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Game Preview: Patriots at Ravens

20191103-GamePreview-PDC

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-0) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (5-2)
Sunday, November 3, 2019 at 8:20 p.m. ET. M&T Bank Stadium.

The New England Patriots are guaranteed to finish with a record of .500 or better after a 27-13 win against Cleveland improved to the team to an 8-0 record. The Patriots will remain in the AFC North this week when they travel to play the Baltimore Ravens in a Sunday Night Football matchup. A win over the Ravens will give the Patriots their ninth win of the season and their 19th straight winning season, extending their mark for the most consecutive winning seasons since the 1970 merger and the second longest streak all-time to the 20 consecutive winning seasons to the 20 by the Dallas Cowboys (1966-85).

SERIES HISTORY

The Patriots and Ravens have squared off nine times in the regular season and four times in the postseason, including two straight AFC Championship Games in 2011 and 2012, since the Baltimore franchise was founded following the Cleveland Browns move to Baltimore in 1996. All four postseason games have been played at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots are 8-1 against Baltimore in the regular season and 2-2 against Baltimore in postseason play.

The two clubs last met in the 2016 regular season with the Patriots taking a 30-23 win at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 12, 2016. The Patriots last played in Baltimore on Dec. 22, 2013, and left with a 41-7 victory.

Sunday will mark the fourth primetime game between the two teams and the second Sunday Night game. On Sept. 23, 2012, the Patriots lost at Baltimore, 31-30 in a Sunday Night game. The teams also played on Monday Night Football in 2007 and 2016, both Patriots wins.

The Patriots and Ravens first met in the playoffs following the 2009 season, with Baltimore taking a 33-14 win in a Wild Card matchup at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 10, 2010. The Patriots avenged that loss in the 2011 AFC Championship Game with a 23-20 victory over the Ravens at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 22, 2012, to advance to Super Bowl XLVI. The teams again met in the 2012 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 20, 2013, with Baltimore taking a 28-13 decision to advance to Super Bowl XLVII. Most recently, New England overcame two 14-point deficits in a 35-31 win in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 10, 2015.

The first meeting between the teams came during Baltimore's first season, when the Patriots prevailed 46-38 on Oct. 6, 1996. The 84 total points scored by both teams in that game rank as the second-highest total number of points in a game in Patriots history to the 86 points in a 43-43 tie with Oakland in 1964.

Patriots WR Julian Edelman and Ravens RB Mark Ingram (AP Photo).
Patriots WR Julian Edelman and Ravens RB Mark Ingram (AP Photo).

SCOUTING THE MATCHUPS

By Paul Perillo

When the Patriots run - Edge: Ravens

The Ravens defense has struggled all season but one area that has not been the case is stopping the run. Baltimore allows just 84.3 yards per game on the ground, which is the third best total in the league. The front has been stout despite losing some of its key pieces, especially at linebacker where veteran Pernell McPhee was lost for the season with a torn triceps. Matthew Judon is the leader of the group and has been augmented recently by the additions of L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes. Tyus Bowser and Patrick Onwuasor have added some stability to the group as well, helping the big guys up front control the ground game. Meanwhile, Sony Michel continues to be stuck in neutral. He got off to a decent starts against the Browns but slowly reverted to his prior 2019 production as averaged just 3.3 yards per carry. Rex Burkhead returned to the lineup after missing almost a month but didn’t find any running room either. The offensive line was missing another starter as Shaq Mason sat out the Browns game, and life won’t get any easier on the road against the stout Ravens.

When the Patriots pass - Edge: Patriots

We mentioned that Baltimore’s defense has not played well and there are two reasons for that: a lack of pressure and poor health in the secondary. That’s a lethal combination and it shows when looking at the stats. The Ravens allowed 265 passing yards per game and had just 12 sacks in the first seven weeks. Those totals both rank 26th in the league. Injuries ravaged the secondary with corner Jimmy Smith (knee) missing most of those seven games and safeties Tony Jefferson, DeShon Elliott as well as nickel corner Tavon Young all being lost for the season. But there is reason for optimism in Baltimore as Smith is nearing a return and the Ravens traded for talented-but-troubled corner Marcus Peters two weeks ago. Peters was plugged into the starting lineup immediately, joining Marlon Humphrey and veteran Brandon Carr. Earl Thomas is looking more comfortable is his first year with a new team, and there’s reason to believe the Ravens pass defense will improve in the second half. The Patriots have shown flashes of competence in the passing game but most all of it centers around Tom Brady finding Julian Edelman. That could change as Mohamed Sanu continues his indoctrination into the offense, and assuming Mason returns and the protection improves, the Patriots should be able to make some plays through the air.

When the Ravens run - Edge: Ravens

It’s not often the opponent has gotten an edge in a matchup against the Patriots defense but Baltimore’s running game is special and New England’s run defense is the lone area on that side of the ball that hasn’t been. The Ravens lead the league in rushing yards and rushing yards per attempt. They also rank second in overall yards, and a big part of that is the dynamic running of quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson is among the league leaders in rushing – not just for quarterbacks. He leads the team with 576 yards on 83 attempts, averaging nearly 7 yards per carry. What makes Jackson tough to contain is the offense orchestrated by coordinator Greg Roman, who isn’t afraid to call his quarterback’s number. Jackson doesn’t just beat opponents by escaping the pocket and scrambling, although he does plenty of that as well. Roman puts the ball in Jackson’s hands by design, running a variety of zone reads and other quarterback runs that have hurt opponents all season. When Jackson isn’t doing the damage Mark Ingram is. He averages 4.7 yards per carry and has seven touchdowns and 470 yards on the ground. That combination has racked up yards and allowed Baltimore to control the clock to the tune of 35 minutes per game. The Patriots defense has been other-worldly but against the run it’s had some occasional hiccups. While the group is near the top of the league in yards per game, it stands in the middle of the pack in rushing yards per play. Jackson is a different dynamic, though, and it’s hard to imagine the Patriots allowing this kind of attack to cause problems. But the Patriots haven’t seen this kind of explosiveness as the quarterback position either.

When the Ravens pass - Edge: Patriots

This figures to be an overwhelming edge for the Patriots and might be the difference in the game. New England has a league-leading 19 interceptions to its credit, and the Ravens passing attack is pedestrian at best. Jackson isn’t the most accurate passer in the league, although he has improved. Roman tries to use the tight ends to give Jackson some high percentage throws. Mark Andrews (36 catches, 449 yards) leads the way but Hayden Hurst and Nick Boyle are also involved. Rookies Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and Miles Boykin join Willie Snead in an improving group of receivers. Brown (ankle) needs to stay healthy because his exceptional deep speed opens up a variety of options for Jackson and the passing game. But as promising as the youngsters have been, they have yet to experience a deep and talented secondary like New England’s. Stephon Gilmore is playing once again at an All-Pro level and will give Jackson fits. The ballhawing nature of this group has changed the tenor of several games already this season, and given Jackson’s relative lack of experience that just might be the case on the road again Sunday night.

Special Teams - Edge: Ravens

Justin Tucker is the game’s premier kicker and he’s yet to miss this season. He connected on all 16 field goals as well as 20 PATs, giving the hosts a decided edge over the struggling Mike Nugent. Nugent was perfect against the Jets but followed that with a pair of misses against Cleveland including one that was blocked from 29 yards out. The Patriots coverage teams received a boost from Justin Bethel, who joins Matthew Slater to form a terrific pair of gunners on the punt unit. Rookie Jake Bailey continues his strong work punting and has added kickoffs to his duties following the loss of Stephen Gostkowski. Brandon Bolden hasn’t given the team much on kickoff returns while rookie Gunner Olszewski has been solid handling punts after one hiccup in Week 3 against the Jets. The Ravens use former Patriot Cyrus Jones on punts and he’s averaging 10.6 yards per attempt while Justice Hill hasn’t had much production in the kick return department. Veteran punter Sam Koch has pinned opponents inside their 20 on 10 of his 18 punts this season while Bailey has done so 18 times but on 43 attempts. Tucker’s experience and consistency give the Ravens the edge.

TALE OF THE TAPE

Table inside Article
2019 REGULAR SEASON NEW ENGLAND BALTIMORE
Record 8-0 5-2
Divisional Standings 1st 1st
Total Yards Gained 2,959 3,044
Total Offense (Rank) 369.9 (16) 434.9 (2)
Rush Offense 95.3 (23) 204.1 (1)
Pass Offense 274.6 (7) 230.7 (18)
Points Per Game 31.3 (1) 30.6 (2)
Total Yards Allowed 1,872 2,448
Total Defense (Rank) 234.0 (2) 349.7 (16)
Rush Defense 85.3 (4) 84.3 (3)
Pass Defense 148.8 (2) 265.4 (26)
Points Allowed / Game 7.6 (1) 22.3 (16)
Possession Avg. 34:14 35:10
Sacks Allowed / Yards Lost 14/100 17/90
Sacks Made / Yards 31/213 12/76
Total Touchdowns Scored 31 24
Penalties Against / Yards 49/436 53/425
Punts / Avg. 43/44.4 18/46.7
Turnover Differential +17 (1) +2 (14)

ANNUAL ACHIEVEMENT

With a win in Baltimore on Sunday, New England will secure its 19th consecutive winning season. That mark would be the most in the NFL since the 1970 merger and second all-time in NFL history behind the 20 straight winning seasons by the Dallas Cowboys from 1966-85. Additionally, the Patriots have won nine or more games in 22 of the 25 seasons Robert Kraft has owned the team.

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CONNECTIONS

FORMER RAVENS

  • TE Ben Watson - Tight End (2016-17).
  • DL Lawrence Guy - Defensive Lineman (2014-16).
  • DE John Simon - Defensive End (2013).
  • OL Jermaine Eluemunor - Offensive Lineman (2017-18).
  • DB Terrence Brooks - Defensive Back (2014-15).

FORMER PATRIOTS

  • CB/RS Cyrus Jones: Defensive Back (2016-18).
  • DB Jordan Richards: Defensive Back (2016-17, 19).
  • DL Ufomba Kamalu - Defensive Lineman (2018-19).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR...

  • With one defensive score, the Patriots will tie for third-most defensive scores in a season (5) in franchise history.
  • The Patriots defense has allowed four touchdowns through eight games. Since the 1970 merger, the fewest rushing/passing touchdowns allowed through nine games is six. They will look to set a new mark at Baltimore.
  • The Patriots will play their sixth quarterback from the 2018 draft class in Lamar Jackson. In their five prior matchups, the Patriots have allowed only one touchdown pass (Baker Mayfield, Week 8), while forcing 10 interceptions and allowing an average of 126 passing yards per game.
  • The Patriots have recorded at least one interception in each of the first eight games of the 2019 season, tying their mark from 2018, the second-longest streak for the franchise since the 1970 merger. An interception this week against the Ravens would mark their ninth straight such game. The Patriots longest consecutive game streak with an interception since the merger was in 1985 with 11.
  • With two or more points in the first quarter, the Patriots will exceed their first-quarter scoring output through 16 games last season. Through eight games, the Patriots are outscoring opponents 87-7 in the first quarter. By comparison, the 2018 Patriots had outscored their opponents 37-36 in the first quarter through eight games, finishing the season with an 88-80 point differential in the first quarter.
  • The Patriots have allowed just 61 points in 2019, or an average of 7.6 points per game. Through eight games, the team is on pace to allow just 122 points for the season, which would be the fewest in NFL history.
  • With a shutout, the Patriots would record their third shutout of the season, having blanked the Dolphins in Week 2 and the Jets in Week 7. The Patriots had three shutouts in 2003, which is both a franchise record and the highest tally for a Bill Belichick-coached team.
  • With 19 interceptions in eight games, the Patriots defense is on pace to finish the season with 38 picks, which would tie for second-most in the NFL since the 1970 merger. Their 19 picks are already more than the Patriots recorded in 27 of their previous 59 seasons. The most interceptions in the Belichick era was 29 by the 2003 Patriots team.
  • The Patriots have three games with four interceptions this season, a feat they haven’t accomplished in the regular season since 1962. They also recorded four interceptions on three occasions during the 2003 season, including four in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts (01/18/04). If they have one more game with four or more interceptions, the Patriots will set a new team record for most such games in a season. 
  • The Patriots have held teams to just 15-for-96 (15.6%) on third down in 2019, the league best. The fewest third downs allowed in a 16- game season is 49 by the 1991 Saints. Against the Jets in Week 3, they did not allow a single third-down conversion, a feat they have accomplished five times since 2000. Only five teams have managed a 0.0 third down percentage twice in the same season: Packers (2005), Eagles (2009), Giants (2010), Dolphins (2011) and Saints (2013).
  • Since 2001, the Patriots are 94-13 (.879) when they do not turn the ball over and 92-2 (.979) with a positive turnover margin. In 2019, the Patriots lead the league with a +17 turnover margin through eight weeks.
  • Belichick is 41-0 (1.000) since 2000 when leading the Patriots to a 40-point outing. He is 128-7 (.948) when leading the Patriots to a 30-point outing and 210-33 (.864) when leading them to a 20-point outing.
  • If the Patriots record one interception, it will mark the eighth time under Belichick that the team has tallied 20 or more picks in a season.

IF THE PATRIOTS WIN...

  • The Patriots will guarantee a winning record for their 19th consecutive season (2001-19), the most since the 1970 merger and the second-most all-time, behind Dallas with 20 straight winning seasons (1966-85).
  • New England will cement its 34th winning season since the 1970 merger, second only to the 36 by Pittsburgh.
  • New England will improve to 9-0 for the third time in team history, all under the guidance of Bill Belichick. The franchise previously started 9-0 in 2007 and 2015.
  • The Patriots will extend their NFL record for the most regular-season wins in a decade (2010-present) to 122. The team will also extend their record for the most total wins in a decade to 138, including the playoffs (2010-present).
  • ... and a player eclipses 100 yards rushing, the team will improve to 52-1 in the regular season since 2000 when a player rushes 100 yards.
  • The team will ensure a winning record for the 23rd time in Robert Kraft’s 26 seasons of ownership.
  • The Patriots will improve to 129-76 (.629) on the road since 1994 when Robert Kraft purchased the team, which is the best regular-season road record in the NFL in that time.
  • Belichick will claim his 19th consecutive winning season (2001-19), second-most in NFL history behind Tom Landry’s 20 (1966-85).
  • Belichick will earn his 301st all-time win (regular and postseason) as a head coach, which is third in NFL history behind Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324). It will also mark Belichick’s 270th regular-season win, behind Shula (328) and Halas (318).
  • Brady will claim his 216th regular-season win, second in NFL history. 
  • Brady will earn his 97th road victory in the regular season, extending his own NFL record. Peyton Manning is second with 85 road wins.
  • Brady will earn his 246th career win (including postseason), extending his NFL record for a quarterback. Peyton Manning is second with 200 career wins.

BROADCAST INFO

TELEVISION: This week’s game will be broadcast by NBC and can be seen locally on NBC 10 Boston. Al Michaels will handle play-by-play duties with Cris Collinsworth as the color analyst. Michele Tafoya will work from the sidelines. The game will be produced by Fred Gaudelli and directed by Drew Esocoff.

NATIONAL RADIO: Sunday's game will be broadcast to a national audience on Westwood One. Kevin Kugler will call the with game with Jason Taylor providing analysis.

LOCAL RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub is the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network. A complete listing of the network’s 38 stations can be found here. Play-by-play broadcaster Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide color analysis. The games are produced by Marc Cappello.

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