The Ravens are looking to pick up a win Nov. 15 against a New England Patriots team that does not look like the same powerhouse since the departure of quarterback Tom Brady this offseason – and Patriots radio play-by-play man Bob Socci says it’s their own mistakes that are hurting them the most.
New England, currently sitting at 3-5 and third in the AFC East, is having a tough season thus far after 11 straight seasons with a playoff appearance. When the Ravens and Patriots faced each other last year, the Patriots were 8-0 and appeared primed for a deep postseason run. That’s not the case in 2020, and Socci said the Patriots’ rough season has been caused by both their physical and mental mistakes.
“I will tell you this is a team that has simply underachieved far and away compared to what we are expecting,” Socci said on Glenn Clark Radio Nov. 11. “And it’s not only in the way they perform on the field and the physical performance, but they’ve also been guilty of some uncharacteristic mistakes, things we are not accustomed to seeing. There has been a talent deficiency. There have been turnovers. Last week was the first game they played turnover-free. They are really hit hard by their own mistakes.”
With Cam Newton replacing Brady at the quarterback position, the team is not clicking as it used to, though there’s more to it than Brady’s absence. The Patriots had several notable players opt out prior to the season are currently without All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore due to injury.
Neither the Ravens (6-2) nor the Patriots have been great on offense this season. The Ravens are No. 23 in the league in offense, while the Patriots are tied for No. 17. But the Patriots have turned the ball over 15 times compared to the Ravens’ 10. Socci thinks that the Patriots need to play their best game with almost no mistakes in order to beat the Ravens on “Sunday Night Football.”
“They are playing with such a thin margin for error and, in fact, against a team like the Ravens, no margin for error,” said Socci, formerly the radio play-by-play man for Navy football. “And you look at their defense, for example. Last year they went to Baltimore and they had one of the best defenses in the league and it was exposed by that Ravens offense. And this defense in the front seven cannot compare to what the Ravens went against last year when the Patriots were 8-0 going into Baltimore and couldn’t stop Lamar Jackson and the running and passing attack of the Ravens.”
The Patriots’ run game seemed to be moving in the right direction once the team made Damien Harris the starting running back, but he got hurt in the win against the New York Jets Nov. 9. Socci thinks that while this is bad for the Patriots’ offense, head coach Bill Belichick always has plenty of running backs and different personnel groupings to throw at opponents.
“They thought they found it in Damien Harris. Frankly, he played well the last two weeks and against Kansas City. He had a 100-yard game in his first start. He’s a second-year back out of Alabama. He was running well against the Jets and then got hurt,” Socci said. “With this particular team the last couple of years, it’s a couple of runs for Harris and then he’s off to the sideline. They’re going to change the entire personnel grouping and throw something else at you, and then on the next down they are going to do it again.”
Socci believes the options the Patriots have at running back — Harris, James White and Rex Burkhead — allow the team to rotate backs in and out and keep the opposing defense on its heels. Against a Ravens defense that ranks No. 1 in the league in points allowed, New England has to keep the Ravens guessing for a shot at winning.
It seems this season is a rebuilding year for Belichick and the Patriots, but the silver lining is that the Patriots will end up with a higher-than-usual first-round pick in next year’s draft if they continue to play like they have. And with Brady off the books next year, the Patriots should have some money to spend in free agency.
“I think as tough a stretch as it’s been, they’re trying to transition to the next phase, the next chapter, post Tom Brady,” Socci said. “… Right now they are a 3-5 football team that had lost four in a row and we talked about the struggles that they’ve experienced. But the idea that this is a team under Bill Belichick that can’t rest and retool, you look at next year they are going to have the fourth most cap space projected.”
For more from Socci, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox