The New England Patriots opened their season with a perfect 8-0 record, thoroughly dominating their opposition in the process with an average margin of victory of 23.6 points per game. New England’s defense was allowing only 7.6 points per game heading into the team’s Sunday Night Football matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9, sparking questions of whether or not this group was good enough to go undefeated.
But on Sunday night in Baltimore, the Ravens just snapped New England’s 13-game winning streak and cracked through its air of invincibility with an impressive 37-20 win over the Patriots. How did they pull it off?
1. By running the ball right down New England’s throat
New England came into this week’s action ranking No. 1 in the NFL in total defense, allowing only 234 yards per game. They ranked second in the league in passing defense allowing only 148.8 passing yards per game and fourth-best in rushing defense allowing 84.3 rushing yards per game.
It is a testament to how excellent New England’s pass defense is that despite the fact that teams are often forced to throw against the Patriots early and often when they fall behind in games, New England still allows so few yards. The Patriots pass defense was also responsible for 19 interceptions through the team’s first eight games, nearly double the total of the teams in second place with 10 interceptions.
The Patriots don’t have a weakness against the run, but they are a lot more beatable on the ground than they are through the air. Baltimore proved this on Sunday night, imposing their will in the running game. Mark Ingram, Lamar Jackson, and Gus Edwards combined for 38 rushing attempts, 203 rushing yards, and three rushing touchdowns in the win.
2. By making some big plays on defense
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots are going to produce some offense against you. Even in defeat, the Patriots had 342 total yards as Tom Brady led the way with 285 passing yards and one passing touchdown. Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu each had 10 receptions and combined for 170 receiving yards.
But at key moments in the game, Baltimore was able to make big plays on defense to halt New England’s momentum. After seeing a 17-0 lead whittled down to 17-13 before the half, the Ravens started the second half on defense and saw the Patriots march down to the Baltimore 30-yard line. It was here that on a short pass to Julian Edelman, Patrick Onwuasor forced a fumble and Marlon Humphrey scooped it up for a 70-yard return for a touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, the game was still within reach for New England at 30-20 Baltimore with 13:01 minutes to go. Tom Brady took a snap and attempted a deep pass to Mohamed Sanu that was intercepted by Earl Thomas. This set up a 14-play, 9-minutes and 35-second touchdown drive in which the Ravens physically dominated the Patriots and sealed the game.
Perhaps the AFC won’t be a cakewalk for New England, after all
For as great as the Patriots have looked through the first half of the season, they hadn’t really been tested by anyone besides the Bills through their first eight games. They got a big test on Sunday night, and they come out of the bye to a tough four-game stretch of at Philadelphia, Dallas, at Houston, and Kansas City.
This Ravens team at 6-2 looks like the real deal. The Buffalo Bills (6-2), Houston Texans (6-3), and Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) have all shown flashes of brilliance, too, and appear to be improving as the season progresses.
New England is still the team to beat in the AFC, but suddenly the prospect of beating them doesn’t seem so impossible. Baltimore just did it in style.