The New England Patriots sit at 1-1 after two weeks of the 2022 NFL season. This week they return to Foxboro for their home opener at Gillette Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens. Since Gillette Stadium opened in 2001, the Patriots are 17-3 in home opening games.
This week’s AFC match-up will be broadcast by FOX (rather than CBS) and can be seen locally on WFXT-TV Channel 25 in the greater Boston area and on WNAC-TV Channel 64 in the greater Providence area. Joe Davis (yes, the baseball guy) will handle play-by-play duties with Daryl “Moose” Johnston as the color analyst. Pam Oliver will provide analysis from the sidelines.
This week’s game will be broadcast to a national audience by ESPN Radio. Chris Carlin and Chris Canty (no, not THAT Chris Canty. Chris Canty the former Cowboys defensive end) will call the game. Sal Paolantonio will report from the sidelines.
Locally, 98.5 The Sports Hub remains the flagship station for the Patriots Radio Network and will carry the game as usual for everyone stuck working, working outside in the yard on a beautiful autumn day, or just sneaking the game via bluetooth at a family birthday party (“Why is Hal cheering for his niece getting a t-shirt as a present?”).
Play-by-play broadcaster and Bigelow Tea enthusiast Bob Socci will call the action along with former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak, who will provide his own unique brand of sound effects, grunts, singing and other colorful color analysis.
Three hours prior to kickoff, during halftime and after the game, Marc “the Beetle” Bertrand and Chris Gasper will be serving up all the timely news and notes, while “Big” Jim Murray will join Joe Murray for the postgame news, including live sound from the postgame press conferences (oh, the potential shenanigans of Murray and Murray together on air!).
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Last Week Recap:
Baltimore sits at 1-1 with an impressive win in week one in which they dominated the Jets on both sides of the ball. Injuries in the secondary caught up with the Ravens last Sunday as Baltimore allowed four touchdowns in the fourth quarter to the Miami Dolphins as Baltimore blew a 35-14 lead after three quarters.
After an impotent offensive performance in week one against the Dolphins, the Patriots bounced back scoring just enough to edge the tough defense of Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road.
New England’s defense had a second straight strong performance after holding Miami to just one touchdown (Miami scored a defensive touchdown after a strip sack). After the Dolphins’ offensive outburst last week against the Ravens, the New England defensive effort looks even better.
On offense, the Patriots put together three drives of ten or more plays as they began to slowly improve. Most impressive was the physical performance to close out the game. Getting the ball back with 6:33 to play after the Steelers cut the lead to three points, the Patriots never gave it back with six straight running plays to close out the game.
One positive on offense for the Patriots has been their success on third down. They have the seventh-best conversion rate at 50% on third down (13 of 26). The defense, however, has had its struggles on third down. The Patriots allowed opponents to convert 48.3% of their third down conversions (14 of 29) which is seventh worst in the NFL through two weeks (all statistics from ProFootballReference unless otherwise noted).
After losing the crucial turnover battle in week one (-3), the Patriots forced two turnovers on Sunday to finish +1 for the day.
Patriots Offense vs Ravens Defense:
Baltimore’s defense comes into this game after giving up six touchdowns against Miami, and four of them scored in the fourth quarter. That is one week after they held the Jets out of the end zone for 59 minutes until allowing a garbage time touchdown.
Which defense is for real?
Baltimore makes an interesting test for the New England offense because of how the Jets and Dolphins attacked the Ravens’ defense. In both games, the Ravens got out to early leads and made their opponents one-dimensional.
Against New York, the Ravens led 10-0 before halftime, 17-3 in the third quarter and extended that to 24-3 before the Jets scored with a minute to play. Against Miami, the Ravens led 28-7 at halftime and maintained that lead at 35-14 going into the fourth quarter.
Because of this disparity in the score of many of the games, the Ravens had not been tested on the ground. Opponents have rushed for a gaudy 4.8 yards per rush, but only 169 total yards over two games. Playing from behind, the Dolphins and Jets combined for 109 pass attempts to only 35 rushing attempts.
Three Matchups to Watch:
The Ravens pass rush has run hot-and-cold in 2022. On the stat sheet, four sacks in two games looks respectable. On the field, the Ravens production has come from a pair of grizzled veterans in 33 year-old edge rusher Justin Houston (two sacks) and 36-year-old interior lineman Calais Campbell (one sack).
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Second-year edge rusher and first-round draft pick Odafe Oweh had five sacks in 2021 and was expected to take a big step forward. Instead, he has struggled with a target on his back in 2022 with no sacks and little pressure or disruption showing up on tape.
New England’s tackle duo flipped sides this offseason and the results have been mixed. Both Brown and Wynn have had their ups-and-downs with a couple of big mistakes mixed with some strong play.
The Baltimore duo on the edge is talented and Brown and Wynn both need to continue building and improving as the season progresses. Keeping the savvy veteran Houston and the explosive young disruptor Oweh away from Mac Jones is a priority.
Think of the Ravens’ defense and one person comes to mind: Ray Lewis. The heart-and-soul of the Ravens for so long, the Hall of Fame inside linebacker was a difference-maker as a run-stuffer, pass defender against backs and tight ends and as a blitzer. His presence made a very good defense into an all-time great defense.
After passing the torch to C.J. Mosley, the Ravens let him walk in free agency and used a first-round draft pick on inside linebacker Patrick Queen out of LSU. Queen has been good, but not great in Baltimore. With such big shoes to fill, Queen has been under the microscope in Baltimore.
Last week Queen was targeted often in the passing game by Miami and he was burned on multiple occasions. This week New England has a different kind of test with physical running backs Harris and Stevenson looking to overpower the speedy inside backer.
Queen is not the largest inside linebacker and relies on speed and athleticism. Power and solid tackling are not his forte and that makes the power running game brought by Harris and Stevenson a potential mismatch on Sunday in favor of the Patriots.
Getting the ball to the backs in space could result in some big plays in the passing game for the Patriots with Queen’s recent struggles in coverage. If Harris and Stevenson are breaking tackle attempts from number six for Baltimore’s defense early, it could be a long game for Queen trying to slow down the New England ground game.
It is too easy to look at the fourth quarter of last week’s comeback win by the Dolphins over the Ravens and think that New England should follow suit and air it out against the Ravens secondary. While the Ravens suffered an epic meltdown, there were extenuating circumstances.
Baltimore leaned on veteran Marcus Peters playing for the first time since week 16 in 2020 and a couple of not-ready-for-primetime rookies in fourth-round draft picks Jalyn Armour-Davis and Damarion Williams. Add in rookie safety Kyle Hamilton, and it is easy to see how Tua stayed away from star cornerback Marlon Humphrey and carved up the Ravens.
Baltimore still misses cornerback Kyle Fuller who is on injured reserve, but should get back the steady Brandon Stephens who missed the Miami game with a quad injury but is back practicing. With the ball-hawking Peters having knocked off some rust after missing all of last season, the Raven should be able to keep their fourth-round corners off the field.
The two-time Pro Bowler Humphrey is one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL. He does it all. Great ball skills, sticky coverage, strong and fast, good size and a knack for causing fumbles when a wide receiver is fortunate enough to make a catch near him. Go back and watch the tape versus Miami and you will see that the plan was to keep away from Humphrey.
The only kryptonite for Humprey is size. At six-foot even and just under 200 lbs. a big, physical receiver could cause him fits in coverage. Enter DeVante Parker. At six-foot-three and 220 lbs. Parker is a physical presence on the outside and specializes in using his size to bully smaller cornerbacks.
Unfortunately, outside of training camp, Parker has to date looked like N’Keal Harry 2.0. Both Mac Jones interceptions were headed to Parker and in both situations he gave him an opportunity to make a play. Both times Parker failed to do so (and yeah, it should have been defensive pass interference on Xavien Howard, but cornerbacks with his pedigree are going to get the benefit of the doubt from officials).
Parker has been a huge disappointment with four targets in two games and more catches by opposing defensive backs (two) than receptions (one). If Parker is going to get back on track in 2022, man-handling one of the best cornerbacks is going to have to be how he does it. Teams are focusing their top cornerbacks on Parker because of his potential to have a big performance–it’s time for him to show it.
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