Patriots stun Ravens, path to the playoffs emerges as they visit Houston this week

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Graphic courtesy of Sean Buckley

In their most complete team effort of the season, the Patriots upset reigning MVP Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens by a score of 23-17 on Nov. 15. 

The Patriots snapped their four-game losing streak against the winless New York Jets the previous week, but there wasn’t much to be excited about, as they had to scratch and claw to get the victory. Nonetheless, it kept their grim playoff hopes alive, as Baltimore was not considered to be a “winnable” game by any means. 

After a scoreless first quarter, the Ravens broke through on the first play of the second quarter with a six-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Willie Snead. The Patriots responded with two critical touchdowns on their ensuing drives, with one coming off of a trick play where receiver Jakobi Meyers threw a 24-yard strike to running back Rex Burkhead. Kicker Nick Folk missed an extra point, but the Patriots still held a 13-10 lead at halftime. 

The Patriots came out with fire in the second half by scoring a touchdown, forcing a Ravens turnover on downs, and adding a field goal for a commanding 23-10 lead. The Ravens scored a touchdown towards the end of the third quarter, but heavy rain in the fourth quarter made it difficult to drive the length of the field, allowing the Patriots to pull off a stunning upset. 

Both sides of the ball came together for their best game of the season to win this game. 

It seems that the offense finally found their identity this week as a run-first offense, as Damien Harris ran the ball 22 times, accumulating 121 yards. Cam Newton made the most of his passes, completing 13 of his 17 passes for 118 yards. Most of them either went short to Burkhead, who averaged 8.8 yards per catch, or medium range to Meyers, who averaged 11.8 yards per catch.  

The defense’s keys to success this week were for the secondary to have a bounceback game and for the run defense to keep Jackson from making big plays with his legs. The run defense did just that, limiting Jackson to just 55 yards rushing. While the secondary allowed 249 yards passing, they were able to shut the door in the fourth quarter to preserve the win. 

Now with a record of 4-5, a path to the playoffs is emerging as the Patriots find themselves two games out of a wild card position. 

This week, the Patriots travel to Houston to take on a struggling 2-7 Texans team whose only wins have come against the 1-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. Although the Texans have the ability to be competitive, this is a game that the Patriots should win.

The toughest challenge for the Patriots this week lies with the defense, as Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is arguably one of the most talented quarterbacks in the league. Watson’s 266.6 passing yards per game ranks eighth in the league and is a big reason why four of the Texans’ losses have been one-score games. 

The Texans’ defense is a large  reason that they only have two wins, as their average 409.1 total yards allowed per game is the fourth worst in the league. Furthermore, the Texans’ 167.4 rushing yards allowed per game is a league-worst, which plays right into the Patriots’ favor.

Kickoff for Sunday’s game 1 p.m., televised regionally on CBS. Bob Socci and Scott Zolak have the call of the local radio broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @JamieTaris