The Ravens defeated the Patriots 37-20 on Sunday Night Football. The Patriots are no longer unbeaten, and the world can rejoice for a moment at the sight of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick taking a rare loss.
Trolling aside, how much can we take away from the Patriots being blasted?
Things we learned this week:
The Ravens are a perfect match for the Patriots.
I spent an ungodly amount of time on Pro-Football-Reference trying to find a flaw with the Patriots. I found two: the rush defense and offensive consistency. Through eight weeks, the pass defense for the Patriots had been so dominant that the below-average rush defense and inconsistent offense were not exposed. The Patriots were being gashed on the ground, but they allowed the 30th most carries, evidence of teams abandoning the run early in games. By the same token, a defense that had forced 25 turnovers made the offense run significantly smoother as the Patriots were aided by shorter fields and gobs of momentum. The Ravens limited their turnovers to just two fumbles, forcing the Patriots to remain on the field defensively for lengthy stretches and preventing the Patriots’ offense from having many short field scenarios. The Patriots started nine of 11 drives inside their 31 (although their other two drives started in the Baltimore red zone).
The Patriots are not frauds.
Contrary to the hot take artists of the world, I believe that the Patriots are still the best team in the AFC. They have a great secondary, and they still have Tom Brady. They simply ran into a buzzsaw in the form of a Ravens team that rarely loses primetime games at home.
Lamar Jackson is a legit MVP candidate.
Jackson had been on the fringe of MVP consideration before Week 9. However, Jackson put the whole world on blast with an electric three-touchdown performance that awed everyone outside of Foxborough. He did not rack up the pure yardage that he had done for most of the season, but he did achieve a 107 passer rating, by far the highest that the Patriots had allowed in the season. Jackson’s performance earned him a place in the top three of the MVP race, but Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson still outpace the 2018 draft pick.
The Ravens are for real … at least in the eyes of other people.
I hate this. I really do. As much as I want to exude all sunshine, rainbows, and unadulterated optimism for this Ravens unit, there are ominous signs that lurk below the surface. In 2018, the Patriots suffered five bad losses to non-playoff teams, but they still took care of business in the playoffs. The Ravens are by no means on the level of the 2018 Jaguars, Lions, Titans, Dolphins, or Steelers (they are a lot better than them), but it is hard to ignore the results of last season. In addition to that foreboding stat, Lamar Jackson still has a record of 1-3 when he plays a team the second time (a win over the Bengals and losses to the Chargers, Chiefs, and Browns) compared to a record of 11-1 when playing a team for the first time, with Kansas City being the only team to win the first meeting. I am likely reading too deeply into these stats, but I do have lower-than-expected confidence for the Ravens in a potential Ravens-Patriots AFC title game.
Weird stats can go against the Patriots, too!
According to NFL Research on Twitter, the Brady-era Patriots are 3-6 in playoff re-matches against teams that defeated them in the regular season. They have lost the last five: 2015 to the Broncos, 2012 to the Ravens, 2011 to the Giants, 2010 to the Jets, and 2006 to the Colts. Four of those teams won the Super Bowl, and the other team was the Jets. While this tidbit is just something to stir the Monday headlines, it is fascinating that Belichick and Brady have had limited success on their second bite at the apple. The Lamar Jackson stat and Belichick/Brady stat work against each other, so it would be great to see a showdown in a potential AFC title game
Things we learned two weeks ago:
Mark Andrews must catch the ball.
Andrews was only targeted three times, but he did secure a pair of catches. The Patriots did an excellent job of taking Andrews away, so Andrews must wait until Week 10 to prove himself again.
Lamar Jackson probably runs too much.
Jackson ran 16 times in the victory. If you take away kneel-downs, Jackson only had 14 attempts. Jackson ran just enough to be effective, but not enough to face significant harm.
The defense is back.
It was not perfect, and the Ravens were fortunate to have two turnovers given to them on a silver platter, but the pass rush looked decent for the first time all season. Jimmy Smith provided a tremendous boost to the secondary as he played exceptionally well coming back from injury. Marlon Humphrey continued to be a playmaker as he returned a fumble for a touchdown.
A look to next week:
The Ravens will venture to Paul Brown Stadium to face the 0-8 Bengals. The Patriots will get to lick their wounds as they have a Week 10 bye.
A look into the playoff picture:
The Ravens occupy the second seed in the AFC. They stand at 6-2, two games ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both the 6-3 Texans and 6-3 Chiefs are within striking distance of the Ravens for a first-round bye, but the Ravens host the Texans in two weeks.
The Patriots remain in the first seed in the AFC. Despite the loss, the Patriots still have a decent cushion as the Ravens have a slew of tough opponents coming up while the Patriots still have the Bengals and Dolphins on the schedule to rack up easy victories.