The New England Patriots defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-14 last weekend, putting to rest some doubts about their offensive attack after an offseason of skepticism and poor performance.
Despite the offensive success that they found in Pittsburgh, the Patriots still showed that they have much work to do. This week, they’ll be facing off against a Baltimore Ravens defense that was torched by the Miami Dolphins in an offensive shootout last weekend and has been shown to be suspect in this young season thus far.
Compared to last week’s game, this showdown will likely put more emphasis on the strength of New England’s defense and their ability to limit Baltimore’s explosive offensive attack rather than their offensive explosiveness. Here are 3 burning questions surrounding the team heading into Sunday’s matchup.
1. Will the new defense be effective in containing Lamar?
The Patriots revamped their defensive scheme this offseason, bringing in more versatility and speed in the linebacking corps, while sacrificing traditional size and strength.
In the past, they have been able to mostly contain Ravens’ quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has averaged 206 passing yards, 58 rushing yards and 2.5 total touchdowns in the two games he has played against New England. However, the lack of a true bruiser on defense could make Jackson less hesitant to tuck the ball and run. So it will be interesting to see how the new linebacking corps will handle the electric QB.
2. Can the offense maintain consistency?
Last weekend, the Patriots showed improvement in their offensive consistency and communication in their win over Pittsburgh. While the Ravens’ defense shouldn’t be as difficult of a task for New England’s offense to handle, what will make or break the Patriots’ offense this season won’t be how they perform against good or bad teams but rather if they can maintain offensive consistency from week to week.
Quarterback Mac Jones still showed his inexperience at times last week when throwing the ball into tight coverages (or just missing receivers altogether), but the Steelers were largely unable to take advantage of the opportunities they had to capitalize on those mistakes.
Against a Ravens secondary that has just been absolutely decimated to start the season, the Patriots offense should be able to pick up right where it left off last weekend and continue to get Jones more comfortable in the new offensive system.
3. How to get the tight ends involved?
In the first game of the season against Miami, the Patriots were running many two-tight end sets and getting the ball to either Jonnu Smith or Hunter Henry. However, in last weekend’s game against Pittsburgh, the tight ends seemed to be almost completely out of the picture.
In fact, the only real contribution that a tight end made to New England’s offense last weekend was on a third-and-one when Jones tried to force a pass to Smith that was nearly (and probably should have been) intercepted.
Smith and Henry signed for big money in the 2021 NFL offseason and were expected to be key in a new and destructive Patriots offense (think 2011 with Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski). Henry showed last season that he has the ability to be a safety net for Jones when needed, but Smith has yet to prove he has been worth the money spent on him.
New England’s receiving corps has seemed like a mixed bag so far this season with wide receivers Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholor showing great chemistry with Jones, whereas offseason acquisition DeVante Parker has struggled to find his footing.
In a struggling offense, the two talented tight ends should be utilized to their fullest potential, and hopefully, the Patriots find a way to get them in the offensive gameplan.