FOXBORO, Mass. — The Baltimore Ravens spoiled the New England Patriots’ home opener Sunday, prevailing 37-26 in a back-and-forth affair at Gillette Stadium.
Here are 10 quick takeaways from the Week 3 clash:
1. Turnovers burn Patriots late
This was a winnable game for the Patriots, who led midway through the third quarter and remained in striking distance until the closing minutes. But their four second-half giveaways proved costly.
Mac Jones spoiled an otherwise encouraging performance by throwing one ugly interception late in the third and another midway through the fourth. Both came on targets to DeVante Parker (more on him below), with the second coming after the Patriots had driven to Baltimore’s 10-yard line.
The Patriots’ defense held the Ravens to a field goal and a punt on the ensuing possessions, but their third turnover was a killer. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor had the ball punched out of his hand by rookie safety Kyle Hamilton after a long catch-and-run, and Lamar Jackson scored the game-clinching touchdown for Baltimore one drive later.
Jones threw a third interception on a desperation heave with less than two minutes remaining. He finished the game 22-of-32 for a career-high 321 yards with no touchdowns and three picks and also carried five times for 31 yards and a score.
2. Mac Jones leaves with injury
Jones limped off the field and went straight to the locker room after his final interception, unable to put weight on his left leg. The Patriots announced he was being evaluated for a leg injury. Stay tuned for updates on the quarterback’s condition.
The Patriots’ backup QBs are veteran Brian Hoyer and fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe.
3. Can’t stop Lamar Jackson
The Ravens’ prodigiously talented quarterback threw four touchdown passes and rushed for 107 yards and another score to lead Baltimore to its second win of the season. His top target was star tight end Mark Andrews, who caught eight of his 13 targets for 89 yards and found the end zone twice, including a contested-catch TD against Devin McCourty.
The Patriots missed injured safety Kyle Dugger, who was integral to New England’s successful plan to limit Jackson when these teams met in 2020. Dugger missed the game with a knee injury suffered during last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
4. DeVante Parker breaks out
Now this is the kind of offensive weapon the Patriots hoped Parker would be when they acquired him from the Miami Dolphins this offseason.
After managing just one catch for 9 yards over his first two games in a New England uniform — with two of his four targets resulting in interceptions — the veteran wideout turned in a fantastic performance against Baltimore. His five receptions from quarterback Mac Jones went for 31, 40, 36, 25 and 24 yards.
The 25-yarder — a nifty toe-tap grab along the left sideline — set up a 2-yard Damien Harris touchdown that put New England ahead 20-14 three minutes into the second half. It was the most improbable completion in the NFL over the last two seasons, according to Next Gen Stats.
Parker finished with 156 receiving yards, the most by a Patriots player since Jakobi Meyers went for 169 against the New York Jets in 2020.
5. Replacing Jakobi Meyers
Speaking of Meyers, the Patriots’ top wideout was unavailable Sunday, sitting out due to injury (knee) for the first time in his NFL career. Despite his absence, New England played nearly the entire game in 11 personnel (three wide receivers) for the second consecutive week, with the blocking-focused Lil’Jordan Humphrey again outsnapping big-play threat Kendrick Bourne.
Bourne, whose diminished role has been a major storyline this season, caught four of his five targets for 58 yards.
6. Wise’s rise continues
It’s unusual for a player’s breakout season to come six years into his career, but that’s exactly what Deatrich Wise is experiencing thus far in 2022. A standout player against the run and pass in New England’s first two games, Wise proceeded to sack Jackson three times in the first half Sunday — the first three-sack performance by a Patriots defender since Chandler Jones in 2015.
Wise also finished with four tackles for loss against a Ravens O-line that was without starting left tackle Ronnie Stanley and later lost his backup, Patrick Mekari, to injury.
7. Jonathan Jones turns the tide
Jackson attempted exactly one pass to a Ravens wide receiver during the first half. He’d have been better off if that number had been zero.
On the throw in question, Jackson tried to hit a crossing Rashod Bateman but found cornerback Jonathan Jones instead. A 15-yard interception return gave New England prime field position at the Baltimore 32-yard line.
The Patriots’ offense capitalized on Jones’ pick six plays later, with Mac Jones scrambling in from 3 yards out for the first rushing touchdown of his NFL career. The QB commemorated that moment with a Griddy dance, sparking memories of his energetic Pro Bowl performance.
Later, Jones delivered New England’s other standout defensive play, stripping the ball from wide receiver Devin Duvernay after a fourth-quarter reception. Peppers recovered, giving the Patriots possession near midfield.
That turnover did not lead to points, as Mac Jones guided the Patriots into the red zone before tossing an end-zone interception to Marlon Humphrey.
Jonathan Jones has been the Patriots’ standout cover man this season, adjusting well to his new role as an outside corner. He played the entire game Sunday while rookie Jack Jones rotated with Jalen Mills, who was dealing with a hamstring injury.
8. Aggressiveness pays off
The Patriots chose the aggressive route in two situations during the first half. The first — a speed out to Bourne on fourth-and-3 after a Damien Harris carry on third-and-9 — failed, but the second allowed them to engineer their first successful double-score of the season.
Regaining possession with 30 seconds remaining in the half after an Andrews touchdown, New England let Mac Jones air it out rather than closing out the half with a kneeldown. An 11-yard dump-off to Rhamondre Stevenson moved the chains, and after a deep ball to Agholor fell incomplete, successive strikes to Bourne for 22 and 10 yards moved the Patriots into Nick Folk’s field-goal range. The Ravens dropped all 11 defenders into coverage on the second of those, but Jones was able to find Bourne, who stepped out of bounds with one second remaining.
Folk booted a 50-yard field goal at the buzzer to cut Baltimore’s lead to one. Harris scored on the opening drive of the second half to put the Patriots ahead, albeit briefly.
9. Stevenson steamrolling
Stevenson enjoyed his best game of the season, averaging an impressive 6.1 yards per carry. He finished with 73 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while adding four catches for 28 yards.
Harris had 11 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown, but Stevenson was the more explosive of the two. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots split touches between their top backs as the season progresses.
10. Promising start stalls
For the third consecutive week, the Patriots moved the ball well on their opening possession but failed to reach the end zone. This time, it was an illegal formation penalty on Isaiah Wynn that set them back, turning a third-and-1 into a second-and-12. They eventually punted. Wynn also hurt them with another flag on the following drive, that one for offensive holding. The Patriots’ starting right tackle has been penalized four times over the last two games, and those drives have yielded a total of three points.
It’s worth noting the Patriots have an experienced right tackle on their practice squad in Marcus Cannon, who earned practice player of the week honors last week. Would they consider a change there if Wynn’s penalty troubles continue?
Other assorted observations:
— Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy left the game with a shoulder injury.
— After sitting out last week as a healthy scratch, rookie cornerback Marcus Jones returned to the lineup and was the Patriots’ top kick returner. Myles Bryant continued to return punts, even after muffing his first attempt for the second straight week.
Bryant later was in coverage on a touchdown pass to Devin Duvernay.
— Safety Joshuah Bledsoe made his NFL debut and quickly faced a difficult matchup. The Patriots often deployed the 2021 sixth-round draft pick against Andrews on third downs.