The Patriots fell from the ranks of the unbeaten after dropping a tough 37-20 game on the road in Baltimore that featured some cracks in the defense for the first time this season. The Patriots will now enter the bye week and here’s a look at what went right and what went wrong in New England’s first loss of the year.
1. Mohamed Sanu – The newcomer was the lone bright spot offensively in the first half, catching four passes for 28 yards including a 4-yard touchdown. He was used on a variety of crossing routes and showed his size and physicality in picking up some extra yards after the catch. He continued his solid play in the second half, converting a key third-and-7 with an 11-yard grab on the opening drive. Sanu finished with 10 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
2. Justin Bethel – The Patriots were on the verge of being blown out in Baltimore, trailing 17-0 early in the second quarter when they were forced to punt for the third time. Jake Bailey’s kick sailed toward Cyrus Jones, who muffed the kick and allowed Bethel to win the fight for the ball at the Ravens 19. That turned the tide as the Patriots were soon in the end zone and New England had life thanks to Bethel’s recovery.
3. Tom Brady and tempo offense – The Patriots were scrambling early as nothing the offense was doing was working. As the first half continued the offense eventually caught fire thanks to Josh McDaniels’ decision to continue with the up tempo attack. In the second half it really paid dividends as the Ravens defense appeared gassed and was unable to slow Brady down. It completely stymied the Ravens pass rush, which was ferocious to start the game, and allowed New England to get back in the game.
1. Kicking a field goal – The Patriots rallied in the second quarter and had a chance to tie in the final seconds when James White tripped and was downed at the 1 with 10 seconds left. Facing fourth-and-goal, Bill Belichick opted to send Nick Folk out to kick a 19-yard field goal to cut the score to 17-13. Given the situation it seemed like a more aggressive approach might be in order with all the momentum on the Patriots side, but the coach chose the conservative route instead for trying for the touchdown from the 1. They were never able to tie the game in the second half.
2. Run defense – All week the focus was on stopping Lamar Jackson and the Ravens vaunted ground game. So what happened in the first half? Baltimore dominated on the ground to the tune of 155 rushing yards before intermission. The Patriots used bigger personnel up front with Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton and Adam Butler but that group consistently was manhandled as Mark Ingram (eight carries, 97 yards) and Jackson (eight carries, 40 yards) gashed New England. Gus Edwards also chipped in with an easy 12-yard touchdown run on which he was virtually untouched. Things improved a bit from there but the early struggles set the tone.
3. Shilique Calhoun and penalties – The reserve was in the spotlight on the first drive of the night when the Ravens were lining up to kick a short field goal after being stopped on third down at the Patriots 6-yard line. As Baltimore lined up for a field goal, Calhoun jumped into the neutral zone, giving the Ravens a first-and-goal at the 3. On the next play, Jackson easily ran around left end untouched for a touchdown and the game’s first points. That set the stage for several ill-timed infractions committed by New England as Dont’a Hightower jumped offside on a fourth-quarter third-and-4, and later J.C. Jackson was caught with his hands in Willie Snead’s face on a failed third down to move the chains again. New England finished with seven penalties for 48 yards.
4. Slow start – New England is used to getting off to fast starts this season but Sunday night that was not the case. The Patriots entered the game outscoring opponents 87-7 in the first quarter but were blanked, 10-0, in the first 15 minutes at M&T Bank Stadium. While the Ravens were racking up 133 yards of total offense in the quarter, New England mustered a grand total of 4 while being forced to punt on both possessions. The early lethargy forced the Patriots to chase for much of the night.
5. Red zone defense – Baltimore likes to the run the ball, but that usually gets tougher inside the red zone. That wasn’t the case Sunday night as Baltimore went 4-for-4 from inside the 20 with the running game a big part of that. Jackson also threw a pair of short touchdowns but it was Ingram, Edwards and Jackson’s legs that caused most of the damage.