Color me surprised at the result of Sunday’s game at Gillette Stadium. I did NOT think the Patriots had the ability to slow down the Ravens offense. I did NOT see the Patriots scoring 23 points, as they did. This was a good win for this team at a critical time in the season. Let’s also recognize that the Patriots were the beneficiary of many Baltimore unforced errors and mistakes that usually don’t plague a team of their caliber. The Ravens snaps that were ruled fumbles on the center, hurt 2 of their offensive drives in the 2nd half.
For my money, the best performance of the year so far. The pace of this game was perfect for what the Patriots would like to do with Cam Newton. Run based, methodical play actions, and make the occasional ‘Superman’ plays when necessary. Cam’s touchdown run was great play design as he walked in with Mike Onwenu as an escort. The ball handling was on point, rain or no rain.
RUNNING BACKS: A
The versatility of this position group is, in many ways, saving this Patriots offense right now. James White gets noticed by the defense every time he lines up wide. Right now, no one on this offense gets that instant respect. He’s a decoy now, but you know plays are coming his way as we get later in the year. Damien Harris played with good vision and patience. He waits for the pulling guard while not standing still, and then can throw it into 5th gear when the opening presents itself. Rex Burkhead had a great night. His ability to run inside or outside, plus catch the ball, keeps defenses off balance.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A+
Fine, you can at me on twitter @therealgresh for writing this. This unit was great. I know they didn’t get open much, nor many targets. But their impact in the running game was HUGE. The chips on defensive ends on outside runs, called in by Cam via motion to line up as a wing and protect from a backside defender chasing down plays. Byrd, Harry, and the touchdown throwing Jakobi Meyers all showed great grit and toughness.
TIGHT ENDS: A-
Better this week than last week for Ryan Izzo. At this point, I’ll take a couple catches a game and good blocking.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A
After the early sack allowed by Mike Onwenu at right tackle, this unit protected Cam well. And in the running game, they were fantastic. The double teams did a better job of getting to the linebackers and 2nd level defenders leaving Harris to battle defensive backs, not linebackers. The ‘outside the tackles’ or edge running game is coming along nicely, especially when you add others (WR’s) who are willing to down block against DE’s.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
I like that Bill Belichick has been lining up a defender more often over the Center. This was predominately a 3 down lineman game, especially on early downs. This was also a game where Chase Winovich and John Simon showed up more because by formation, Baltimore plays with more big people than small. That means more playing time for the Pats defensive ends as they have more value versus this particular offense. Job well done.
Ju’Whaun Bentley was out again, and the linebacker who got the most snaps was Terez Hall. Who, minus his penalty, held up pretty well as evidenced by his 10 tackles. It’s much easier to survive at this position when you have big bodies in front of you who can gobble up blockers. Hall is off to a good start, it will be interesting to see how his role is altered when Bentley is back.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A+
Like the wide receivers who I’m sure would rather catch the ball than block, this DB group was physical when they needed to be and were active tacklers. Kyle Duggar was around the line of scrimmage a lot, and while the Baltimore corners took some bad angles while playing in support of the running game, the Patriots corners and DB’s did a nice job of not being fooled much by motions and options. They trusted their eyes and keys which in why there were so few big plays made offensively by Baltimore, especially in the running game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Folk’s missed PAT is the ding on this grade. Joe Cardona deserves an atta boy for his role in this driving rainstorm. 8 snaps, 4 of them punts, no issues.
3 THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1) Just as it seems Michael Onwenu has takes the right tackle job from Jermaine Elumenore, will Terez Hall take Ju’whuan Bentley’s job in the coming weeks?
2) Same for Damien Harris and Sony Michel on offense.
3) Some consistency?? I can’t figure this group out.