Patriots Three-and-Out: Week 14 vs. Ravens
As the cold weather makes its way into New England, the Patriots are heating up at the right time. As they head into the last quarter of their season, the Patriots are riding a four-game winning streak that included a tough win a few days ago on Monday Night Football.
The Patriots welcomed a familiar foe in the Baltimore Ravens, who brought their tough and stout defense to face Tom Brady and his prolific offense.
The Patriots dominated the Ravens in every phase of the game for most of the game, but some key mistakes from New England helped Baltimore get back into it and make the game more interesting.
In the end, it was the Patriots who walked away with a 30-23 victory and improved their record to 11-2, sitting comfortably atop the AFC East and the AFC.
1. Defense is playing more consistent at the right time. The Patriots defense has been the Achilles heel for them this season, as inconsistent play has made them a hard choice to be serious Super Bowl contenders despite a winning pedigree. But over the last few weeks, the entire defense has stepped up in a big way.
On Monday, the defense kept riding the momentum by keeping the Ravens’ offense out of the end zone and holding them to three points. Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers each had a sack, and Devin McCourty had an interception. Despite giving up 300+ yards through the air, the defense only allowed the Ravens to rush for 42 total yards.
2. Offense clicking despite injuries. Injuries are always tough in the NFL and when some of your top offensive weapons are on the shelf, it is difficult to keep the play consistent. With Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola missing time, the Patriots offense has not skipped a beat. LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis and James White continue to produce out of the backfield. Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell have helped from the wide receiver position while Martellus Bennett has helped as best as he can for the tight ends.
On Monday night, Hogan along with Mitchell and Bennett caught touchdown passes, and Blount scored another touchdown. Despite who has been shuffled in and out of the offensive huddle, the offense has been producing all year long.
3. Special Teams keeping Patriots from being a complete team. I think it is safe to say that the Cyrus Jones experiment is a dud. No matter what he does in practice, the rookie out of Alabama just cannot seem to get a grip on the return game. On kickoffs, he has not been able to have any remarkable returns to give the Patriots decent field position, and for punt returns, he does not seem to get that he has to catch the ball.
One of his biggest errors of the year (when the ball tapped Jones' foot when he should have gotten out of the way) led to the Ravens scoring a touchdown. Then, Pro-Bowler Matthew Slater fumbled a return which led to another Ravens touchdown. Special teams has always been something that Bill Belichick prided himself on perfecting for the team, but this year has been a swing and a miss.
The Patriots are steamrolling toward the postseason and each win counts. Against teams like Baltimore, the victory on Monday was critical for the Patriots whom they could play later on in January.
On Sunday afternoon, the Patriots travel to Denver to take on the defending Super Bowl champs, the Broncos.
Follow Michael on Twitter @TheReal_MPerry and the Patriots PFS Twitter @spot_patriots.