The New England Patriots played their most impressive game of the season on Sunday Night Football, beating the visiting Baltimore Ravens with a final score of 23-17 to improve to 4-5 on the season. Along the way, Bill Belichick’s team had some very encouraging moments — from a healthy balance on the offensive side of the ball, to some strong defense against a potent offense, to outstanding special teams work.
With all that said, let’s take a look at how New England opted to use the talent on its roster versus New York — and who played the biggest roles in the team’s second straight win.
Total snaps: 58
Shaq Mason (58; 100%), G Joe Thuney (58; 100%), OT Michael Onwenu (58; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (58; 100%), C David Andrews (58; 100%), QB Cam Newton (58; 100%), WR Jakobi Meyers (57; 98%), TE Ryan Izzo (54; 93%), WR Damiere Byrd (42; 72%), FB Jakob Johnson (37; 64%), WR N’Keal Harry (35; 60%), RB Damien Harris (32; 55%), RB Rex Burkhead (20; 34%), RB James White (10; 17%), OT Korey Cunningham (2; 3%), WR Matthew Slater (1; 2%)
After he had missed the previous two games due to a concussion suffered in Week 7, N’Keal Harry was eased back into the mix against Baltimore. The second-year wide receiver finished the game with 35 offensive snaps, third most among his position group behind Jakobi Meyers’ 57 and Damiere Byrd’s 42. While Harry did not register any statistics on the day, he was a valuable member of the Patriots’ running operation as a physical perimeter blocker.
The rest of the skill position group was employed in a familiar fashion. Ryan Izzo rarely left the field as the only tight end on the game day roster, with fullback Jakob Johnson again being prominently featured as well. The backfield, meanwhile, saw a healthy dose of Damien Harris, with Rex Burkhead being inserted into the lineup on a rotational basis and James White depending on the situation.
The offensive line also looked familiar throughout the game as the five starters went wire-to-wire for a second straight week — including right tackle Michael Onwenu. The sixth-round rookie kept his starting gig even with Day One starter Jermaine Eluemunor returning from injured reserve. While Onwenu played all 58 offensive snaps, Eluemunor only saw the field as part of New England’s kicking game operation.
Total snaps: 66
S Devin McCourty (66; 100%), CB Jason McCourty (66, 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (66; 100%), LB Chase Winovich (65; 98%), S Adrian Phillips (58; 88%), S Kyle Dugger (56; 85%), LB Terez Hall (55; 83%), CB Jonathan Jones (43; 65%), LB John Simon (41; 62%), DT Adam Butler (39; 63%), DT Lawrence Guy (35; 53%), DT Byron Cowart (29; 44%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (27; 41%), LB Josh Uche (21; 32%), DT Carl Davis (19; 29%), S Terrence Brooks (13; 20%), LB Anfernee Jennings (11, 17%), LB Derek Rivers (10; 15%), CB Myles Bryant (6; 9%)
Baltimore has one of the most potent running games in the NFL, but the Patriots were able to hold it in check for much of the night because of their defensive personnel usage: New England attempted to get plenty of speed onto the field to account for Lamar Jackson as a ball carrier and to close in quickly on the Ravens’ backs and receivers in the open field. As a result of this approach, the Patriots’ young talent played a pivotal role in the game.
While J.C. Jackson filled his usual role as the number one cornerback in light of Stephon Gilmore’s continued absence, second-round rookie Kyle Dugger had the most active game of his career. The Lenoir-Rhyne product was on the field for 56 snaps as a box and coverage safety, and played a big role in limiting Baltimore’s production in the underneath portions of the field — something that can also be said for second-year linebacker Terez Hall, who once again took over the off-the-ball role from injured Ja’Whaun Bentley.
Speaking of second-year linebackers, Chase Winovich is fully back in the starting lineup. After a seeing limited opportunities in the three games after the Patriots’ Week 5 bye, he was featured heavily in back-to-back weeks. Against Baltimore, however, his snap count saw another uptick: Winovich led all front seven defenders with 65 snap — a new career high for the outside linebacker who also saw some snaps off the ball.
Total snaps: 23
WR Matthew Slater (19; 83%), CB Justin Bethel (19; 83%), S Cody Davis (16; 70%), LB Chase Winovich (15; 65%), S Kyle Dugger (14; 61%), LB Anfernee Jennings (13; 57%), P Jake Bailey (13; 57%), WR Gunner Olszewski (12; 52%), RB Rex Burkhead (11; 48%), CB Jonathan Jonens (11; 48%), FB Jakob Johnson (10; 43%), CB Joejuan Williams (10; 43%), S Adrian Phillips (9; 39%), LS Joe Cardona (8; 35%), LB John Simon (6; 26%), DT Byron Cowart (5; 22%), DT Carl Davis (5; 22%), CB Myles Bryant (5; 22%), G Shaq Mason (4; 17%), G Joe Thuney (4; 17%), OT Michael Onwenu (4; 17%), TE Ryan Izzo (4; 17%), OT Korey Cunningham (4; 17%), LB Terez Hall (4; 17%), S Terrence Brooks (4; 17%), C James Ferentz (4; 17%), K Nick Folk (4; 17%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (4; 17%), S Devin McCourty (3; 13%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (3; 13%), LB Derek Rivers (3; 13%), RB James White (1; 4%), LB Josh Uche (1; 4%), LB Cassh Maluia (1; 4%)
With N’Keal Harry returning to the offensive lineup, Gunner Olszewski was used exclusively in the kicking game against Baltimore: the second-year man played 12 snaps as a return man, even though he did not have a single runback in either the punt or the kickoff game all day. All in all, Olszewski was one of 10 Patriots that were used only in the game’s third phase — joining the three specialists Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona and Nick Folk, as well as Cody Davis, Joejuan Williams, James Ferentz, Jermaine Eluemunor and Cassh Maluia.
One noticeable absence from this list is Matthew Slater. The team captain did play his third offensive snap of the season on Sunday, serving as the deep man on the final kneel-down of the day.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, WR Isaiah Ford, LB Tashawn Bower
Jarrett Stidham spending the entirety of the game on the sidelines was to be expected in a game that was highly contested right down until the last snap. Isaiah Ford and Tashawn Bower were candidates to take the field, on the other hand, but neither was used: Ford’s debut after getting acquired via trade will have to wait another week, while Bower’s roster spot appears to be built on a shaky foundation even with fellow outside linebacker Shilique Calhoun now on injured reserve.
QB Brian Hoyer, CB Stephon Gilmore, RB J.J. Taylor, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, G Hjalte Froholdt, TE Jordan Thomas, DT Isaiah Mack
After not ruling out any players heading into the weekend, the Patriots’ inactives list consisted mostly of healthy scratches and emergency depth options. In fact, only Stephon Gilmore and Ja’Whaun Bentley missed the game for injury reasons: while the team’s starting cornerback missed his third contest in a row due to a knee ailment, Bentley was inactive for a second straight week after hurting his groin in Week 8.