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Perhaps it mattered less that the New England Patriots "hadn't played anybody yet" than that they hadn't played Lamar Jackson yet.
The New England defense entered its Week 9 game against the Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens sporting historic numbers. They were allowing fewer than eight points per game and had been holding quarterbacks to stat lines that would have been more appropriate for the 1950s. It took all of a few plays to see that this game would be different.
Baltimore faced third-and-6 from its own 30-yard line on the opening drive of the game, and it looked like the Patriots were about to take Jackson down for a sack. Instead, he hopped to his right, stepped up, and delivered a laser across his body to Marquise Brown. First down, Ravens. Baltimore proceeded to march down the field for a touchdown, which Jackson himself scored on a read-option run that made Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jamie Collins look silly.
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The Patriots punted on their first possession of the game, and Jackson led the Ravens to a field goal. New England quickly punted again, and Jackson led yet another touchdown drive, though this time it was the running backs doing the heavy lifting as the Patriots were reluctant to crash down on hand-offs after Jackson had burned them early on.
Just 54 seconds into the second quarter, the Ravens had staked themselves to a 17-0 lead. New England would chip away at said lead, because that's what they do. By the end of the first half, the lead was nearly gone. But timely plays from the defense kept the Patriots from ever taking the lead for themselves, and Jackson re-asserted himself in the second half.
Before Jackson kneeled on the ball twice to end the game, the Ravens only had the ball twice after halftime: Jackson led a 14-play, 81-yard touchdown drive that took 8:09 off the clock and ended with his throwing a touchdown pass to Nick Boyle; and then he led a 14-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that ended with his finding the end zone on a designed run and taking 9:35 off the clock.
That's 28 plays, 149 yards, 17:44 of game time, 14 points, and one huge 37-20 win.
Why the Ravens won
They have Lamar Jackson, and he is damn good. Right from the jump he was just about unstoppable. By the end of the evening Jackson had completed 17 of 23 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, and also carried 14 times for 62 yards and two additional scores. He ran inside and out, completing passes short and long, inside and outside of the offensive structure. He challenged this defense like nobody else has this season. Just the threat of Jackson was enough to turn this into a banner night for Mark Ingram, who reached 100 yards on the ground for the first time since Week 3. And Gus Edwards found the end zone on a read-option run when Jackson froze the defense.
Why the Patriots lost
They made a whole bunch of mistakes that they had not made at any previous point this season. The Pats took seven penalties. They fumbled twice. Tom Brady threw an uncharacteristically awful interception. They gave the Ravens extra chances to convert at inopportune times. Their assignment-based defense broke down at the point of attack on several occasions, with players simply guessing wrongly as to whether Jackson would keep the ball or hand it off. And they didn't capitalize on opportunities to take him down in the backfield, with multiple defenders getting shaken out of their boots as he broke free from the pocket and gained yards that didn't appear to be there for him.
The Ravens began this game by marching down the field with an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. They tacked 10 more points on the board and took a 17-0 lead before the Patriots got their first points early in the second quarter. By the end of the first half, however, New England had cut the lead to 17-13. And of course, the Patriots got the ball for the first possession of the second half.
New England converted back to back third down chances to move into scoring position, but on the eighth play of the drive, Ravens linebacker Patrick Onwuasor made something happen. Onwuasor chased down Julian Edelman on a bubble screen, and stripped the ball out of Edelman's hands on his way to the ground.
Marlon Humphrey took care of the rest.
The Patriots were already in field goal range at this point, and could conceivably have cut Baltimore's lead to just one point or even taken the lead themselves. Instead, the Ravens extended their lead back to three scores, and they would not relinquish control of the game for the rest of the night.
Play of the game
Take your pick.
Like we've been saying, Lamar is real good.
The Ravens pushed their record to 6-2 and maintained control of first place in the AFC North. They are also now a half-game ahead of the Chiefs and Texans for the No. 2 seed in the AFC, though they have played one fewer game than each of those teams. Baltimore plays the league's last winless team, the Cincinnati Bengals, on the road next week.
The Patriots' record drops to 8-1 with this loss. The Pats still have the best record in the AFC as well as control of the No. 1 seed. They have their bye next week, which they'll presumably use to regroup, get healthy, and figure out a way to 1. stop mobile quarterbacks, and 2. get their offense back on track.