It was a true throwback performance for Bill Belichick and co. on Sunday night. Two-man rushes? Check. Players out of their traditional positions? Check. Victory? Check.
Seeing some of the defensive formations the Pats had on the field made me think of Super Bowl 53. In that game, Belichick had Jonathan Jones playing safety, a role he hadn’t played at all in his Patriots career. On Sunday night, Belichick similarly had Chase Winovich and John Simon playing 4-3 outside linebacker roles at times, something we haven’t seen before.
A performance like this makes you wonder “where has this been all year?” Coming into the season, this is the type of team I expected the Patriots to be. Ground and pound offensively, and a youth movement on the defensive side.
This is what they are capable of. Let’s see if they can repeat it.
It was the Damien Harris show on the offensive side of the ball. The second-year bell-cow ran with purpose, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, making many of those yards by himself.
The offensive line deserves the bulk of the credit for Harris’s success. All five starters were outstanding, especially the often criticized Isaiah Wynn. The 2018 first-round pick is turning into a pro-bowl caliber left tackle, allowing just two sacks all year.
Another game, another impressive performance by Jakobi Meyers. His 5 catches for 59 yards again led the team, despite monsoon level conditions. His emergence has been immense for an offense desperate for a go-to guy. Meyers also showed off his right arm with an absolute dime of a touchdown pass to Burkhead. Can’t imagine it’s the last time we see that this season.
Cam Newton was very solid in this game, only throwing the ball 17 times total, however, he also did not turn the ball over for the second straight game. In the games where Newton has turned the ball over, the Pats are 0-5, versus 4-0 when he’s taken care of the ball. Not a coincidence.
It starts with the young pieces defensively. Kyle Dugger and Chase Winovich were the catalysts to this vintage Patriots performance. With the rain pouring down, stopping the run was the key to victory for the Pats, and they did just that by staying disciplined and setting the edge.
Dugger played a hybrid-linebacker type role where he spied Lamar Jackson and prevented cutback lanes. While there were certain plays he left on the field, Dugger still performed at a high level, leading the team with 12 tackles.
Winovich similarly had a monster game on the edge and off the ball. Unlike some of his previous performances, Winovich simply played his role and made plays when given the opportunity. Too many times this season we saw Winovich playing undisciplined football, costing the Pats dearly. It seems as if he learned his lesson and is going to start to live up to his immense potential.
The addition of Carl Davis at nose tackle also paid dividends in this matchup. Davis is strong at the point of attack and allowed the linebackers to stay clean and make tackles close to the line of scrimmage.
The play of J.C. Jackson should also be mentioned. The former UDFA had another masterful performance, making a key interception that prevented the Ravens from scoring before halftime. Jackson’s play should give the Pats confidence to move on from Stephon Gilmore in the off-season.
Next up is a battle with the Texans, who famously blew the Pats’ doors off last year down in Houston. Despite their 2-7 record, the Texans have been in every game they’ve played in and should not be taken lightly. This one is going to be close.