By Alex MacDougall
BU News Service
Coming into this game, it seemed like the Patriots were practically invincible, slated to become one of the greatest NFL teams throughout history, such as the ’85 Bears and ’72 Dolphins.
With Tom Brady maintaining the high quality of offense we’ve come to expect from this team, and the defense performing at a level that’s unparalleled by any other team in the league, it was easy for Patriots fans to be already thinking about winning their sixth Lombardi Trophy.
But these hopes were thoroughly dashed on Week 9 of this NFL season, when the Patriots ran smack into the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have a history of making the Patriots look foolish, such as a 33-14 playoff defeat in 2009 resulting in one of Tom Brady’s worst playoff games ever. This game, held almost a decade later, had a very similar feeling.
The Ravens offense, led by quarterback Lamar Jackson and their dynamic pistol formation offense, sliced through the Patriots formerly impenetrable defense, with Jackson seemingly free to either throw, pass or run without the defense ever able to predict him. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and the Pats offense struggled mightily against the Ravens signature smash mouth defense.
The Ravens jumped out to an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter, leaving most Patriots fans slack-jawed in how quickly their team seemed to be unraveling. This is something we’re used to the Patriots doing to other teams, not having done to ourselves.
But give the Pats some credit– instead of folding, they made a valiant effort at a comeback, recovering two fumbles, one of them on a muffed punt, and narrowed the score to 17-13 by halftime. They clearly had no intention of being beaten easily.
But it would ultimately prove to be not enough. In the second half, the Ravens continued their shellacking, returning a Julian Edelman fumble for a touchdown, and then piling on two more scores, with only one more Patriots score, from running back James White, to match it. The end result was a thorough trouncing, a 37-20 Ravens victory.
With their perfect season now over, we can get a clearer picture of just how good this Patriots team actually is. Going into this game, it was known that while the Patriots had been conquering teams with almost impossible ease, many of their matchups were against teams which were far from contenders, with many struggling to even win a game.
But against the Ravens, who are now solidifying control over the AFC North, the Patriots defense looked porous, and Brady played like how a 42-year-old quarterback is supposed to play. While this team doubtlessly remains a strong playoff contender, it’s clear they have several weaknesses they need to address if they want to reach the Super Bowl.
The Patriots will have a bye week to think over what exactly went wrong this game, before they travel to Philadelphia to take on an Eagles team which has won its last two games and is in a tight race for first place in the NFC East.