FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Damien Harris has elevated to the No. 1 spot on the New England Patriots’ running back depth chart and has no intentions of giving the job back. His performance was critical in the Patriots’ 23-17 upset win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday night, complementing a defense that gave quarterback Lamar Jackson fits.
The former No. 1 back, Sony Michel, has been designated to return from injured reserve, but it’s hard to imagine he gets the job back (assuming he is ultimately activated to the roster).
Harris finished with 22 carries for 121 yards. He gained 79 of those yards before initial contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had entered the night averaging 3.7 yards before contact per rush, fourth most among NFL running backs.
That reflects Harris’ hard-charging, decisive running style, which is a good fit behind what is arguably the strength of the team -- the offensive line.
Describe the game in two words: Best win. The Patriots haven’t had a season up to their usual standards, but this victory had an old-time feel to it as they improve to 4-5; a loss would have buried their playoff hopes with the Buffalo Bills (7-3) and Miami Dolphins (6-3) already ahead of them in the AFC East.
QB breakdown: Cam Newton once again played the way the Patriots need him to -- turnover-free and making good decisions. His stat line won’t jump off the page -- 13-of-17 passing for 118 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for his ninth touchdown of the season, as he remains one of the Patriots' best red zone weapons. But it was what the Patriots needed, and he delivered.
Buy a breakout performance: The defense. Much-maligned and coming off a shaky performance against the New York Jets on Monday night, the D was a step ahead of Jackson and the Ravens for much of the night. The presence of big nose tackle Carl Davis seemed to make a difference, and outside linebacker Chase Winovich was all over the place, while cornerback J.C. Jackson picked off his NFL-high sixth pass.
Pivotal play: In challenging conditions, with heavy rain and wind, punter Jake Bailey was immense in the second half -- with ballhandling and the way he struck the ball. His 52-yard punt in the fourth quarter was one of the unsung plays of a second half in which field position was critical, and his final 40-yard punt made the Ravens drive a long field with no timeouts.
Eye-popping NextGen stat: Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers’ 24-yard touchdown pass to running back Rex Burkhead, on a lateral from Newton, had an air distance of 43.6 yards. That’s the second-longest air distance -- and longest on a TD -- by a Patriots player this season (54.4 yards from Newton to Julian Edelman in Week 2)