There would be torrential rain and wind gusts Sunday night at Gillette Stadium.
And there would be a game on the ground that the New England Patriots weathered to defeat the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 23-17 and improve to a 4-5 record.
Here’s a glance back through what went into it.
Keeping the MVP-led Baltimore rushing attack at bay
The Baltimore offense had averaged 170 rushing yards per game. The New England defense had averaged 130 rushing yards allowed per game. At 8:20 p.m. ET, they met.
Veteran running back Mark Ingram, recently scratched by an ankle injury, handled the first carry and saw it end behind the line courtesy of former Ravens nose tackle Carl Davis. A punt followed. So did alignments that sent Patriots outside linebacker Chase Winovich to the inside next to a standard elevation from the practice squad in Terez Hall. Safeties nickeled. Rushes mushed. Combinations changed.
Reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson showed glimpses of what he did last November. Baltimore held position for more than seven minutes to conclude the opening quarter, and began the next with an end-around touchdown to wide receiver Willie Snead that went in the box score as a six-yard pop pass. They’d connect for another trip to the end zone late in the third. But the Ravens accounted for 115 yards on the ground as a team, and the elusive Jackson had a team-high 55 while being taken down for sacks by 2020 Patriots second-rounder Josh Uche and 2013 Ravens fourth-rounder John Simon. Ingram, Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins and Justice Hill all touched the ball for the Baltimore backfield. New England’s defense limited the big difference to the tune of 4.1 yards per rush as Jackson attempted 34 throws.
Newton tosses first touchdown pass since September
Days removed from rushing for his seventh and eighth touchdowns of the campaign, marking the most by a Patriot since LeGarrette Blount’s record-setting 2016, Cam Newton passed for his third.
It came in response to the Ravens’ clock-absorbing 7-0 start. And it went to running back Rex Burkhead on a play-action swing into the flat from seven yards out. Prior to then, Newton hadn’t thrown for points since New England’s Sept. 27 win over the Las Vegas Raiders in Foxborough.
The quarterback went a waterlogged 13-of-17 for 118 yards with his arm Sunday. He also ran in for his ninth touchdown of the year to further his place in the NFL’s positional archives.
New England’s top target share remains in the hands of Meyers
Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers tied for the league lead in targets over the previous two weeks. His 24 stood in the company of fellow wideouts Jerry Jeudy, Tyreek Hill and D.K. Metcalf as well as tight end Travis Kelce.
In inclement conditions against the Ravens, Meyers drew seven.
The converted quarterback from North Carolina State turned them into five catches for 59 yards after amassing a career-high 12 catches for 169 yards on his birthday. And before intermission, Meyers also scored the first touchdown of his tenure on a 24-yard pass to the aforementioned Burkhead to make it 13-10. Damiere Byrd started alongside Meyers. Fellow sophomore N’Keal Harry returned to the receiver depth chart after missing a pair of contests due to a concussion. Trade acquisition Isaiah Ford was in uniform looking on. But Meyers garnered the lone looks for the group. He was there for 48 percent of Newton’s passing yards, and a third-and-3 conversion underneath with 3:33 left in a six-point game.
With Gilmore sidelined for third straight, Jackson makes it five straight
Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore had been listed as questionable after practicing in a limited capacity on Friday. But 90 minutes prior to kickoff, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player would be inactive for a third consecutive game due to a knee injury suffered in an October practice.
In Gilmore’s absence, J.C. Jackson went forward as the top corner in a New England secondary that started Jason McCourty, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips and top April draft pick Kyle Dugger.
Jackson entered Sunday with a league-high five interceptions on the year and four in as many games. He proceeded to intercept another to make it five consecutive games, breaking a tie for the franchise record. The milestone surfaced down the right sideline before halftime opposite Ravens vertical threat Marquise Brown.
Rookie sixth-rounder continues to bookend the line
A rookie offensive lineman who has started at tight end, left guard, right guard and right tackle maintained his place in New England’s lineup.
Mike Onwenu got the nod on the right side once again despite ex-Raven Jermaine Eluemunor’s activation off of injured reserve the day prior.
Onwenu, a 6-foot-3, 350-pound Michigan product, entered atop the Pro Football Focus gradebook at the bookend position this fall and having conceded one sack. But a second came on the opening drive as Ravens outside linebacker Matt Judon sped around the edge for a third-down takedown that knocked the Patriots out of field-goal range. A rare miss for a hit at pick No. 182 overall. Judon would later get around Onwenu and to the QB on a tackle for loss in the fourth quarter.
Hard-running Harris extends his lead between the Patriots’ tackles
Ankle and chest ailments left Damien Harris questionable to face the Ravens. And oftentimes, wincing.
But a back who averaged 6.4 yards per rushing attempt over the course of 477 for the Alabama Crimson Tide kept running. Be it toss, power or iso. Be it eight in the box.
Harris gained 121 yards on 22 carries Sunday. It marked the third time in six games this fall that Harris reached the century mark, and also the most that the Baltimore defense had given up to a single rusher this season. Harris played 10 snaps between offense and special teams as redshirted rookie. A workhorse role he would play Sunday in a matchup that required it.