FOXBORO — For one week anyway, the Patriots have given the NFL cause to take discover.
The Ravens have been alleged to be a “unhealthy” matchup for the Patriots, who entered the sport as seven-point dwelling underdogs.
The latter aspect was only a signal of how far the Pats had fallen, and the way little oddsmakers considered Invoice Belichick’s crew halfway via the season.
And given how undermanned they’re, and the way a lot expertise they lack — they barely beat the Jets final week — it’s comprehensible why the six-time Tremendous Bowl champions aren’t getting a lot respect at this stage.
However that doesn’t imply the Cam Newton-led Patriots are able to money of their chips.
Within the pouring rain, they performed a mistake-free recreation en path to sending the Ravens dwelling with a 23-17 loss. And when Lamar Jackson’s fourth down cross to J.Ok. Dobbins was dropped with little time left on the clock, the normally impassive Belichick raised his rain-soaked arms in victory.
It wasn’t straightforward, however the Patriots are nonetheless respiratory at 4-5. They nonetheless have life, and aren’t going to go away simply.
“It was a tricky, bodily recreation and I’m happy with the way in which our guys performed. We ran the ball fairly competitively, stopped the run competitively, took benefit of our scoring alternatives and simply performed a very good strong sixty minute soccer recreation, which is what it takes in opposition to the Ravens,” Belichick mentioned after the win. “I’m actually happy with the way in which the fellows competed and I feel we simply obtained to proceed to work onerous and grind away and see if we will enhance and do some issues higher subsequent week than what we did this week.”
Throughout their championship years, Belichick beloved utilizing slights — perceived or in any other case — as gasoline.
Whereas wins are not computerized or anticipated, and rightfully so, it definitely seems Belichick’s crew nonetheless has loads of battle left. They’re nonetheless fiercely aggressive.
And, maybe most necessary, they’re nonetheless smarter than the remaining.
Enjoying in lower than perfect situations, the Patriots have been modern on protection, pulled out trick performs on offense, and flat out out-thought and outplayed the superior Ravens.
Whenever you’re not alleged to win, if you’re a prohibitive underdog, it’s time to get artistic.
And the Patriots have been simply that.
Given they’ve pulled plenty of rabbits out of their bag of methods up to now, like Julian Edelman’s 51-yard landing cross to Danny Amendola in beating the Ravens within the AFC divisional playoffs in 2015, shouldn’t John Harbaugh’s crew have been ready for related trickery?
Shouldn’t he have identified Belichick and Josh McDaniels would pull out all of the stops to win? Shouldn’t he have anticipated, the sudden?
Jakobi Meyers’ second quarter 24-yard landing cross to Rex Burkhead was simply one of many highlights.
And whereas they squeaked previous the woeful and winless Jets final week, the Patriots have now gained two straight by placing collectively one among their greatest performances of the season. In horrendous situations, they didn’t commit a turnover, which speaks volumes about Belichick’s crew.
It wasn’t excellent, after all.
They nonetheless had some points on protection. They couldn’t get off the sector a lot of the time with the Ravens sustaining drives. However they nonetheless managed to maintain the Ravens off the board with well timed performs, each late within the first half, and all through the second. J.C. Jackson collected his sixth interception, and fifth in 5 straight video games.
All in all, it was robust to argue with the sport plan, or its execution, particularly on offense.
They principally ran it down the Ravens’ collective throats, with Damien Harris having a profession recreation.
Taking a web page out of the Colts ebook final week in a dropping effort in opposition to the Ravens, the Patriots pressed the sides of their protection with velocity sweeps when not busting it up the center.
Harris wound up accumulating his third 100-yard recreation, sloshing and bulldozing his option to 121 yards on 22 carries. General, the Patriots rushed for 173 on the highest speeding protection within the league.
“We needed to face up and present how robust and bodily we have been,” mentioned Harris. “That was sort of the mentality.”
It was spectacular, to say the least.
And after they wanted to tug out a passing play, McDaniels obtained artistic.
Counting Meyers’ excellent cross to Burkhead, they handed for a pair of touchdowns after not throwing for a landing within the earlier 4 video games. Newton hit Burkhead with for an additional rating.
Given the situations, passing was robust. Newton accomplished simply 13 of 17 passes for 118 yards. It was lots adequate for the Patriots, who’ve gained two straight and will make it three in Houston subsequent week.
Now, by way of holding their playoff hopes alive, these are barely flickering. Everybody else within the hunt for wild card spots, particularly the Dolphins and Raiders, additionally gained Sunday.
The Payments misplaced within the final second to the Cardinals on a Hail Mary, however it’s nonetheless onerous imagining the Patriots leap-frogging two groups — Payments and Fins — to get there.
However at 4-5, they’re nonetheless combating, and have established some momentum. Extra importantly, they’ve their mojo again. They’ve a measure of confidence, now that they’ve knocked off a rival who was alleged to kick their butts.
“We’ll simply preserve making regular progress and we’re positively headed in the fitting path right here,” mentioned Belichick. “So nice to win, however sit up for the problem of on the point of go once more subsequent week and creating some consistency right here.”