Throughout the past two decades, the Patriots have always played their best football with their backs up and that continued Sunday night against the Ravens. The game was perceived by many as the game to end all playoff hopes in New England, but it was anything but that. The 23-17 victory put the Patriots back in the playoff hunt.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at all of our biggest takeaways from the Patriots’ win over the Ravens.
The Patriots Aren’t Dead Yet
Once at 2-5 and a longshot at any type of playoff spot, the Patriots now sit at 4-5 with a fighters chance to play postseason football. The wins against the Jets and Ravens reminded the world that it was too soon to count out the Patriots.
Currently, the Patriots sit at the 10th seed in the AFC playoff picture. Under the new NFL rules, seven teams in each conference make the playoffs; the four divisional winners and three wildcards. For the Patriots, the road to the seventh wildcard spot seems much more in reach than winning the AFC East. The Bills are the current leaders in the AFC East with a 7-3 record and the head to head tiebreaker against the Patriots. The two teams meet again later in the season, but it still seems somewhat far-fetched to make up that kind of ground, barring a meltdown in Buffalo.
Earning a wild card spot won’t be easy though either. Every team in front of the Patriots (spots 5-9) in the playoff picture is 6-3. The Patriots are two games back. To make that 7th playoff spot, the Patriots will likely need to win 9 or 10 games. That would mean the Patriots need to have a record of 6-1 or 5-2 to finish the season. Is it going to be hard? Yes, but if there is anything we learned last night it’s that nobody should be counting out the Patriots.
The Patriots Have Young Talent
New England’s young talent (defined as a rookie or second-year player) came to play on Sunday night. So much so, that we had to break this section down into two parts; offense and defense.
Damien Harris, Jakobi Meyers, and Michael Onwenu all stood out on Sunday night against the Ravens. Let’s start with Harris, who had 121 yards rushing, and AGAIN had over five yards per carry. Harris is the Patriots’ most decisive runner on the roster. He quickly finds the hole to run through and he does so with reckless abandon. Forceful is the word we’d use to describe his running style. No matter if Sony Michel comes back or not, Harris is the Patriots number one running back. Harris as the bell cow with Rex Burkhead coming in as the change of pace back is working well and they shouldn’t change it up.
The Meyers hot streak has continued. Meyers had five huge catches for 59 yards, as well as a 24-yard passing touchdown. The former high school quarterback threw an absolute dime on Sunday night to give the Patriots a huge momentum swing.
Can’t stop watching this throw from Jakobi Meyers. What a dime🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/K3lt6VamyT— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) November 16, 2020
Aside from his touchdown pass, Meyers did what he always does, get open. He did it by beating man and zone coverage. The stat line isn’t eye-popping but most of his catches were at huge moments in the game. Lastly, Onwenu was another young guy who had a nice game. Yes, he gave up an early sack and he struggled a bit in pass protection, but once again he was a force in the run game. The Patriots have themselves a long-term guard/tackle in Onwenu. He’ll only learn and get better as he gets more experience and he’s already dang good.
On defense, Kyle Dugger and Chase Winovich played outstanding football. It wouldn’t be wrong to say they were among the best defenders out there for the Patriots on Sunday night. Dugger was the Patriots leading tackler against the Ravens with 12 combined tackles. He was crucial in slowing down a fast Ravens offense. The speed he plays with is something the defense has lacked. He just flies around out there. There’s no doubt in our mind Dugger will be a chess piece for Bill Belichick for many years to come.
Winovich played in a new role Sunday night and it led to him being on the field a majority of the defensive snaps. Winovich played his normal edge spot, but he also got some snaps at inside linebacker. The new role worked out well too as Winovich had seven combined tackles. Winovich made some nice plays in run defense, which is something that has previously kept him off the field. The clip below is a perfect example of how Winovich can be effective in the run game when lined up at inside linebacker.
Not surprisingly, Winovich had a huge game in the pass rush. Jeff Howe of the Athletic charted Winovich with 10 pressures and one quarterback hit. That’s truly outstanding and just another example of how good Winovich can be. Moving forward, it looks like Winovich will stay in his new role and continue to get a ton of playing time. That’s great news if you’re a Patriots fan.
We should also note the growing potential of Josh Uche. He didn’t have a huge role, but he ended with a sack and a quarterback hit. His athletism, like Dugger, is very much welcomed on a defense that lacks speed.
No matter what happens the rest of the season for the Patriots, one thing is for certain, this team has young talent. The building blocks on offense and defense exist.
Bill Belichick Badly Out Coached John Harbaugh
A lot of the talk surrounding Bill Belichick lately has been his shortcomings as a general manager in the draft, and some of those criticisms are fair and accurate, but if you needed a reminder of how great Belichick is, Sunday night was perfect. Belichick outcoached John Harbaugh and it wasn’t particularly close. Let’s start with the weather. It became clear very early on in the Week 10 matchup that the Patriots were much better equipped and prepared to play in the rain. The Ravens made countless weather-related mistakes, bad snaps, and dropped passes, meanwhile, New England didn’t experience a ton of that.
Even more impressive was how the Patriots slowed down the Ravens top-ranked rushing attack (170.1 yards per game rushing coming into Week 10). The Patriots only gave up 115 rushing yards and a lot of those came on Lamar Jackson scrambles. Baltimore’s designed running game had little success. Keep in mind, the Patriots front seven is very limited, but Belichick still found a way. Stopping the run game early led to the Ravens playing from behind and being forced to throw the football a lot more than they would have liked, especially in a rainstorm. The gameplan by the coaching staff was great and the players executed it.
No Turnovers = Wins
When the Patriots play clean no turnover football games, they win. New England had zero turnovers the past two games and they won both. As for the other two victories, the Dolphins and the Raiders, they both featured one Patriots turnover, but New England won the turnover battle in each game. When the Patriots lose or tie in the turnover battle they’re 0-5.
Because of the turnovers we’ve seen the Patriots offensive philosophy change over the past few weeks. Josh McDaniels has simplified the offense and Cam Newton is taking care of the football much better. The offense is running the ball with a top-tier run-blocking offensive line and using that to open up the passing game with play action. Just look at this play design in the red zone that allowed for an easy pitch and catch for the touchdown.
Cam Newton ➡️ Rex Burkhead = Touchdown 🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/9sDvGjS4yF— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) November 16, 2020
The passing attack isn’t flashy, but it’s efficient and it’s getting the job done. Newton is taking the check-downs, not forcing things, and overall seeing the field way better than he was during his slump earlier in the season.
At the end of the day, the new approach to the offense is more than capable of continuing its success. This is because the Patriots are playing to their strengths. The offensive line is easily the best postion group on the offense and they dominated Sunday night. On top of that, the Patriots have good running backs and a quarterback that can run. This is a run-first offense supplemented by the passing game and it’s working.