The plays Lamar Jackson made early were impressive, because they came so quickly.
The ones he made late were more so, because they took so long.
The Ravens quarterback led his team to an early barrage, but a long touchdown drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth was the thing that pushed his team to a 37-20 win over the Patriots — and handed the Patriots their first loss of the season.
The 14-play, 81-yard drive chewed eight minutes and nine seconds off the clock, and at that stage in the game, the time was as important as the points. The Patriots had appeared to have worn out the Ravens’ defense, so a long drive was something Baltimore needed on both sides of the ball.
It also underscored an impressive night for the second-year quarterback, who found gaps previously uncharted in the league’s best defense.
The Patriots entered the game leading the league in yards allowed (234.0 per game) and points (7.6), but the Ravens dismantled them early, racing out to a 17-0 lead. During that time, they were run-heavy, mixing Jackson into a diverse attack. But Jackson hit passes when he needed to throughout the night, and his scrambling was a constant threat the Patriots had to (try to) account for.
Jackson finished the night 17-of-23 passing for 163 yards and a touchdown, and also ran for 61 yards and two touchdowns.
And for a night at least, he was a problem the Patriots couldn’t solve.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. That late drive was a necessity, since the Patriots went no-huddle to keep the Ravens defense off-balance.
It worked, as they got to within four points on a couple of occasions.
By keeping the Ravens from subbing as often, it affected the amount of blitzes they could bring, and it was clear that’s what Baltimore wanted to do.
2. The Patriots are going to get the benefit of the doubt, because, well because they’re the Patriots.
But it’s also clear the gradual erosion of receiving talent is an issue.
When Julian Edelman coughs up the ball (which was returned for a touchdown by Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey), it’s shocking to see since he’s their most reliable producer at wide receiver. And while Mohamad Sanu fits nicely with what they have always done, it’s a far cry from an offense that in this calendar year has featured tight end Rob Gronkowski, Josh Gordon, and briefly Antonio Brown.
Gronkowski’s the one they miss the most (as the drop-off from the other receivers to the current lot isn’t as severe), and this game will only increase the curiosity as to how retired he actually is.
3. As much attention as Jackson gets for his running ability (and rightfully so), the Ravens adding Mark Ingram was a huge benefit.
The longtime Saints back had 15 carries for 116 yards, including a 53-yarder that showed he still has some burst.
And with his ability to run inside providing the perfect complement to Jackson’s improvisation, the Ravens have a multifaceted run game.
That helps keep teams honest, allowing Jackson time to find his many tight ends and other targets. Jackson completed passes to seven different teammates, a true cumulative effort.
So he must have been as surprised as anyone in the fourth quarter, when Tucker missed a point after.
Tucker was 264-of-265 prior to the miss. His only other missed PAT was last year against New Orleans, costing them a chance at overtime.
5. Speaking of special teams, the Patriots have always found a home for niche players, and the latest addition has already proven to be helpful.
Justin Bethel made a number of plays in the kicking game (recovering a muffed punt in the first half), fitting into a place that has always placed a high value on such players.
He was part of a de facto swap of players with the Ravens just over a week ago, and seems to fit right in.