By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL playoffs are back on the table in New England. The Patriots pulled off a fairly shocking 23-17 upset over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, a won that greatly improves their postseason hopes.
It wasn’t pretty, a sloshy win at a rain-soaked Gillette Stadium. But it’s the team’s best win of the season, an impressive victory made possible by a solid rush attack, some trickery, a lot of ball security, and some timely defense.
“We’re finding ways to win and that’s pretty much been it,” quarterback Cam Newton said after the victory. “We’re having great weeks of practice and following it up with in-game performance. Coach preached about that and we just have to make sure that we keep doing that and keep moving forward.”
The rain helped too. Downpours late in the game helped wash away any chance at a Baltimore comeback, but the Patriots defense kept Lamar Jackson and Co. from doing much of anything late in the game.
But the Patriots played some great complementary football throughout the game, and now they’re 4-5 on the season. A win over the lowly Texans next weekend and the team is back to .500.
Here are our Ups & Downs from Sunday night’s surprising Patriots win over the Ravens.
Jakobi’s Touchdown Toss
Jakobi Meyers is doing a lot for the New England offense these days. He had only five receptions on Sunday night, including third-down reception to move the chains late in the game, but it was his arm that got the offense going.
Late in the first half, Meyers threw a beauty of a touchdown to Rex Burkhead to put the Pats on top 13-10. After taking a backwards pass from Cam Newton, Meyers lofted a lollipop to Burkhead, who was streaking down the right sideline with linebacker Patrick Queen on him. Burkhead made a tremendous grab on the play.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 16, 2020
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 16, 2020
What a great play call by Josh McDaniels, calling upon Meyers — a former high school/college quarterback — for a little bit of trickeration. This is the play that got it all going for the Patriots on Sunday night.
J.C. Keeps INT Streak Alive
Make it five straight games for J.C. Jackson with an interception, setting a new franchise record. He continued his streak by picking off Lamar Jackson just ahead of halftime, ending a potential scoring drive for the Ravens.
J.C. beat out Marquise Brown on a deep shot by Jackson, as the Ravens needed to get as close as possible to give Justin Tucker a shot at three points in some extremely windy conditions. Tucker never got that chance because of New England’s tremendous young cornerback.
Cam Newton held on to the football and didn’t throw it to the Ravens. The Patriots did not commit a turnover on Sunday, improving to 4-0 on the season when they win the turnover battle.
Pretty impressive considering the conditions.
Not only did the Patriots score a touchdown before the half, but they scored one on their first drive out of the half. The double score is back, and it’s back big!
The Patriots made it look easy out of the locker room, needing just four plays to march 75 yards down the field. Damien Harris got things started with runs of 16 and 25 on the first two plays, putting him over the century mark for the game. Newton and Meyers hooked up for a 26-yard connection that brought the Pats to the Baltimore 8, and they got four extra yards on an unnecessary roughness penalty by Marcus Peters. Newton took it in from four yards out on the next play to give New England a 20-10 lead.
For a team that had been struggling to score, making it look so easy on back-to-back possessions is an extremely positive sign for the New England offense.
The kid runs hard and likes to take opposing defenders for a ride on occasion. On a first-and-10 run late in the first half, Harris took three Ravens tacklers with him across the line for a first down.
His two runs to start the second half were bruisers as well. He finished with 121 yards on 22 carries, his third 100-yard game of the season.
Rex Burkhead also deserves some love. He was a waterbug with 31 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards on four receptions, and a pair of touchdown catches.
After the Ravens got on the board with a 94-yard touchdown drive, the Patriots answered right back with a 75-yard touchdown drive of their own.
Burkhead accounted for 18 of those yards, including seven on a seven-yard touchdown on a screen pass from Newton. He found the end zone thanks to a nice block by N’Keal Harry at the line of scrimmage.
Ryan Izzo had a nice 20-yard connection with Newton on a play-action pass over the middle to set up the Burkhead score. It was good to see the New England offense answer Baltimore’s first scoring drive of the game.
Yeah, we can actually talk about the playoffs again. The Patriots are still likely going to have to fight and claw for a Wild Card berth, but with the Bills losing in Bills fashion to the Arizona Cardinals, dropping to 7-3, the AFC East may not be completely out of the question. It’s extremely unlikely, especially with Miami at 6-3, but the odds are a whole lot better than they were two weeks ago.
Fourth Quarter Three-And-Out
After the Ravens put together an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to trim New England’s lead to 23-17 late in the third quarter, the Patriots answered with a blink-and-you-missed-it three-and-out. Harris lost two yards on first down, Newton lost a yard on a second down carry, and the QB’s pass to Meyers over the middle only picked up seven yards on third-and-13.
Poor conditions likely played a factor, but that excuse doesn’t slide when Lamar Jackson didn’t let a little rain bother him on a 75-yard touchdown drive a few minutes prior.
At least the New England defense bailed the offense out by forcing a Baltimore three-and-out on the ensuing possession.
Rain coming down in soup bowls likely played into this, but the Pats defense had a tough time wrapping guys up once again.
On Baltimore’s first scoring drive, Gus Edwards picked up a first down deep in New England territory after Terez Hall couldn’t wrap him up at the line of scrimmage. That kept the drive alive for Baltimore and they followed with a shovel-pass touchdown to Willie Snead on the very next play, capping off a 13-play, 94-yard drive for Baltimore. Instead of 3-0 Ravens, it was 7-0 Ravens in the opening moments of the second quarter.
Edwards was at it again in the third quarter, when he ran through a giant hole in the defensive line on fourth-and-1 to keep a Baltimore drive going in the rain. A few plays later Snead scored his second touchdown of the game to make it a 23-17 game.
Overall, though, the New England run defense was a positive. They only allowed 115 rushing yards to the best running team in football.
First Possession Woes
The Patriots just don’t like to score on their opening possession.
Prior to Baltimore’s first scoring drive, New England left some points on the field. Their opening drive stalled when Newton was sacked on third-and-6 at the Baltimore 36. Linebacker Matthew Judon got around Michael Onwenu, who had moved over from right guard to right tackle for this one, and had a pretty clear path to the quarterback. The sack cost New England points as it pushed the Pats back to the Baltimore 41, knocking them out of field goal range.