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Patriots loss to Ravens a mere bump in a long road

AP photo Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) is brought down by New England Patriots defensive end Chase Winovich (50) and defensive tackle Adam Butler (70) during the second half of Sunday night's Baltimore win.

Reality or just a bad night?

Sunday’s 37-20 road loss at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens was probably a little of both.

New England was victimized by a superb Ravens rushing attack highlighted by QB Lamar Jackson and running back Mark Ingram. That appears to be no fluke, as it was beaten often by Browns running Brown Nick Chubb the previous week, overshadowed by a solid win.

The Patriots allowed a whopping 210 rushing yards, 155 of them in the first half. The defense allowed the Ravens to possess the ball for 37 minutes. All the things the Patriots do to opponents, Baltimore did to them.

They pushed the Patriots around. Leading 24-20, they put together two drives of 14 plays each, chewing up nearly 18 minutes on the clock. Amazing.

“It was a combination of things,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said during his Monday media conference call. “They’re a good running team. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, we just have to do a better job all the way around, so it was a little bit of everything.”

What he’s really saying is “We may know but we’re not revealing it.” You can bet the film will maake the rounds to Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston and Kansas City, but perhaps only the Cowboys could pull that off. Maybe.

In other words, while the Patriots Achilles Heel may have been exposed, there may not be a lot the rest of the AFC, or the NFL, can take advantage of.

What happened? It appeared that New England was so concerned about Jackson running the ball, they created gaps that allowed a guy like Ingram to plow ahead. Often the wrong choice was made. Because of the Ravens’ rushing game, Jackson did not have to rely on his arm, so you could take those Bill Belichick stats on confusing first and second year QBs and toss them out the window.

“They were really able to run the ball,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. ” A lot of times there was no edge, so they were able to run their play. … Because we struggled stopping the run, that really gave them control of the game. Possession,down and distance, I think they got to be comfortable all game.

“They were able to play it on their terms. That’s what hurt us the most.”

Bright spots? The hurry-up offense helped New England, as it always has, but this is an older team. Can its offense keep that pace up? Mohamed Sanu p;roved that he is a reliable, veteran receiver, perhaps the best Patriots pickup at the position in the last few years.

The Patriots were challenged, facing a team that is good, not great, but did things they hadn’t seen all year. They didn’t meet the challenge.

“You play in these games,” McCourty said, “it’s not doing it for a quarter. You’ve got to play better throughout the game.

“That’s the NFL. Each week you’re going to get a challenge. Whether we play a team that runs the ball well or throwing the ball averaing 400 yards a game, we’ve got to be able to understand what they do well and try to stop them.”

The key here is that the NFL is so week-to-week, and such an in-the-moment league that there should be no panic after one loss. Sure, the undefeated season is off the table.

“We’re 8-1,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on Monday during his weekly paid Boston radio appearance. “So our whole football season is ahead of us. That’s the reality, not an emotional thing. We’ve put ourselves in a decent position here.

“It’s not about what we’ve done the last nine weeks, our season is going to be about what we do the next seven weeks. It’s up to the guys in the locker room to determine what we want it to be, are we going to fight harder, dig deeper and play better, and prepare harder and play tougher. Or not.

“If we do the first part of that we’ll be in a great position. We have to take all these matchups, like they are, they’re all different. They all present different challenges. We’re going to have to get Q’d in to what we’re doing, and figure out how to best attack these opponents.”

It’s too early to tell if the Ravens have supplanted the Chiefs (only with Pat Mahomes at QB)

They have two weeks to figure out Philadelphia with the bye. The Patriots don’t run the ball well, at least not with Sony Michel as the lead back. That has to be finally determined.

They have three reliable receivers in Sanu, Julian Edelman (who we can now say has a fumble problem), and James White.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of things we could do better based on (Sunday) night’s game,” Belichick said. “So you learn something every week.”

What they doi with that knowledge will determine their 2019 fate.

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RANKINGS AFTER WEEK NINE

AFC

1.New England (8-1). 2. Baltimore (6-2). 3. Kansas City (6-3) 4. Houston (6-3). 5.Indianapolis (5-3).

NFC

1.New Orleans (7-1) 2. San Francisco (8-0) 3. Green Bay (7-2). 3.Seattle (7-2).5.Minnesota (6-3).