After a day off, Patriots players were back in Foxborough on Wednesday to get started on a week of practice in preparation for the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens. The Patriots became familiarized with Lamar Jacskon last season, when the MVP and his Ravens put up over 200 rushing yards on a Patriots defense that up to that point had been one of the best in football.
"Well, as we know, the Ravens are an outstanding football team and organization," said Bill Belichick in the morning, kicking off the week. "They've done a tremendous job there with their consistency and built a very solid football team – very good in all three phases of the game. They are well-coached, have good size, they're physical, they're an explosive team.
"They're a physical, hard-nosed team that can run the ball, stop the run, play good in the kicking game. So, a big challenge for us this week to get ready to go in all three phases."
The gameplan has to start with Jackson, who perfectly executed Baltimore's offense against the Patriots last season, going 17-of-23 for 163 yards, while throwing one touchdown and rushing for two others. How has Jackson improved since then?
"I would say last year when we played them it was kind of want to look at the first two reads in the area and then take off and you can see he's doing a real good job of just staying back there and seeing how it kind of develops," said Devin McCourty, "giving those two first reads the extra second or two but once it breaks down and it's not there, still as explosive as last year."
Last year, the Ravens raced out to an early 17-0 lead, putting them in the perfect position for how their offense is built. They're tough to slow down, but there is a path to do it if the Patriots can get a lead and force the Ravens to chase.
Adrian Phillips was part of a gameplan that slowed down Jackson during his rookie year in the playoffs. The Chargers defeated Baltimore with Phillips picking up an interception, a fumble recovery, three passes defensed with six total tackles. Phillips' fumble recovery and interception were both big parts of the Chargers taking a 12-0 lead into the locker room at halftime, en route to a 23-17 win.
"You definitely don't want to let this offense dictate the game, because if they can then it's going to be a long night for you," said Phillips. "So if you rattle them early and if you get the turnovers, you kind of control how the flow of the game is going. It makes it more manageable for you."
Even if the Patriots can slow down Jackson, Baltimore's defense will provide the toughest test of the year for an offense that is just finding its stride. Can Cam Newton and the offense continue to progress? Or will the Ravens defense, with the top ranked rushing defense DVOA, eliminate the Patriots vital ground game?
"This is a good football team we're playing, obviously a good defense," said David Andrews. "Tough defense. Physical defense. It's a big challenge.
The Ravens have long been one of the Patriots fiercest rivals going back to their thrilling game in 2007 and four memorable playoff games. After a decade of Brady-Flacco, we now get to see two generations of the game's most athletic quarterbacks.
The Ravens are one of the conference favorites, while the Patriots are hanging onto their playoff hopes by a thread. It should be another gripping chapter between the two foes.
|Stat||Patriots (3-5)||Ravens (6-2)|
|Offensive Points||20.8 (28th)||28.4 (8th)|
|Offensive Third Down||42.9% (16th)||43.3% (14th)|
|Offensive Red Zone||55.6% (25th)||63.0% (15th)|
|Offensive Rushing DVOA||3rd||5th|
|Offensive Passing DVOA||28th||23rd|
|Defensive Points||24.3 (12th)||17.8 (1st)|
|Defensive Red Zone||60% (13th)||77.8 (30th)|
|Defensive Rushing DVOA||31st||1st|
|Defensive Passing DVOA||30th||7th|
|Turnover Ratio||-1 (t-18th)||+4 (t-6th)|
|Special Teams DVOA||7th||1st|
Coming off Monday Night Football, the Patriots looked like they were having a walk through on Wednesday, as they stretched in just jerseys and no helmets or pads. The team received some good injury news with N'Keal Harry and Jermaine Eluemunor returning to practice, though sometimes attendance at walk throughs can be deceiving, as evidenced by Beau Allen's appearance at a late summer walk through in the stadium before disappearing again for two months.
Both Harry and Eluemunor's returns would be welcome reinforcements at positions of need. The team is with just one back-up tackle currently and has similar lack of depth at receiver.
Also present were receiver Isaiah Ford, acquired via trade from the Dolphins, and Isaiah Mack, claimed off waivers from the Titans. Both players are similarly welcomed, and both could be called upon against Baltimore.
Webex Quotes of Note
Deatrich Wise Jr. on Veteran's Day:
"Veterans Day in my family is pretty big. I have a long list of family members who served. Whether it was Army, Air Force, Navy whatever it is, they all served. It's a big honor, my mom was in the Army. This morning I wished her a happy Veterans Day and definitely to all the veterans out there who are still with us and who have passed away, I want to wish a happy Veterans Day to them and their families. They have done a lot for their families and a lot for this country and we definitely appreciate them."
Jakobi Meyers on how Julian Edelman has helped his development:
"He's definitely played a big role in my time being as a Patriot. He pretty much gives me the answers to the test honestly. All I have to do is watch him, what he did and try to throw in my own little route technique in my own little detail. It works. Combine that with great coaching and I feel like I'm I'm prepared to go out there every day and compete my best."
Adrian Phillips on the Chargers philosophy against the Ravens when knocking them off in the 2018 AFC Wild Card round:
"They are an offense with a whole lot of moving parts. Our whole deal was to go out there make sure that everybody had a gap, play vertical, put a lot of speed on the field because with Lamar he's able to take that thing however far you want him to take it. 90 yards... 100... if the field was longer he could take it there too. It was basically just going out there and making sure everybody had gaps, be more physical than them and speed to the ball. No big plays."