Two weeks ago, the New England Patriots looked dead. 2-5, coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills, and in third place in the division. While they’re still third in the AFC East, they have won two straight, their second victory coming against a 6-2 Baltimore Ravens team. It was their most impressive win of the season. Are they going to the playoffs? I have no idea, but, there’s still a chance, and it is clear this team is not giving up just yet.
Don’t forget about the run-blocking
Everyone is going to point to Damien Harris as the best player in Sunday’s game, and rightfully so, but let’s not forget all the players that made his runs happen. Not just the offensive line, who continued to create holes even after the Ravens stacked the box, but also the receivers. Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry, who didn’t have a catchable ball thrown his way in his return from a concussion, were physical in the running game all night to spring Harris, and Cam Newton, on a bunch of occasions.
It’s not often that receivers make such an impact in the running game, but the Patriots’ sure did Sunday.
A tale of two passers
Speaking of Meyers, his touchdown throw to Rex Burkhead was a thing of beauty. The second-year man was also the only Patriots wide receiver to catch a ball on Sunday night, showing how much faith Cam Newton has in him.
Newton, meanwhile, only attempted 17 passes, but he played extremely well, chipping in 21 rushing yards, and another rushing touchdown. He had his first passing touchdown in weeks, on a great play design to Burkhead where Harry set a legal pick that left the intended target wide open in the flat. Newton still has yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver this season, and the Patriots are going to have to be able to throw the ball consistently if they are going to try to make a push to the playoffs, but you have to be happy with the way he’s been playing the last few weeks.
Slowing down the MVP
Defensively, the Patriots did a great job of containing Lamar Jackson. He’s so hard to stop, and he made some plays, but New England really did a great job of limiting his impact on the game. J.C. Jackson had a huge interception, and the secondary as a whole played extremely well. The conditions made throwing the ball challenging, but the corners and safeties didn’t give Jackson much to work with.
The youth movement
A player that really flashed to me was Kyle Dugger. He was all over the field, almost wrestling an interception away from Mark Andrews, and making some solid tackles in the running game and in the open field. His tackle on J.K. Dobbins essentially ended the game, and that was not an easy one to make. If he misses that, Dobbins picks up another 10 yards and gets out of bounds, but the second-round rookie made the play, and kept him in bounds to seal the game.
In general, we finally got to see some of the young guys play, and it was fun to watch. Josh Uche had a half-sack, with a great rip move to take Lamar Jackson down alongside his old Michigan teammate, Chase Winovich. Dugger, as I mentioned, was all over the field, and even Anfernee “Penny” Jennings (yes, that’s his nickname) was in on a few plays.
There are quite a few players to be excited about already: Winovich, Damien Harris, Jakobi Meyers, and Byron Cowart. And to now see some of the rookies start to make an impact, after already seeing how good Michael Onwenu has been, is awfully exciting.
A coaching clinic
Bill Belichick put on a clinic this week as the Ravens’ coaching staff really seemed to be a step behind at all times. The Patriots have struggled to stop to the outside run all year, and it didn’t feel like Baltimore challenged them outside nearly enough. Also, the Patriots were routinely running against eight and nine men in the box on defense, but the Ravens weren’t actually sending people to put pressure on the offensive line. They finally started blitzing more in the fourth quarter, and did a good job of limiting the Patriots’ rushing attack at that point. It was too little, too late, though.
The Patriots have always played their best in games like this, when no one believes they can win, and their backs are against the wall. It was still a bit of a surprise to see them pull this one out, however, considering how the season has gone so far. Still, with the Patriots playing the lowly Houston Texans next week, they have a good chance to build off this momentum, and continue their push towards the playoffs.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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