By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
That one felt like the good old days. From the opponent, to the weather, to the ending.
In a game many were calling a ‘sure blowout’ or potential end of the season, the New England Patriots played their best game of the year, topping the Baltimore Ravens 23-17. Despite a torrential rain storm that hit its apex in the fourth quarter, the Patriots defense held reigning MVP Lamer Jackson and the Ravens offense to 17 points.
After forcing a Baltimore punt to start the game, the Patriots offense showed a spark, moving the ball 32 yards on runs and screen plays. However, three straight traditional drop backs ended in a pass breakup, minimal completion, and third down sack. This derailed the drive and forced New England to kick the ball away.
The Ravens returned to their bread and butter on the next drive, going on a nine-minute, 94-yard touchdown march. While it seemed like the game was about to go the way of many recent Patriots’ contests, New England’s offense answered with a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive capped off by a Cam Newton touchdown pass to Rex Burkead. It was the Patriots’ first passing touchdown since Week 4, and Newton’s first since Week 3.
That wasn’t the end of the fireworks though. The Patriots defense was able to hold the Ravens near the goal line, forcing a field goal. That led to a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ate up the majority of the remaining time in the half.
With about a minute to go until the break, Josh McDaniels dug into his bag of tricks, calling a reverse pass for former college quarterback Jakobi Meyers. Last week’s star lofted a beautiful ball to Burkhead on a wheel route. Burkhead hauled it in for his second score of the game, giving the Patriots a 13-10 lead.
Baltimore started moving the ball with a minute to go and three timeouts, but they likely needed a touchdown due to wind and rain at Gillette that would have made even a chip shot field goal iffy. After Josh Uche’s first career sack set the Ravens back early, J.C. Jackson was able to pick off a downfield heave from Lamar Jackson, and the Patriots maintained their lead going into the locker room.
With the pick, Jackson set a new franchise record with an interception in five straight games. He has six total on the year.
Coming out of the half, New England completed the double score. After a long catch-and-run by Meyers had a personnel foul tagged on the end of it, Newton found the end zone on a designed quarterback run.
The Ravens next drive was halted when they took Lamar Jackson out of the backfield on a 4th & 1 near midfield. Mark Ingram was unable to handle the shotgun snap, setting the Patriots up in plus territory. New England turned that into a Nick Folk field goal, taking a 23-10 lead.
Baltimore wasn’t about to go quietly. Lamar Jackson led an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. That drive included a 3rd & 9 pass that looked like it was broken up or even intercepted by Kyle Dugger, but ruled a catch to set up 4th & 1. Bill Belichick called a timeout but didn’t challenge, and the Ravens converted.
After the first Patriots three-and-out of the night, the defense settled in. As the New England offense stalled, the D held the reigning MVP and Baltimore’s offensive unit to back-to-back punts, and then a turnover on downs to seal the game.
Cam Newton followed up his efficient performance against the Jets by going 13/17 for 118 yards and a touchdown. He was buoyed by a strong running game, led by Damien Harris who had a career-high 121 yards on 22 carries. Rex Burkhead led the way scoring, catching a pair of touchdowns.
Despite the conditions and tough defense they were facing, the Patriots defense didn’t turn the ball over once. It’s the second-straight game they’ve been giveaway free, after having at least one in each of their first seven games.
On defense, John Simon and Josh Uche each recorded sacks, while J.C. Jackson grabbed his sixth interception. Rookie Kyle Dugger led the Patriots with 12 tackles.
Jake Bailey continued an elite season on a night when the Patriots needed him. The second-year Stanford product kicked four times for 173 yards, dropping two inside the 20 yard line and avoiding any touchbacks.
With the win, New England improves to 4-5, two and a half games out of first place in the AFC East. Baltimore falls to 6-3, three games behind the Steelers in the AFC North.
The Patriots head on the road next week for a matchup with Deshaun Watson and the 2-7 Houston Texans. Houston beat the Patriots at NRG Stadium last year 28-22, ending a eight-game win streak the Patriots had in the matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m., you can catch the broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com