The 2019 Baltimore Ravens arrived in Week 9.
If you don’t believe me, go back and look at everything that led up to this point.
In the biggest story from Week 9, Baltimore handed the previously perfect New England Patriots their first loss of the season on Sunday Night Football, 37-20 the final.
Even at 5-2 heading into that AFC showdown, there were legitimate question marks about just how high the Ravens ceiling could be.
After all, Baltimore had just one win over an opponent with a winning record
And that victory came on Oct. 20 when they upset the Seattle Seahawks 30-16 on the road before heading into their bye week.
What did the Ravens do before that?
If we look past a 59-10 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 for obvious reasons, Baltimore’s average margin of victory in wins over the Arizona Cardinals, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals was just 5.0 points.
In Week 3, the Ravens lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 33-28.
In Week 4, they lost to the Cleveland Browns, 40-25.
In Week 5, Baltimore needed a fumble recovery in overtime to set up a game-winning field goal and complete a comeback over Pittsburgh.
And that was after Mason Rudolph had been knocked out of the game.
So even at 5-2, we didn’t know exactly what to expect from this team.
The 2019 Ravens hadn’t quite arrived.
In the days leading up to their date with the Patriots, there was plenty of conversation about what Bill Belichick would do to slow down Lamar Jackson.
In hindsight, perhaps there should have been more discussion on what Baltimore had planned for the New England defence.
After all, the Ravens had this game circled on the calendar since the schedule was released back in April.
Once the Patriots rolled into town, it was time to reveal everything they had kept under wraps throughout the first half of the season.
Anybody who had paid attention to what the players and coaches in Baltimore had been saying since the off-season understood that they were about to show us something we had yet to see this season.
What we didn’t know is just how effective it would be.
With the stage set and all eyes on M&T Bank Stadium, it was time for Jackson and company to put on a show.
With 5:48 left in the first quarter, Jackson took the field in the pistol formation with split tight ends and a running back lined up behind him.
He took the snap, paused for only a moment as his teammates set up their blocks, and then took off for 18 yards on a designed quarterback run.
This was it.
Over and over, the Ravens ran the ball right into the heart of the New England defence.
Baltimore jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first 16 minutes of the game.
Every time the Patriots threatened to even the score, the Ravens responded.
Jackson went for 224 total yards and two rushing scores, showcasing his incredible, rare skill set in a scheme designed to maximize his potential.
Baltimore’s offensive line capitalized on the hesitation caused by Jackson and the different looks the Ravens threw at New England.
They consistently won at the line of scrimmage.
Running back Mark Ingram averaged a season-high 7.7 yards per carry on his way to 144 scrimmage yards.
Six different Baltimore players had two or more receptions.
This was the offence that head coach John Harbaugh, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and the rest of the Ravens coaching staff had tailored to Jackson’s electrifying skill set in an off-season overhaul.
When the Patriots focused on containing Jackson, Baltimore hit them with the power run game up the middle.
When New England adjusted to account for the big runs up the middle, the Ravens mixed in some designed quarterback runs and play-action passes.
Meanwhile on the defensive side of the football, Marlon Humphrey, Jimmy Smith, Marcus Peters and Earl Thomas all played together for the first time this season.
With the Patriots driving down field at the start of the second half, it was Humphrey that returned a fumble 70 yards to restore Baltimore’s double-digit lead.
To their credit, Baltimore didn’t let up from start to finish.
As Belichick referred to after the game, the Ravens weren’t doing anything that he had never seen before.
It’s that they were executing at an elite level with every aspect of their attack funneled through an exceptionally rare talent at the quarterback position.
The 2019 Ravens arrived in Week 9.
So what’s next for Baltimore?
Clearly, this team is capable of competing with anybody in the AFC if they can stay healthy.
After a trip to Cincinnati in Week 10, the Ravens will host the Houston Texans, visit the Los Angeles Rams, host the San Francisco 49ers and then visit the Buffalo Bills in their next four games.
Every one of those final four games will be must-watch television.
Jackson and company made a statement in Week 9.
Now the hope in Baltimore is that the Ravens biggest win of the season actually hasn’t happened yet.
And where does New England go from here?
Well, this isn’t the first time the Patriots have lost a game under Belichick.
It’s just that it hasn’t happened in a long time.
In Week 14 of the 2018 season, the Patriots were left stunned after Kenyan Drake scored a 69-yard, game-winning touchdown as time expired in a 34-33 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Belichick provided perspective in a way that only he could.
“Look, it’s the National Football League, so nobody died.”
The following week, New England went on to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10.
After acknowledging what had gone wrong, Belichick once again looked forward.
“Getting ready for Buffalo this week.”
New England wouldn’t lose again until falling to Baltimore this past Sunday – a 13-game win streak that featured a sixth Super Bowl ring.
That same old tired narrative of the potential end of a dynasty that has lingered on and off since 2005 has reared its ugly head again.
Perhaps, it’s time to give Belichick and company the benefit of the doubt that they can bounce back.
Maybe, this is the beginning of the end for this Patriots dynasty.
At the same time, maybe we should just see what happens.
For now, the Patriots will regroup on their bye this week.
Then, it’s on to Philadelphia.