It is said a group of ravens are called an “unkindness.”
Unfortunately for Baltimore, the only unkindness in this game was brought by the dominant performance of the New England Patriots.
There wasn’t much belief from fans nor the media that New England could pull off the win this week, and to some extent, they were not incorrect for their lack of optimism. The Patriots have not been consistently good this season but particularly over the last few weeks.
The Ravens are having yet another successful season, with an NFL MVP at quarterback and a top defense that has made it difficult for opposing offenses to be successful. But as it has been said before, any team can beat any team on any given Sunday. This time just so happened to be the Patriots turn.
Not many were impressed with the Patriots barely scraping by the New York Jets last week, as they are still the only winless team in the league. But despite that, there were many improvements made in that game that carried over to this Sunday night battle.
It’s easy to pick apart a team that is struggling and to focus on what still needs work or all that is going wrong. It’s not always easy to recognize the good or the improvements made from game to game. But there was a lot of great complementary football in this week 10 matchup and that should simply not be ignored.
His ending stat line may not “wow” you, but Kyle Dugger had a successful first start in the NFL. Being a heavily criticized draft pick due to the “lack of competition” he faced coming out of a D-II school, Dugger showed in this game he deserves to be on the field more often.
Having 12 total tackles on the night, his most important play came with :30 seconds left in the game. As the Ravens tried to make their way downfield to score a touchdown for the win, Dugger made the tackle on J.K. Dobbins to keep him in bounds and run the clock. Because Baltimore had no remaining timeouts, they were forced to quickly reassemble and make a play on 4th down. Resulting in an incompletion, this sealed the win for New England.
If Dugger is given the chance to start more games this season, expect more of this type of play. Bill Belichick has a great track record coaching D-II athletes, so the sky is the limit for Kyle on this defense.
Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead
Is it almost unfair at this point how often Damien Harris has been great this season? In this game against Baltimore, Harris had 22 carries for 121 yards, making it his 3rd 100-yard game this season. With Sony Michel still not activated from injured reserve (IR), the Patriots have found their new RB1 and a reliable one at that.
Missing the majority of his rookie season, then the start of 2020, there was concern for the lack of dominance in the team’s backfield, especially after Sony Michel headed to IR. Harris has soothed those worries with his power and ability to break tackles week in and week out.
Rex Burkhead also had himself a tremendous night. Having 6 carries for 31 yards and also 4 receptions for 35 yards and 2 touchdowns, Burkhead is always consistent on this offense and key to continued success for this team.
The team has shown success in bouncing between Harris and Burkhead at running back this season. With Burkhead’s reliability and versatility and Harris’ yards after tackles, the backs have been difficult for defenses to stop.
On Sunday night it seems it became official that Jakobi Meyers is now WR1. With N’Keal Harry returning after missing two games due to a concussion, there was much belief he would get the bulk of receptions in this game. But that was not the case as Harry was used more for blocking throughout the evening and most receptions went to Meyers.
As Harry is coming back from missing two games, it’s possible his workload was lighter than what he may have been given due to the circumstances and it’s possible he will get more as the weeks go on. It’s also possible, and actually should be what happens, that Meyers will continue to be Cam Newton’s favorite and most used target in the weeks to come.
Coming off his career best game to date, Jakobi was once again targeted the most, ending the game with 5 of 7 receptions for 59 yards. Not the same dominant performance as previous weeks, but impactful, nonetheless.
To some, his performance as a wide receiver may be forgettable in this game. But we got a glimpse of his past as a former quarterback in the win as the Patriots once again used a double-pass against the Ravens. Who could forget the infamous Edelman to Amendola touchdown pass in the 2015 playoffs?
As halftime was nearing, Meyers took the pass from Newton and then threw a 24-yard touchdown to Rex Burkhead, the longest TD pass since week 17 against the Dolphins in 2019. Meyers demonstrated how dynamic of a player he is and what an asset he is to this Patriots team.
After weeks of appearing to be in the Belichick “doghouse,” Chase Winovich was back to playing his usual workload this season. Playing in a season high of 98% of defensive snaps on Sunday, Winovich was all over the field and proving why he deserves to be there.
The game plan for Winovich this week was much different than previous games this season. As he traditionally plays on the edge, he was used a lot more off the ball on early downs, playing inside linebacker (ILB) for 13 snaps. Being able to play both positions will be a big benefit for this Patriots defense, especially with the team’s top ILB Dont’a Hightower opting out of this season.
As his performance wasn’t necessarily all that memorable, there were many great things Cam Newton did in this game. The biggest issue this season thus far has been ball security, and with Cam being at the forefront of that issue, it was good to see the streak of no turnovers continue Sunday night.
Ending the night 13/17 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown, Cam threw his first passing touchdown since week 3 against the Raiders. He also ran in another touchdown, marking his 9th rushing touchdown on the season. This made him the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have 9 rushing touchdowns in the first 8 games played of a season.
It was clear from this game how much his teammates are happy to have Cam on the team this season. Regardless of the struggles they have faced so far, this Patriots team feels to be a tight knit group and the offense will continue to thrive because of it.
J.C. Jackson and the defense
It was another game and somehow J.C. Jackson manages to be elite once again. For the fifth consecutive game, Jackson grabbed his 6th interception for the season, setting a franchise record.
With Stephon Gilmore remaining out of action due to a knee injury, Jackson has had big shoes to fill over the last several weeks. He has shown he can hold his own and can help this defense continue being successful, even in Gilmore’s absence.
The defense collectively played well in this game, too. With big contributions from Terez Hall, Kyle Dugger and more, they were able to hold Baltimore to their fewest points scored in Lamar Jackson’s 31 starts. That’s quite a feat when dealing with such a quick quarterback.
The run defense continued on their improvement this season, having to stop yet another running quarterback. They were able to contain Lamar Jackson to 55 yards rushing, and limiting the rest of the team to only 50 yards and 5 yards per carry. As this has been a consistent sore spot on an otherwise top defense, it was good to see the Ravens unable to stomp over New England all game long.
In unusual form for this season, there isn’t much to criticize on the team’s performance in this game. The issues that have continued throughout the season so far were not a prominent concern on Sunday.
Sure, you could nit-pick, but for this game it would really be like grasping at straws. The team didn’t play perfectly and there are always things that need improving. But it seems fair and valid to focus on the long list of positive aspects in this game, especially against a difficult opponent.
If there is one thing to mention that could have resulted in being an issue it would be Nick Folk’s missed extra point. Had the Ravens been able to score one more time, and assuming their near flawless kicker in Justin Tucker wouldn’t have missed the XP, Baltimore could’ve won the game by one point. Luckily for New England, that wasn’t the case.
It should also be said that the weather made an impact on this game. Regardless of how successful both teams were in their own aspects, the intense wind and rain took a toll on these two teams. It’s difficult to say what the result would be had the weather been better, but a win is a win as they say.
As far as the future goes, the remainder of the Patriots’ schedule is a difficult one. It’s not impossible for the team to continue on this path of success and at this point, it looks promising. But as most Patriots fans know, one must focus on next week, the next game. Don’t look too far into the future.
Cam Newton said it in his best ‘Patriots way’ fashion on Monday during his interview with WEEI when asked about the road ahead as a team with a 4-5 record; “Coach said it best — we are a good enough team to be better than what our record kind of displays. We’re just finding that out.”
(Photo credits: Jakobi Meyers and J.C. Jackson – Paul Rutherford of USA TODAY Sports, Kyle Dugger – Ollie Longo @ojl.photo on Instagram)
–Sara Marshall is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @sarmarxo