The Baltimore Ravens have been one of the few teams to give the Patriots “fits” over the past decade. The word “fits” is in quotes because the last time New England lost to the Ravens during the regular season was way back in 2012, when everyone was starting to say Tom Brady was ‘done.’
It may come as a shock to many, but that was the only time the Ravens beat the Patriots during the regular season. Sure, they have two postseason wins against New England, but we’re talking regular season here. The Pats have owned this team during that time with an 8-1 record (2-2 in the playoffs).
This is about as one-sided a “rivalry” as you can get.
So, this begs a question: why are Patriots fans and experts alike worried for the team going into this game?
Linebackers Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley walked in the off-season. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee is out for the season after suffering a triceps injury last week. There’s no Haloti Ngata or Eric Weddle solidifying the defense. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are long gone. This simply isn’t the same terrorizing Baltimore defense everyone wants it to be.
Ranking 16th in both points (22) and yards (350) allowed per game, they are quite literally the definition of average. They do rank third in rush defense (84 yards per game), but the Patriots haven’t been known to lean on their running game this year anyway.
Plus, tallying only nine turnovers this year, Baltimore is floundering with the bottom 10 teams in that category. Add in an abysmal 1.7 sacks per game, which ranks them 27th, and you can see the harsh reality that this Ravens defense is a far cry from the intimidating teams of yesteryear.
Yes, this defense has Jimmy Smith and newcomer Earl Thomas in the secondary, but both are nursing knee injuries.
So again, why are the Ravens to be feared?
You assume it has something to do with second-year sensation Lamar Jackson. Having a second year that is essentially a weekly highlight reel, the 22-year-old is already being crowned as the best running quarterback since Michael Vick.
Most of Jackson’s big runs have been simply them outrunning defenders who were either over-pursuing, out of position, or missing tackles. Plus, the majority of his big pass plays are on deep pass completions. All of these are rarities in a Bill Belichick defense.
Eight weeks in.
And @Lj_era8's 2019 highlight reel is already this amazing. #RavensFlock
📺: #NEvsBAL — TOMORROW at 8:20pm ET on NBC
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— NFL (@NFL) November 2, 2019
With a QBR of 66.2%, Jackson ranks eighth in the league, two spots above the quarterback he’ll be facing tonight. That’s pretty good for a young quarterback. But when you really look at his overall stats for the year, Lamar gets knocked down a few pegs.
While his 11 passing touchdowns along with three rushing scores are admirable, neither really pop out at you. His 1,650 passing yards put him at 21st in the league, which is also nothing to write home about.
Where Jackson could potentially scare you is on the ground. His 576 yards rushing puts him 334 yards ahead of Deshaun Watson who is second in the category. But Bill Belichick knows all these stats and more, so you have to believe he has been planning for this all week.
While you may not think it at first, sending extra pass-rushers may be a potential path to victory. Jackson is 16th in the league against the blitz with a completion percentage of 55.1% and nine sacks. The Patriots have been sending pressure against opposing quarterbacks all season, so they may continue with that success.
Getting away from the nitty-gritty of boring statistics and rankings, this game comes down to one thing: making Lamar Jackson beat you with his arm.
Whether Belichick puts a spy on Jackson all night or completely sells out to stop the running game, he knows that his secondary should be able to contain the Ravens passing game, especially considering Jackson loves to throw the deep ball and New England has been great at preventing big pass plays like that.
If Tom Brady and company can keep the pressure on that mediocre defense and continue to put up points, all eyes will be on Baltimore’s young quarterback to keep up. Will Jackson be able to withstand the heat of trying to keep up with Tom Brady? Or will the bright lights force the quarterback to take unnecessary chances? We know what happens when you do that against this defense.
Lamar Jackson will come face-to-face with the Boogeymen at 8:20 p.m. tonight.