for most of the game. Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers both recorded sacks, although the officials blew an early whistle on Flowers or he would have recorded a strip sack. Malcom Brown forced a safety. Devin McCourty grabbed an interception, but had a big return negated by another terrible officiating decision. Malcolm Butler extended his league lead in pass break-ups and Jonathan Jones added on a tackle for loss.
Outside of a 40-yard catch-and-run by FB Kyle Juszczyk with at least three missed tackles, and a 47-yard pass to Breshad Perriman over Cyrus Jones, the Patriots were outstanding on defense. They now rank alone at #2 in points allowed per game, behind only the Minnesota Vikings.
The special teams unit almost had a great game...
P Ryan Allen had a great game, with his punts setting the Ravens back to the 21, 1, 20, 48, 2, and 24 yard line. He was arguably the MVP of the game. K Stephen Gostkowski connected on all four of his extra point attempts and was effective on his kickoffs. LB Shea McClellin blocked a field goal.
...but special teams almost cost the Patriots the game
But CB Cyrus Jones had an atrocious game. After a near misstep on a punt return, where Jones walked around the bouncing ball and almost clipped it, Jones followed that up by actually kicking the football on another punt return, giving the Ravens the ball on the 3-yard line. Baltimore scored easily.
On the ensuing kickoff, Matthew Slater, playing in the place of Jones, fumbled the kick return and the Ravens got the ball on the 22-yard line, which the Ravens converted into another touchdown.
The Patriots lost the turnover battle 3-1, but they still managed to win. They can’t expect that to work again.