Why loss to Ravens wasn’t all bad, and Patriots can come away confident in some areas

Ryan Hannable
November 05, 2019 - 8:32 am
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It was a typical reactionary Monday in New England following the Patriots’ loss to the Ravens Sunday night — their first of the season.

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This defense is overrated! The offense stinks! The offensive line is horrible!

Appearing on The Greg Hill Show, Tom Brady put it perfectly. 

“I think part of for us players is you just have to ignore the hype," he said. "When everything is great it’s really not and when everything is bad it’s really not. You have to evaluate these weeks for really what they are.”

This means when you look at the 37-20 loss to the Ravens it is what it is — a 17-point loss, but there were also some very encouraging signs on both sides of the ball that should give the team confidence heading into the final seven games of the year.

There’s no question the start to the game was horrid on both sides of the ball. Brady didn’t have his first completion until the first few minutes of the second quarter and the Patriots trailed 17-0 before the offense even had its third drive of the game.

“We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, we just have to do a better job all the way around, so it was a little bit of everything,” Bill Belichick said on a conference call Monday.

It’s clear adjustments were made defensively following allowing 17 points and 198 yards on 25 plays (7.92 yards per play) on the first three Ravens possessions. It seemed the team went away from its base 3-4 look and went bigger up front to stop the Ravens’ rushing attack.

By in large it worked, as after the Ravens’ first three possessions they had 174 yards of offense on 40 plays (4.35 yards per play). That is exactly what the Patriots defense has been averaging through nine games — 4.3 yards per play. What this means is, following the first three drives, the Patriots played basically like it has through the first eight games of the year defensively.

Obviously, some credit goes to the Ravens and Lamar Jackson given how unique their offense is and how tough it is to gameplan for. The looks the Patriots got in practice were at a completely different speed and even had some tweaks come Sunday. It’s also worth noting Baltimore was coming off its bye, so it had two weeks to prepare for the game.

Once the Patriots were able to figure out what the Ravens were doing, they adjusted nicely and played similar to they have all year on defense.

Offensively, it was a similar thing. 

Following the first three drives that totaled 13 yards on 10 plays (1.3 yards per play), the Patriots finished the game with 329 yards on 55 plays (5.98 yards per play). Although they used the up-tempo, 11-personnel in the first three drives, they stuck with it and found something that clicked the rest of the night.

For reference, the 5.98 yards per play is more than the 5.2 yards per play the offense is averaging through the first nine games. 

The no-huddle, up-tempo offense got to the Ravens defense.

“I ain’t going to lie, that no-huddle was killing us,” cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. “When we got to the sideline, we were like, ‘Yo, we have to do something.’ When they were doing that no-huddle they were almost unstoppable at one point.”

For as much as the Patriots offense has struggled at times this year, it appeared to find something with the up-tempo. The 52 percent no-huddle rate was the NFL’s second-highest single-game mark since 2017, and the Patriots’ highest rate in over five years.

“There were part of that game where we found our rhythm,” Brady said Monday night on Westwood One Radio. “It was a great feeling because we were moving the ball running the ball, we were completing passes and we had some explosive plays. That did feel good. I think we can take definitely a positive from that game in our ability to keep the defense off balance was a great thing for us.”

Also, in his second game with the team, Mohamed Sanu showed the ability to be a major part of the offense for the rest of the season. He finished with 10 catches on 14 targets (team-high) for 81 yards and a touchdown.

It appears with Sanu now in the mix, the offense will rely mostly on short, quick passes to move the ball down the field. Like the running game was last year, this approach seems like the one that will work best given what the Patriots have to work with.

Of Brady’s 30 completions, 10 went for 10 yards or more, while seven went for 15 yards or more. Also, of the 20 competitions to Julian Edelman, James White and Sanu, half of them went for 10 yards or more.

Following the first three possessions, moving the ball was not an issue for the Patriots offense.

While the Patriots suffered their first loss of the season, the immediate thought is to focus on the negatives, but the reality is there were a lot of positives to take and the game should give the team confidence for the second half of the season. 

Related: Bill Belichick on OMF discusses how Patriots will approach bye week following loss to Ravens