It took them 10 weeks but the New England Patriots finally showed us what they are capable of on Sunday night as they prevailed over the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 in a hard-fought and rain-soaked victory that saw the emergence of some young stars.
On offense, Damien Harris had a career performance — to this point — with 121 yards on 22 carries. Jakobi Meyers proved that the past two weeks were no fluke, catching five passes for 59 yards and out-snapping every other receiver against one of the NFL’s top defenses. Sure, they aren’t the back-to-back first-round picks, but Patriot fans can’t really afford to be critical of production at this point.
Defensively we saw the emergence of two rookies who made some big time plays (more on those later) and J.C. Jackson’s return to form, allowing only one catch for 14 yards and coming down with his sixth interception on the season. The McCourty’s looked 25 again and the big/slow guys up front did a pretty good job containing the NFL’s MVP.
There was a lot to like about Sunday night’s victory, and there will be even more after we get into the underrated stuff. So without further ado, here are the Patriots’ unsung heroes from their victory over Baltimore.
Jason McCourty helps Jonathan Jones beat Lamar Jackson to the spot
Hell of a play by Jon Jones to beat Lamar to the spot here. J-Mac does a nice job taking out that blocker as well. Ravens ended up botching the snap on fourth down to turn it over. It’s the little things folks. pic.twitter.com/5rSwaAPj6f— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
This play screamed unsung hero to me. First and foremost, beating Lamar Jackson in a foot race may be the most impressive thing a defender can do on the field so credit to Jonathan Jones. The reason he even has a chance though is because of Jason McCourty, who takes out a 310-pound guard, giving Jones a free path. That is high IQ and flat out talent combining to make a big-time play. The Ravens also happened to botch the snap on the next play to give New England the ball at their 37-yard line. A beautiful sequence.
More perfect execution in the run game
Isaiah Wynn coming downhill is a scary sight for a DB. Jakob, Harry, Jakobi all with solid blocks as well. A perfectly executed run play is still the most exciting in football. pic.twitter.com/llbhAFXrOT— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
For the second straight week we saw a play perfectly executed by the Patriots offense. Isaiah Wynn shows that athleticism that got him selected in the first round. Jakob Johnson with maybe his best block all season. N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers taking out two linebackers. The entire backside getting out in front of the defense. All beautiful things to see.
John ‘Usain Bolt’ Simon
Now that play by Jones and J-Mac was nice but John Simon running down Lamar Jackson?!?!? I should have known better than doubting him. pic.twitter.com/YpifxhtaZX— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
Say what you will about Johnny Simon and his… subpar athleticism. This play proves that he’s got at least a little bit of juice in the tank. Lamar Jackson has literally made his career out of breaking down outside linebackers, Simon didn’t take the bait and took a nice angle for the sack. The guy makes plays.
Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, and Deatrich Wise Jr. all win on pass rush
Uche got credit for this sack but Winovich and Wise are in their as well. Wino uses a nice stutter and go on Orlando Brown and Deatrich Wise straight up bullies Bozeman. Best pass rush rep of the night. pic.twitter.com/Zv9usOWtWa— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pumping up Josh Uche’s sack numbers, I just think it’s important to point out how well the Patriots front played this. Chase Winovich has a deep bag of tricks and pulled out a nice stutter step to beat Orlando Brown Jr. off the edge. Deatrich Wise Jr. had possibly the best pass rush rep of his career, rag-dolling Bradley Bozeman and helping the two Michigan men finish off the sack.
Kyle Dugger calls game
Kyle Dugger called game with this tackle last night. Dobbins catches the ball at the 20, Dugger closes 10+ yards and makes the tackle at the 20. Ravens throw an incompletion next play and the game is over. The kid is special. pic.twitter.com/6So3DPgdd2— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
In the grand scheme of things this play didn’t mean a whole lot. Even without it the Ravens have to go 70 yards in a monsoon with about 20 seconds left, not likely. It was however a perfect encapsulation of what Dugger brought to the defense last night and can bring moving forward: play recognition, closing speed, and sound tackling. I’m higher on Dugger than most and this play gave a glimpse into why.
The Coaching Staff
Is this cheating? Absolutely. Do I care enough to change it up? Nope.
Last night was a display of Bill Belichick and his entire staff out-coaching their opponent. They went in with a solid game plan on both sides of the ball and the players executed superbly.
Offensively, the plan was simple. Run the ball and keep it away from the Ravens outstanding secondary. With Calais Campbell out, and Brandon Williams hurt early on, the Patriots knew they could run it into the teeth of Baltimore’s defense. The Ravens’ very young linebacking core also contributed to that thought process. An “offensive script” is subjective but the Patriots ran the ball on six straight plays to open up the game, playing their best hand early. When all was said and done, they ran the ball 37 times and threw it just 18. The play calling was much improved compared to previous weeks.
They picked their spots throwing the ball and it worked out. Smart play designs and a little bit of trickery goes a long way for a struggling offense.
Then the double pass. Similar formation to the Edelman/Amendola play except the far receiver is inline. Gives Burkhead plenty of space for his route and isolates the linebacker. Great design, better throw. pic.twitter.com/SQSPSp0jlB— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
Defensively, the Patriots threw in a whole lot of wrinkles. Most notably were increases in playing time for rookies as well as a slight position change. Kyle Dugger got his first career start and certainly produced, recording a team-high 12 tackles. He was superb in the run game and though he gave up four receptions, he wasn’t bad in coverage, playing mostly in zone. Rookie linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche both saw increased roles as well, Uche recorded a sack and a pressure while Jennings pitched in with a couple of tackles. The defense as a whole felt a lot faster with those guys on the field.
Though they stayed true to having him rush off the edge on passing downs, Chase Winovich played quite a bit of off ball linebacker. He had his moments as well.
Chase Winovich was one of the best players on the field last night. He had 11 disruptions and saw a good amount of time off ball, making some nice plays like this one. They found a way to get him on the field and he produced. pic.twitter.com/VbzVxDoWpt— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) November 16, 2020
Changing up what made the team so stagnant for a few weeks was nice to see; there was a bit of a change in philosophy as they strayed away from playing veterans just because they are veterans.
The biggest positive for the coaching staff was how the Patriots were able to play mistake-free football in such horrible conditions. The team was prepared and that ultimately set them up for success. Sunday night was a team win in every sense of the phrase.