The Patriots got a total team effort against the Ravens and it resulted in their best win of the season, improving their record to 4-5. A hard-fought and disciplined performance, the Pats rode a dominant run game in wet and windy conditions and avoided the kind of mistakes that have derailed some of their games earlier this season.
In recent weeks, New England has made significant strides in all facets. Their offense is finding and building on what works, while the defense continues to make plays as they get healthy and incorporate some new additions.
Knocking off a formidable foe like the Ravens is a major step for the 2020 Patriots, as they now have a two-game winning streak and should be feeling confident about the direction they're headed.
Here's the five plays that defined this game, including the season-long development that continued in this impressive victory.
Defense gets the red zone stop
The two teams traded punts in the first quarter, then touchdowns in the second quarter and it was just the kind of start that the Patriots needed. But when the Ravens started driving right down the field for a second-straight drive, it looked like the Pats might be in danger of having to chase again.
On the drive, the Ravens saw an early third-and-two, then didn't see another third down until they arrived at the Patriots nine-yard line, going 69 yards. A clear trend in the game was the Patriots success when they put the Ravens in third-and-long and this was a big example.
It was a third-and-goal from the six-yard line after the Pats defense showed good reaction, pursuit and reaction to Baltimore's passing attempts on first and second down.
Josh Uche, showing the kind of edge rush he was known for in college, got around the edge, getting quick pressure on Jackson. Any attempt by the lightning-fast quarterback to run for the end zone was effectively spied by Jonathan Jones, forcing an on-the-run throw that short-hopped intended receiver Mark Andrews, covered by Kyle Dugger.
Dugger had multiple moments in this game, some very good and some not quite so much, but overall he looked like he was back to his early season form. Combined with Adrian Phillips, the Pats employed a good gameplan, focusing on putting speed on the second level, especially in the wide flats.
Often the wide gap between the three down linemen and the linebackers and safeties behind them was noticeable.
"We knew they were an offense that loves to run the ball and they love to get to the edge of the defense" said Phillips after the game. "That was pretty much our whole game plan, do not let them get to the edge. They ended up getting to the edge a couple of times. Mainly just keep those guys contained and make them play behind the sticks and that is what we did. We did that with a variety of different looks and it ended up working out well for us because they could not pick up on it."
Out of the gate, the Patriots won the line of scrimmage. Lawrence Guy made his return felt and, with Carl Davis in the mix, and Byron Cowart progressing, it feels like the defensive front is coming together, with Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise enabled to do what they do best.
Chase Winovich played his most extensive role of the season, playing nearly every snap off the ball as the Patriots moved to get the athletic and non-stop motor of Winovich out in space. He was a pass rush pest, recapturing some of his early-season disruption.
This stop ultimately prevented vital points and opened the door for the Patriots to not only keep pace, but take the lead, as they did.
Enel Powerful Play of the Game: Jakobi-to-Rex
After the red zone stop, the Patriots put together another excellent drive with two critical third-down conversions on a screen pass to James White and a tough catch by Jakobi Meyers. But Damien Harris was the engine on the drive, picking up 35 rushing yards, including big gainers of 12 and 13 yards.
The ground game dominance also allowed the offense to take the clock from five minutes before the half to one minute as they stood just outside the red zone, on the 24-yard line. Trailing by three, it was a golden opportunity for New England to take the lead, especially with them due to receive the second half kickoff.
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels have dipped into their bag of tricks plenty of times against the Ravens, so a double pass shouldn't have been all that surprising. But how perfectly they executed it was.
Meyers, a high school quarterback, lobbed up the perfect pass into the end zone, absorbing a big hit as he let it go. As the ball hung in the air for what seemed like minutes, Rex Burkhead never slowed and arrived perfectly where Meyers threw it. It gave the Pats a 13-10 lead after a missed extra point and was an effective counterpunch.
The Patriots came to play and were ready to make the plays needed to pull off the win.
"It's something we've been working on, definitely," said Burkhead of the play. "Just kind of try to sneak out there, and I saw the linebacker coming out with me. I didn't know if a guy was over the top too, so I was kind of surprised when Jakobi threw it. And he threw an absolutely perfect pass right in there for me to make the easy catch. That just shows how great of an athlete Jakobi is."
"I was just trying to be a playmaker. It's football at the end of the day," said Meyers. "I threw the ball as a little kid in the front yard before I was even a quarterback, so just remembering the love for the game."
Perhaps it was appropriate that Meyers threw a touchdown before he caught one in the NFL. Despite increased attention and tough conditions, the second-year receiver continues to make plays, including a third-down catch in the fourth quarter that helped the Pats seal it.
Damien Harris kickstarts second half
The Patriots avoided another disastrous end to the first half when J.C. Jackson grabbed his league-leading sixth interception of the season as it looked like the Ravens were about to at least tie things up before the break. New England kept their three-point lead at the half, but with the way Baltimore had moved the ball on three-straight drives, it was a tenuous lead at best.
That's why the first drive of the second half was so critical and once again, Damien Harris was the catalyst. His first two carries went for 16 yards, then 25 yards. Both plays were blocked just like the coaching staff would draw them up. On the first Harris would have but one hand brush across his shoulder pads before getting into the second level of the defense, that's how well the offensive line, tight end Ryan Izzo and fullback Jakob Johnson were executing on these plays.
Credit as well to Harris, who finished the 25-yarder with a particular aggressiveness that he continues to show.
Of course, those two big runs set up the play action, with Newton then finding Meyers for 26 yards. Again the offensive line and blockers did a fantastic job giving Newton the time to scan the field and Meyers time to get away from Marcus Peters.
Newton would take an end around himself, untouched for the touchdown that extended the lead to 20-10. N'Keal Harry had a big block on the play, setting the edge on the defense while blocking two players. He might not have shown up on the stat sheet but he made his presence felt in this game.
"I wouldn't have had any of the success that I had tonight without the guys up front, and that's first and foremost," said Harris after the game. "I have to give all that to them. They've been so good all year and they've really been the anchor of our offense and they're what makes us go. I can't even put it into words how important our offensive line is to our team."
The rushing attack was absolutely dominant on this drive, by far the easiest and most impressive of the entire season. It was at this point you knew the Patriots were gaining confidence, both on the field and within their season.
Ravens 4th-down bad snap
Down by 10 points, the Ravens would put together a response drive but there were no easy yards against the Patriots defense as it became increasingly rainy and wind. By containing the big plays, the Patriots were able to shorten the game and keep control.
New England came up with one of their only third-and-short stops of the game as the Ravens approached midfield. In what looked like a designed end around by Lamar Jackson, Jonathan Jones showed his excellent speed in forcing Jackson out of bounds a yard short of a first down.
It wasn't surprising to see John Harbaugh go for it on fourth-and-one from their own 48. The coach and the Ravens have been among the league leaders in being aggressive. The play call? A direct snap to Mark Ingram, who had limited effectiveness in this game coming off of injury.
But a bad snap by center Matt Skura sent the ball off Ingram's hands and all the way back to the Baltimore 37, allowing the Patriots to get their final points of the night, as each team struggled to move the ball with the weather deteriorating.
Baltimore played the sloppier game. This bad snap, and another midway through the fourth quarter, killed what could've been scoring drives, while the Ravens eight penalties for 64 yards far eclipsed the Pats three penalties for 18 yards, and New England also won the turnover battle.
Add it all up and the Patriots were the more disciplined team under challenging circumstances, while Baltimore undercut themselves and their comeback attempt.
Burkhead melts clock on second down
After Baltimore responded with a scoring drive that cut the lead to just six points, the rain and wind picked up intensity as the teams traded punts going into the fourth quarter. In a one score game, the team that controlled the ball was going to win the game and that's what the Patriots did, putting up four fourth-quarter first downs while the Ravens would get just one.
A big key to those first downs and valuable clock-burning drives? Rex Burkhead's performance on second down, with two big pick ups that directly resulted in manageable third-and-shorts that were converted.
The first, a second-and-10 from the Patriots own four-yard line, Burkhead picked up nine. The second, on the final drive, was second-and-11 from the New England 17, Burkhead picked up eight.
Failures in either of those spots would put the Patriots in third-and-long in their own territory, leaving Baltimore with great field position if they were to have to punt. But Burkhead continues to shine in big moments this season, as he also converted two third downs himself in this game.
All together, the Patriots success on the ground demonstrates what a team victory this was.
"We just want to keep getting better each and every week and I think we have been showing that, finding different ways to win, establishing our dominance in the running game, and trying to stop the run as well," said Cam Newton after the game. "Those are all keys to victory for us. And as this season keeps going, we just want to keep transcending upwardly in a way that our team is getting better week by week."