By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — You could point to a hundred moments, a bunch of mistakes, some poor penalties, some questionable coaching or any other series of events from Sunday night. You could take it all together and explain how and why the Ravens rolled to a 17-point victory over the best team in football.
Or, you could just look at one singular play to pinpoint exactly where, how and why the Patriots are no longer undefeated.
That moment came at almost the exact midpoint of the third quarter. After a roaring start, the Ravens were trying to weather the Patriots’ best counterpunch. James White had just scored a touchdown to cut Baltimore’s lead to four points, and the Ravens were at risk of going three-and-out. A punt back to the offense that had just marched down the field twice in an uptempo, no-huddle offense would likely have spelled trouble for the home team.
It was at that point that the Cerberus of defensive coaching on the New England sideline — that is, Jerod Mayo, plus the Belichicks Bill and Steve — dialed up the type of call they’ve used with aplomb against the Luke Falks and Colt McCoys and Josh Allens of the world. They blitzed Jackson, sending six rushers toward the quarterback, thus challenging him to beat them with his arm. (One player — Jonathan Jones — held off from rushing, staying in a spy role near the line of scrimmage, while four defensive backs played man coverage against the four players running routes.)
Given the damage he had done on the ground, and given the limited impact he had made as a passer to that point, it was the right call for the Patriots, who were simply daring Jackson to win with a throw.
The play left Mark Andrews in man coverage against safety Terrence Brooks, running a corner route. With Chase Winovich directly in his grill, Jackson lobbed a pass 17 yards down the field, dropping it in a place where only his man could get it. Andrews went up and did just that, spinning and leaping and securing the catch for a gain of 18 yards.
It was just one play, but its impact was massive. Instead of going three-and-out and sending the red-hot Patriots offense back onto the field against a gassed Ravens defense, Jackson and the Ravens were able to mount the longest drive (in terms of time) the Patriots have allowed over the past two seasons. That drive included a key conversion on a fourth-and-4, it included one of the most electric rushes of the entire NFL season, and it ended with a touchdown pass to a player who promised last week that the vaunted Pats defense had not seen anything quite like this.
For this night, Nick Boyle was proven correct. And though it may sound like an oversimplification, it was all made possible by Jackson answering the challenge on that one third down.
Now let’s move on to some leftover thoughts from the Ravens’ thoroughly impressive 37-20 win over the Patriots.
–The best part about living in New England is that at this point, so many people have completely lost the ability to see the world clearly after the Patriots lose a football game. It’s not as if these losses don’t happen. Despite all the dominance and championships and whatnot, the Patriots have lost 3.6 games per season since 2011. That was the year they began their still-active streak of reaching the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl every single year.
And while ssssssssssssssssssome people are able to view a loss like this with a proper lens of perspective, it is nevertheless a guarantee that the Chicken Littles of the world make for a very entertaining sideshow.
They lost a game, people. They lost five last year, including one to the Lions. And one to the Dolphins. And the Titans! And Jaguars!
They’ll be all right.
–In terms of the whole historical defense thing, many people have been quick to mock that. Something about preconceived notions, self-fulfilling prophecies or something or another. In any event, the 2000 Ravens own the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a single season with 165. Through nine games, that 2000 Ravens team had allowed 98 points. Through nine games, the 2019 Patriots have allowed … 98 points.
They obviously can’t have too many more 37-point nights (7 points were scored on Julian Edelman’s fumble, making it now 28 points allowed by New England’s offense and special teams), but one night does not define a season.
Worth remembering that the 2000 Ravens gave up 36 points and 421 yards to Mark Brunell and the Jaguars. Also gave up 524 yards to Vinny T and the Jets.
The 85 Bears gave up 38 points to Marino and the Dolphins.
Great defenses are allowed ONE (1) dud.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) November 4, 2019
–The strangest things about the Patriots in this game, ranked:
- Jumping offside to turn a Ravens field goal into a Ravens touchdown.
- Entering the game against an opponent that clearly had better game plans on both sides of the ball.
- Committing not one but TWO penalties on third-and-less-than-5 (one was declined).
- Fumbling the football.
- A running back tripping over his own feet to turn a Patriots touchdown into a Patriots field goal.
These are the things that Patriots opponents often do, leading us all to guffaw and/or cackle in our homes while sipping brandy and puffing cigars. But, well, well, well. How the turntables …
–You had to have known that this wasn’t going to be one of those special defensive nights when this ball didn’t end up dropping into Devin McCourty’s tum-tum:
Likewise, you had to have known that this wasn’t going to be one of those special defensive nights when this didn’t turn into a walk-in pick-six for Jamie Collins or Kyle Van Noy:
–This was a phenomenal angle that showed how difficult it is to defend against the run when Lamar Jackson is liable to pull it out of his buddy’s belly and take off himself at any given moment:
–This is how Julian Edelman looked after the play that preceded his game-changing fumble:
Watching on TV, it was very easy to see that Edelman was completely gassed. And with good reason — the Patriots came out firing on offense to start the second half, running six plays in two minutes. Three of those plays went to Edelman, who had three catches for 19 yards before looking like he needed a squirt or two of Powerade.
Despite fatigue clearly setting in (how often do you see Edelman even fumble out of bounds like he did after that catch?), the Patriots dialed up another pass to Edelman that had him on the outside all by himself, with no blockers against two defenders.
He still should have held on to the football, because he’s a football players, and holding on to the football is what football players try their darnedest to do. But the 5,000-mile view of this one made it kind of easy to foresee.
–This is bananas.
At -31.2%, the Edelman fumble/TD last night was easily the most negatively-consequential offensive play of the season for the #Patriots. Their W% went from 51.6% to 21.4%.
The next closest was the -15.6% strip/TD for the #Giants in week 6.
— Brian Phillips (@BPhillips_SB) November 4, 2019
–Jamie Collins has been awesome this season, to the point where Cris Collinsworth was giving him Defensive Player Of The Year hype on the broadcast. There’s no doubt that he’s been great. But Sunday night will not make it on his nomination video.
He was presumably tasked with setting the edge on this quick shovel pass to Marquise Brown on the opening drive, but he kept his eyes locked in the backfield and never saw it coming when the fullback lined up directly in front of his face stepped forward to block him.
And on the Jackson TD run that capped that drive, well, Collins overcommitted to the play fake and ended up lying on his back instead of keeping the play contained inside.
That’s a mistake you can’t make against a quarterback with the mobility of Tom Brady, let alone a quarterback like Lamar.
–The Patriots’ red zone defense also left a little something lacking here:
–There are clearly some different styles of coaching and leadership on the Patriots’ sideline. Bill Belichick did his normal take-a-knee, gather-round-fellas routine that he’s been doing on NFL sidelines since the ’80s.
Steve Belichick did … this:
And perhaps most effectively, Dont’a Hightower did this:
(Jerod Mayo somehow kept his focus on that tablet as if he was trying to finish that morning’s Sudoku puzzle. Impressive.)
I don’t recall ever seeing Hightower get quite so animated about anything. He backed it up by chasing down Jackson to force a Baltimore punt on the next possession.
–The Patriots’ first offensive drive was terrible. Incomplete short, incomplete deep, throwaway to avoid a sack, punt.
The second drive was arguably worse. Sony Michel picked up 10 yards on first down, and the Patriots then went into the hurry-up. Michel then ran for three yards; the Patriots hurried to the line so that they could get … this:
A huddle may have been good there; instead, the Patriots again rushed to the line. Brady was then bum-rushed by a swarm of black jerseys. Sack. Punt.
That was two drives, gaining a total of four yards on seven plays, ending in punts. Brady didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter was a minute old.
Teams obviously enter Sunday with a game plan that they think will work with effectiveness. The Patriots’ calculations for this one were pretty far off the mark.
–If you want offensive positivity, there was enough to be found. For one, they faced some real adversity, and from a functionality standpoint, they responded very well. That positivity was dampened quite a bit by the Edelman fumble, which was probably a 14-point swing.
But Mohamed Sanu matched a career high with 10 catches, including a touchdown grab, which showed he can be an important contributor. Edelman was still a monster, and an insolvable problem for the defense (again, putting aside that pesky fumble). At one point, Collinsworth said, “I’m not sure Edelman wasn’t triple-teamed on that play, and he still got open.”
The run game was actually effective, with 74 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. The offensive line wasn’t perfect, but also wasn’t necessarily the disaster that Twitter made it out to be.
Also Brady did this, which is something that no other team has:
We all get swept up in the great throws and the feats of athleticism from QBs. Human nature. We sometimes overlook the way a QB drives the train. This type of pre-snap command in a no-huddle/2-minute situation on the road? Tremendous.
(Throw was decent.) pic.twitter.com/0IJ7NJwsLY
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) November 4, 2019
Ol’ Tommy Too Tall was a little bit inspired by his counterpart, too, when he showed off some real pocket mobility:
–Focusing too much on the “WHAT IF EDELMAN DIDN’T FUMBLE” angle is slightly disingenuous, unless you also play the “WHAT IF CYRUS JONES DIDN’T FUMBLE” game as well. Though, to be fair, one of those things is much less likely to happen than the other.
–Can I share with you a plight of the Beloved Sports Guy™? I would like to share with you my plight. You see, my plight is this: I love to spotlight bad officiating in sports. Is it a positive contribution to society, or perhaps a stain on my soul? Who’s to say, really, but the point is that all day every Sunday, I am handed a cornucopia of bad calls to post on the internet and point and laugh and ponder in bemusement how so many calls can be made so poorly in just about every game.
And so, in keeping with this consistent character trait/flaw, I post a little something like this during a Patriots game:
Normally you do need to actually enter the neutral zone in order to commit a neutral zone infraction, though that’s kind of an unimaginative way to enforce the rules. pic.twitter.com/YEpAQHCzzp
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) November 4, 2019
Clearly, Adam Butler didn’t enter the neutral zone when the offensive lineman flinched, thus meaning this was an improper application of the neutral zone infraction. Simple enough. Add another log to the fire.
Yet you wouldn’t believe the hatred that gets flung at the Beloved Sports Guy™, just because said Beloved Sports Guy’s™ home geography pits him near the headquarters of the aggrieved party.
“Awwww, it was one play, THIS ISN’T WHY THEY LOST!!!!!!!! HOMERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR MUCHHHHHHHHHH?!!?!”
FOLKS, this is what we do here, we point out the mistakes. We document them online for all to see. Please stop saying mean things to your Beloved Sports Guy™! He has a Beloved Sports Family!
–In the history of organized football … some better goal line plays have been designed than this one:
–I know that the odds of winning were scarce, if not infinitesimal, IF NOT nonexistent. But a pass interference challenge would have been worth it for Belichick on that fourth-and-4 conversion by Baltimore.
That’s for two reasons.
One: A challenge would have had merit. Compare the Ravens’ pick to a pick committed by the Patriots in Week 2. Brian Flores challenged the latter, which was uncalled on the field, and actually won. That was a rare win, in terms of both PI challenges and just for the Miami Dolphins franchise in general.
The contact made by Josh Gordon was minimal at best. The contact made by Seth Roberts was much more severe. If the NFL had any consistency, this would have been an easy overturn for Al Riveron and Co. (That “if” is merely a hypothetical. We all understand the reality.)
Secondly, the stakes of this play made a challenge worthwhile. It would have killed the Ravens during their best drive of the night. It would have given the Patriots the football while trailing by just four points with 2:47 left in the third quarter — an eminently winnable scenario. And if the Patriots scored points on the ensuing drive, they’d force Baltimore to veer off their game plan as they played from behind for the first time all night.
Obviously, every week, coaches make buffoons of themselves by challenging plays that they have no chance of winning. This was not one of those cases. It was a missed opportunity for Belichick.
(The Ravens ended up driving for a touchdown to take a 30-20 lead, and the Patriots never really recovered.)
–Mohamed Sanu has got to touch the man after the interception. He’s just got to.
The result of that play being an interception inside the Baltimore 10-yard line is really not the worst. It was on a third-and-10 from midfield. A deep chuck was worth the chance of maybe getting a DPI or maybe getting lucky and completing the thing, just as long as Sanu knew to touch the man on the ground.
That was bad. It gave the Ravens 24 free yards and instantly got them out of their own end zone.
–I know that the broadcast clarified that Marquise Brown goes by “Hollywood Brown” because of his hometown in Florida, not because he’s a movie star or something. But I don’t care. When you do this, you have to drop the Hollywood nickname for at least 48 hours:
There is only one suitable punishment, and it involves holy matrimony taking place with one’s mother-in-law. Such is how the rules are written.
–There were certainly some parts of the defense that the Patriots have to be frustrated about. But in some cases, there is but one proper reaction, and that reaction is the shrugging guy text.
This is beautiful in slow-mo 🤤pic.twitter.com/RWO4bSldM9
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) November 4, 2019
–The Patriots punted from the Ravens’ 37-yard line. The Ravens went for it on fourth-and-4 from the Patriots’ 38-yard line. Justin Tucker missed a PAT. Life in the land of kicking is not so hot right now.
And this is just one game from the NFL’s Sunday slate.
Are the balls juiced? Curse you, Bud Selig!
–Despite getting walloped, the Patriots still …
–Rank first in points allowed per game, with 10.9.
–Rank second in yards allowed per game, with 249.3.
–Rank first in the NFL with 19 interceptions.
–Rank first in the NFL with 27 total takeaways and first in the NFL with a plus-17 turnover differential.
–Rank second in the NFL with 32 sacks.
–Rank first in the NFL in opposer passer rating, at 45.8.
–Rank first in opponents’ third-down percentage, which is at 18.9 percent.
–Rank first in the NFL with a plus-172 point differential.
–Sit in the driver’s seat in the AFC with their 8-1 record.
–Do not have to deal with Lamar Jackson for at least a couple of months.
They’ll be all right.
–While the entire country was hip-hip-hooraying to see the Patriots fall, their tum-tums must have collectively sunk after seeing this:
The Ravens' 37 points on #SNF are the most allowed by the Patriots in a road game since Week 4, 2014 (41-14 loss to the Chiefs).
A couple days later, Belichick gave his now infamous "We're on to Cincinnati" news conference.
They went on to win Super Bowl XLIX after that season.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 4, 2019
–Everyone looked at this stretch of the Patriots’ schedule and assumed they’d lose one or two games. Whether it was at Baltimore or Houston or Philly, or whether it was home vs. Kansas City or Dallas, it seemed fair to expect the Patriots to emerge fro this five-game stretch with a 3-2 record. (Facing opponents coming off byes in three straight games ups the degree of difficulty, too.) They’re still in position to do that, and really, the timing of this one isn’t so bad.
Instead of the Patriots spending the next two weeks stewing on just how awesome they are and how historic their dominance has been, they will be guided by their coaching staff to believe they are the worst team in the universe — and they’ll have 14 long days to think about it before they take the field against Philadelphia.