So you're saying there's a path...
At 4-5 following a 23-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday Night Football at a rain-soaked Gillette Stadium, the Patriots remain on the outside looking in of the AFC playoff picture. But their potential path to the postseason doesn't seem nearly as far fetched now as it did earlier this week, especially considering the quality of the opponent tonight.
Baltimore (6-3) had been favored by 7 points, making for the largest spread against the Patriots at home in the 19-year history of Gillette Stadium.
This was no fluke win, and it all started with an excellent ground attack once again. Damien Harris cracked 100 yards for the third time in 2020, establishing a new career-high with 121 yards on 22 carries. Rex Burkhead was decent in spot duty, carrying the ball six times for 31 yards, while Cam Newton had 21 yards rushing to go along with yet another touchdown on the ground -- his ninth of the season and 67th of his career.
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Burkhead made an even bigger impact in the passing game, where he caught both touchdown passes thrown by New England. In addition to a 4-yard touchdown reception from Newton -- the first for Newton since Week 3 against Las Vegas -- Burkhead caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jakobi Meyers, the former high school quarterback, to put the Patriots ahead for good in the second quarter.
It was yet another all-around banner day for Meyers, who led the team in receiving for a fourth straight game with five catches for 59 yards.
Down a tick from last week against the Jets, yes, when Meyers exploded for 12 catches and 169 yards in the air. But Newton threw the ball only 17 times, seven of those targets going the way of Meyers.
Newton completed 13 passes for 118 yards. He's now up to three straight games without an interception and hasn't lost a fumble in consecutive weeks, either.
The rain certainly had an impact on Newton's light day throwing the ball, but here's something to consider moving forward: when Newton has thrown the ball less than 35 times in a game in his career, his teams are 60-31, including the postseason. When throwing 35 times or more, Newton's teams are 15-33-1.
J.C. Jackson had his fifth straight game with an interception for the Patriots, establishing a new franchise record. He now has six on the season, the same total Stephon Gilmore had in 2019, when he was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. No other player in the NFL currently has more than four picks.
The Ravens opened the scoring 0:06 into the second quarter on a Lamar Jackson 6-yard pass to Willie Snead IV. The Patriots promptly responded with a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive of their own, capped off by a Newton 7-yard pass to Burkhead.
Justin Tucker kicked a 24-yard field goal to put Baltimore back ahead before New England took its first lead of the game on Burkhead's second receiving touchdown, this time a 24-yard haul from Meyers, with 1:02 left in the first half. Nick Folk would miss the PAT, however, keeping the team's lead at 13-10 at halftime.
Hearkening back to the Brady era, the Patriots pulled off their vaunted "double score," with Newton scoring on a rush from 4 yards out on New England's first possession of the second half to increase its lead to 20-10.
Folk kicked a 20-yard field goal later in the third to increase the Patriots' advantage to 23-10. Snead IV caught another touchdown pass from Jackson on Baltimore's ensuing offensive set, however, this time from 18 yards away, getting the Ravens back within a single score at 23-17 with 0:08 left in the third.
The Patriots are on the road next week in Houston, where they'll face the 2-7 Texans at 1 p.m. They're next at home on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 1 p.m. to face the 6-3 Cardinals.