By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — Figure this one out: A year ago, the Patriots had the best defense in the NFL, yet they got run over by the Baltimore Ravens.

This year, the Patriots entered Sunday night with one of the worst run defenses in the league and a bottom-third overall defense. Yet they somehow put together a tremendous performance in slowing down Lamar Jackson and the league’s No. 1 rushing offense and pulled off the upset victory.

Given the way things were going for the Patriots — with a four-game losing streak followed by a nail-biting win against the winless Jets — there weren’t many folks who believed this upset was possible.

Here’s how it happened.

Response

Cam Newton celebrates Rex Burkhead’s touchdown. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The Patriots fell behind early in the second quarter. They fell behind again just minutes after tying it up. In both instances, they answered — with authority.

Following the Ravens’ endless touchdown drive (13 plays, 94 yards, 8:04), Cam Newton and Co. came right back with a marathon drive of their own. With a 19-yard pass to Jakobi Meyers and a rare 20-yard connection from Newton to Ryan Izzo, the Patriots scored with ease on a first-and-goal play from the 7-yard line. N’Keal Harry set a perfect — and legal — block to spring Rex Burkhead for six.

After a Baltimore field goal, the Patriots once again answered, this time with a 10-play, 75-yard drive to take a lead. They’d never give it back.

Playing from behind against Baltimore is a recipe for disaster. But those drives coming right after Baltimore scored flipped the script and changed the game.

Red Zone D

Justice Hill is tackled by John Simon. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

That field goal drive by Baltimore was actually kind of a loss for the Ravens, as they had driven to the New England 6-yard line. But on third-and-6, the Patriots forced an incompletion, forcing Baltimore to settle for a 24-yard field goal.

The Ravens did reach the end zone on their other two red zone trips, but that stop at that time was critical.

Ball Security

Mark Ingram fumbles the snap against the Patriots. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

The Ravens certainly had no intention of heading into halftime trailing 13-10. So despite limited time left, they mounted an aggressive drive to try to at least get the tying field goal on the board.

They made it as far as the Patriots’ 38-yard line before Jackson went for it all, launching a deep bomb up the right sideline to Marquise Brown. That’s when Mr. Interception himself, J.C. Jackson, made sure that Baltimore would not be adding points before the break.

As that tweet notes, this was the fifth straight game with a pick for Jackson. And it was a big one.

The Patriots also had zero fumbles all night, despite the rainy conditions, and Newton threw no interceptions. The Ravens recovered all three of their fumbles, which all came on bad snaps, but they lost 27 yards in the process. One of those bad snaps came on a fourth down attempt, essentially serving as a turnover.

Damien Harris told reporters after the game that he might have played in the rain during his college career once, but it was nothing like the rain that fell on Sunday night. Despite that lack of experience, Harris held on to the ball on all 22 of his carries, rushing for 121 yards as the team’s offensive MVP.

“We had a couple close calls with trying to gather the snap. Obviously, it was a factor for them,” Newton said after the 23-17 win.”But having the mentality to stay mentally tough throughout that whole tsunami it felt like, we just wanted to make sure that we do great things while we have the football — protecting the football, making great decisions.”

Trickery

Jakobi Meyers (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

In a span of about five minutes, the whole world got whacked over the head with the information that Jakobi Meyers used to be a quarterback. But clearly, that wasn’t the world’s most well-known tidbit prior to Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick pulling the trigger on some trickery.

Really, the “trick” part of Meyers’ touchdown pass to Rex Burkhead didn’t really work, as Patrick Queen was tight in coverage on Burkhead. It was, simply, a tremendous pass and an even better catch.

A trick play or a gadget play or really anything other than a standard football play is always a risky call. If it doesn’t work out, all the critics come out with pitchforks and question why the call was made.

But when they work, they create some special moments. Add this one to that list.

Defense

Lawrence Guy swallows up Lamar Jackson. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

It goes without saying, but you can’t beat the Ravens if you can’t stop Lamar. Or, more accurately, limit Lamar.

The Patriots did that. He did rush for 55 yards, but he didn’t break any runs longer than 11 yards, and he didn’t find the end zone. And while his passing numbers were good (24-for-34, 249 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), it really wasn’t an impactful performance from the reigning MVP.

Bulking up the secondary with Kyle Dugger helped, as the rookie led the team with 12 total tackles (seven solo). John Simon was disruptive in the backfield, recording a sack and batting a pass down. Jason McCourty broke up a pass on a third down, as did his twin brother Devin. Rookie Josh Uche also had a sack — the first of his career. Terez Hall was once again actively involved with Ja’Whaun Bentley out.

It was a team performance, and it ought to be a good day or two in the video room when the defense looks over this film.

Weather

Rain falls during the Patriots-Ravens game. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

One can’t help but think that the Ravens’ last-gasp drive in the final minute of the fourth quarter might have been different if not for a 10-year storm rolling through Foxboro at that exact moment. While the rain was falling all night, the dial turned to 11 for that final drive — somewhat reminiscent of the Patriots’ loss in Cincinnati during the 2013 season.

The Ravens took over at their own 22-yard line with 1:05 left in the game. They needed a touchdown and a PAT to win the game. They had no timeouts, but a win was still very much in reach. (The Arizona Cardinals provided proof of that earlier in the day.)

Despite that situation, the Ravens really didn’t look like they believed they had a chance. A few short completions drained the clock further, before Dugger alertly tackled J.K. Dobbins before the running back could get out of bounds. That brought the clock down to single digits, and on the next snap, Dobbins dropped a pass that hit him directly in the hands. That incompletion resulted in a turnover on downs, ending the game.

Conspiracy theorists will likely suggest that Bill Belichick somehow negotiated the precipitation to increase at that precise moment, but the reality is that the weather is the weather. Sometimes it hurts you, sometimes it gives you a break. For that particular drive, the Ravens got a rough deal.

“The weather wasn’t on our side,” Lamar Jackson said. “Every time we was up, it was like the rain just started pouring down even harder. But you know, it’s part of football. Things happen. The weather’s not always going to be perfect, and we still have to find a way to pull out a victory. We just didn’t tonight.”

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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