BALTIMORE — The Ravens and New England Patriots went at it like prizefighters at M&T Bank Stadium on Nov. 3, with the Ravens landing the early punches and the Patriots recovering to deliver a few shots of their own. In the end, though, Lamar Jackson delivered the knockout blow with his second rushing touchdown of the game as the Ravens pulled away to a 37-20 win before an announced crowd of 71,157 and a national Sunday Night Football audience.
A quick 17-0 lead for the Ravens was shaved to 17-13 by halftime, and the Patriots appeared on their way to a go-ahead touchdown before Marlon Humphrey scooped up a fumble and raced 70 yards for a touchdown and a 24-13 lead.
Here are five quick impressions of the game, the fourth straight win for the Ravens (6-2) and the first loss of the season for the Patriots (8-1):
1. The “MVP!” chants for Lamar Jackson are legitimate.
After Jackson slithered and slid his way in for a 1-yard touchdown and a 37-20 lead, chants of “MVP! MVP!” began raining down from the M&T Bank stadium seats, and it’s hard to dispute the notion that Jackson belongs in the conversation for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.
Jackson once again was what he has been in virtually every game since taking over the starting job just about 12 months ago: sensational, dynamic, clutch and ferociously competitive, willing his team to another win.
Jackson completed 17 of 23 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown, and he ran 16 times for 61 yards and two scores. There were designed runs and more of the highlight-reel scrambling, such as when he practically faked Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy out of his shoes on an 11-yard gain to the Patriots 5-yard line.
“Lamar played MVP-type football,” safety Earl Thomas said.
For his part, Jackson said he appreciated the gesture but said, “We got a lot of season left to play. I worry about the next game.”
2. John Harbaugh’s teams are almost always ready for prime time.
Say this for Harbaugh’s teams: They are almost always up for the moment in prime time, when the lights are brightest and the opponent most formidable. Counting this win, the Ravens are 13-1 in home primetime games in the Harbaugh era.
The Ravens came out blazing against the Patriots, dominating for the first 16 minutes en route to a shocking 17-0 lead. The Patriots looked like they didn’t know what hit them, until a fumbled punt return by Cyrus Jones gave them life. Tom Brady quickly turned that miscue into a touchdown, and it was game on.
Harbaugh and his team kept their composure even as the Patriots quickly shaved a 17-0 deficit to 17-13, and Harbaugh maintained his confident, aggressive approach that has defined his tenure. That was never more evident than his call to go for the first down on fourth-and-4 from the Patriots 38-yard line late in the third quarter.
Jackson rolled right and hit Willie Snead for a 7-yard gain, and a drive continued that ended with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Nick Boyle early in the fourth quarter for a 30-20 lead.
“Harbs trusts our offense,” Snead said. “He trusts our guys, and for him to allow us to go for it, it means a lot.”
3. Marlon Humphrey belongs in the Pro Bowl.
Many observers have thought Marlon Humphrey has merited Pro Bowl consideration in past years, but the lack of so-called “splash plays” might have hurt his candidacy. Not this year.
For the second straight week, Humphrey raced to the end zone with a fumble return, and his 70-yard touchdown return against the Patriots — the longest fumble return in Ravens history — flipped the momentum back to the Ravens much like Cyrus Jones’ fumble in the first half had given it to the Patriots.
In the past four weeks, Humphrey has two fumble returns for touchdowns, a forced fumble and recovery that led to the game-winning field goal against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and an interception in the win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
Humphrey has been a physical defender against a team’s top receiver, and although Julian Edelman had 10 receptions (on 11 targets) for 89 yards, Humphrey delivered the play of the day when he scooped up a fumble by Edelman that had been forced by Patrick Onwuasor.
“Marlon has been week in and week out, our best player,” linebacker Matthew Judon said. “The focus, the execution that he has. … It’s paying off for that guy.”
4. If the Ravens lead in the fourth quarter, it’s game over.
For the third straight week, the Ravens put together a fourth-quarter drive that lasted at least nine minutes. That has to be absolutely maddening for an opposing defense that can’t get off the field, and an opposing offense that must watch and watch and watch some more.
In this case, the Ravens took over at their own 32-yard line with a 30-20 lead after Earl Thomas intercepted Tom Brady with 12:47 left.
Fourteen plays later, Jackson slithered in for a 1-yard touchdown run — pulled over the goal line, he said, by tackle Orlando Brown – for a 37-20 lead with 3:12 left.
There’s not much secret to the operation: A steady diet of Jackson, Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, interspersed with the occasional pass, keeps the chains and the clock moving. Ingram remains one of the best offseason pickups in the league, a perfect complement to Jackson, and he delivered again, with 15 carries for 115 yards and two catches for 29 yards –both of them coming on that nine-minute fourth-quarter drive.
The offensive line consistently won the battles at the line of scrimmage, which is the only way a nine-minute drive happens. The Ravens finished with 210 rushing yards against the No. 4 rush defense in the league, which is one reason Harbaugh said the line received a game ball.
5. The AFC’s No. 1 seed is suddenly in play.
The Ravens caution that there is still half the season left to play, and they are correct. But with this win, they have legitimately put themselves in position to compete for the AFC’s No. 1 seed. Had they lost, the Patriots would have been virtually uncatchable, and the Patriots still hold the AFC’s best record at 8-1.
But the Kansas City Chiefs have blemishes — not to mention three losses with reigning league MVP Patrick Mahomes dealing with a knee injury — and the Ravens have put them into the conversation for a deep home playoff run.
And if it comes down to it, the Ravens now own a tiebreaker over the Patriots by virtue of this victory, one of the more impressive regular-season wins of Harbaugh’s tenure.
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox