NFL: New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson runs with the ball during the third quarter against the New England Patriots on Sunday night in Baltimore.

OK, maybe the Patriots’ defense isn’t as good as many people thought it was.

Early Sunday, former NFL linebacker London Fletcher, working on the CBS Sports Network, said, “This is the best defense I’ve ever seen!”

We know he wasn’t alone.

OK, the first eight games, the junior varsity portion of the schedule, was against an array of inept offenses, but allowing four touchdowns in four games against ANYONE is impressive. And don’t forget, it goes back to last year’s Super Bowl, so the superlatives were flying.

Last week, Ravens tight end Nick Boyle, talking about the New England defense, declared, “We’ll see how good they are once we play them. I don’t think they’ve seen anyone like our offense or like Lamar (Jackson). They’re a good team and we’ll need to bring our ‘A’ game.”

At the time, it just looked like bulletin board material. And who the heck was Nick Boyle, anyway? Sure, Jackson was running and passing his way through the first seven games. But he hadn’t seen the Patriots — and Bill Belichick doesn’t lose to young quarterbacks, no matter how fast they are, right?


Since 2014, the Patriots were 21-0, counting postseason, against first- or second-year quarterbacks.

Then along came this second-year guy the Pats passed on in the 2018 draft. I’m not here to say New England should have drafted Jackson instead of Sony Michel (Nick Chubb? Perhaps), but there was no way to simulate this kid and he ran the Patriots ragged.

Oh, and Boyle had the first touchdown catch of his career as one of his five catches (in as many targets).

Old friend Cyrus Jones breathed some life into the team that cut him loose and Mark Ingram sent a fumble their way. But when Julian Edelman coughed the ball up for a 70-yard touchdown (his first lost fumble in three seasons) in the third quarter, it was all but over.

There will be no 16-0. But that’s not the point. The point is the first time this vaunted defense saw a good offense — and doubled the number of touchdowns it had given up through eight games.

Now, all that said, the Patriots are still the class of the AFC and probably of football. Somewhere in the back of Belichick’s clever head has to be the thought that this game will actually help him usher this team through the rest of the run.

“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,” Belichick said Monday.

Now there’s a bye week, then a tough stretch of four games: at Philadelphia, home against Dallas, at Houston and home against Kansas City (with Patrick Mahomes back).

“We have a lot of things to fix and we have the right group to do it with,” said Kyle Van Noy.

They WILL learn. And they WILL fix. But the coming opponents will also see the soft spots, the things that make this NOT the greatest defense of all time. But they just might be the best defense in the NFL in 2019.

The Offense? “We obviously have a lot of work to do … losing by 17 points, that’s not what we’re all about,” said Tom Brady.

The offense, going no-huddle all the way, drove the Ravens crazy, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphries saying, “I ain’t going to lie, that no-huddle was killing us. When we got to the sideline, we were like, ‘Yo, we have to do something.’ When they were doing that no-huddle they were almost unstoppable at one point.”

Staying put

While many expected him to walk away and gamble the remaining $62.5 million on his contract, J.D. Martinez is reportedly staying, at least for this season (he can opt out next year as well).

That report broke from ESPN late Monday afternoon.

New baseball ops leader Chaim Bloom, appearing on the MLB Network early Monday, said, “He’s got a decision to make. We will certainly respect whatever decision he makes.

“He’s obviously one of the premier hitters in the game. ... We’re pretty fortunate to have him in our uniform. We’re still going to feel the same way about him regardless of what decision he decides to make.’’

But obviously seeing a limited marketplace for his talents, Martinez has decided to ride this out. Does this mean Mookie Betts is gone for sure? Stay tuned as Bloom tries to get that payroll under $208 million.

As we told you here last week, the Red Sox were given the third-best odds at landing Stephen Strasburg if he opted out in Washington. He did just that, but you have to think the Nationals will try do with the righty what the Yankees did with Aroldis Chapman to keep him but there’s a difference: Strasburg is leaving four years and $100 million on the table, is 31 and injuries earlier in his career make you think there are plenty of bullets left in the gun.

The Red Sox with three pitchers over $30 million a year? Nah. The Yankees? You have to feel the Bombers will land either Gerrit Cole or Strasburg.

Dewey Hall?

Dwight Evans is on the ballot for the Modern Era committee’s consideration.

Evans joins, Tommy John, Ted Simmons, Lou Whitaker, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly, Thurman Munson, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker and players’ chief Marvin Miller on the ballot. Twelve of the 16 members have to vote a guy in. The results will be announced Dec. 8.

All the players on this impressive list have strong resumes. However, first and foremost, this has to be the time the late Miller, the most brilliant man ever connected to the game, gets in. The Hall cannot continue to turn its back on this monumentally instrumental individual.

By the way, Harold Baines, who got in last year, was not clearly better than any of the players on this year’s ballot.

Note: The Red Sox officially reinstated Dustin Pedroia to the 40-man roster and the Yankees did the same thing with Jacoby Ellsbury.

Sunday leftovers

The Eagles, next on New England’s schedule, won’t have DeSean Jackson, out with abdominal surgery. …

The England game aside, the home team won every game in the NFL on Sunday. …

…The entire NFL North lost. …

…Nobody does it any better than Cris Collinsworth, who said Sunday night, “Nobody does it better than Edelman and Brady.” …

Tip of the helmet to Christian Fauria, who will do 25 straight hours of WEEI radio next Wednesday to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. …

Belichick had won 17 straight regular-season games against quarterbacks he opposed for the first time. …

The Dolphins presented Brian Flores with his first NFL coaching victory but still haven’t scored in the first quarter of a game this year. They have been outscored 61-0 in the first. …

Jacoby Brissett suffered an MCL sprain but might play this Sunday. …

The Browns cut Jermaine Whitehead after he threatened on Twitter to kill fans, and tweeting out the address of the team’s headquarters if the fans wanted to come for him. …

Finally, Colin Kaepernick, that menace who has been unofficially barred from the NFL for his knee-taking disrespect for the flag, spent his 32nd birthday in Oakland providing food and supplies to the inhabitants of the city’s Tent City.


Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.