If you’re an NFL fan, you heard the narrative developing this season. The New England Patriots were returning to form. Tom Brady had escaped from Father Time yet again, and head coach Bill Belichick was masterminding an unstoppable defense. The Pats cruised to an 8-0 record, but then they paid a visit to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night.
Now, on Monday morning, the undefeated record is gone, and the New England Patriots are looking human. Is it possible that they were overrated this entire time?
The Patriots hot start on defense
The New England Patriots kicked off the 2019 NFL season in style, posting two dominant wins over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. While things would get a little tighter after that, the team never really struggled.
The Pats then beat the New York Jets before escaping from Buffalo with a narrow, six-point victory. They seemed to return to form against the Redskins, Giants, and Jets, before playing a tighter game than anyone expected against the Cleveland Browns.
While they were winning comfortably and dominating on the defensive side of the ball, critics pointed out that New England was simply rolling over lesser opponents. That all changed on Sunday night.
Visiting the Baltimore Ravens
On Sunday night, the New England Patriots brought their undefeated record into Baltimore. The Ravens, however, weren’t prepared to sit back and let their guests cruise to victory.
The Ravens jumped out to an early 17-0 lead, punching the Patriots defense in the mouth for the first time this season. While they let Tom Brady claw his way back into the game, Baltimore managed to stay in front.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson led the way for the Ravens, throwing for 163 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 61 yards and another two scores. Mark Ingram also did plenty of damage on the ground, adding 115 yards of his own.
While the Ravens defense did their share of damage, everything started with Baltimore’s ground attack. Earlier this season, cracks seemed to be emerging in the Patriots’ run defense; those cracks turned into gaping holes last night.
Were the New England Patriots overrated?
In sports, it’s pretty easy to build a narrative. When the Patriots got off to a hot start, for example, the snowball simply started rolling downhill. New England was undefeated, their defense was playing well, and hype started to build.
In that sense, the New England defense was overrated. While they were putting up strong numbers, it’s not exactly an impressive feat to hold the likes of Sam Darnold, Daniel Jones, and the flailing Miami Dolphins offense in check. Some players even alluded to that during the season.
“The truth is, however we play, the stats and all that, that’s what it is,” Devin McCourty explained during this past week. “Opinion is, we’re probably not as good as people think and all of that. But I think for us as a defense, that hasn’t changed.”
Overrated doesn’t mean bad, however, and it’s dangerous to read too much into one loss. While the Patriots were picked apart by Lamar Jackson, he’s a unique threat; New England simply won’t see another quarterback who can run like him. As usual, the truth is likely somewhere in between. The Patriots defense had a bigger reputation than it deserved, but it’s still a solid unit.
Every time the Patriots take the field for the rest of this season, opponents are going to try to run the ball down their throats. It will be up to the New England defense to prove that they aren’t that porous and can stop the ball. Tom Brady is great, but he can’t carry a team forever.