Patriots-Ravens: What we learned

The SportsXchange

BALTIMORE -- The New England Patriots knew the hats and T-shirts were coming.

When the Miami Dolphins lost earlier in the day, New England claimed its fifth consecutive AFC East title before stepping onto the field against the Baltimore Ravens. The postgame locker room would be filled with gear representing the latest triumph.

Then quarterback Tom Brady and company went out to show they were worthy of the swag. Mission accomplished, once again.

Brady passed for 172 yards and a touchdown, running back LeGarrette Blount rushed for two scores, and the Patriots' defense dominated throughout as New England defeated the Ravens 41-7 on Sunday.

"We knew the Dolphins had lost before our game, but it wouldn't have been as good coming in here without winning and getting a hat and T-shirt," Brady said following New England's fourth win in five games. "Great win against a very good team on the road, just what we needed."

The Patriots scored on three straight possessions in the first half, including first-quarter touchdowns by Blount (1-yard run) and Shane Vereen (4-yard pass from Brady).

Kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted field goals in the second and third quarters as the Patriots (11-4) took a 20-0 lead. New England's defense held the Ravens (8-7) to 71 total yards in the first half, generated four turnovers and scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game.

"There is no statistic that correlates more to winning than turnovers," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who won his 11th division title in New England, all with Brady.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco played despite suffering a mild knee injury last week, and he finished 22 of 38 for 260 yards with two interceptions.

Including last week's field-goal-heavy win over the Detroit Lions, Baltimore went more than seven quarters without a touchdown until Flacco's 1-yard scoring dive with 9:21 remaining.

Little went right before or after the Ravens' lone score.

"I mean, I guess you can say that," Flacco said. "That's the way the game kind of ended up. I don't know if it's nothing went right. I just think we didn't play well enough."

Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan intercepted Flacco twice.

Late in the fourth quarter, New England defensive end Chandler Jones recovered a botched snap in the end zone for a touchdown, and Patriots defensive back Tavon Wilson returned an interception 74 yards for the game's final score. Wilson picked off a pass thrown by Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Blount gained 76 yards on 16 carries, including touchdowns of 1 and 7 yards. Brady completed 14 of 26 passes, including seven for 77 yards to wide receiver Julian Edelman.

The loss snapped Baltimore's four-game winning streak. The defending Super Bowl champions remain in contention for a wild-card berth, though they can no longer win the AFC North title. The Ravens' regular-season finale is in Cincinnati against the division champion Bengals next Sunday.

"We wouldn't have clinched here anyways with a win," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh when asked about his team needing to triumph next week and receive help from others. "We've got to play a lot better than we did today to go in there and get a win."

What the Patriots said

"That was important that all three phases made a bunch of plays. Offensively I wish we had done a lot of things better than we did tonight, but when we play that defensively and in the kicking game, we're going to be tough to beat." -- Quarterback Tom Brady after the Patriots scored five touchdowns, including two by the defense, and kicked two field goals in a 41-7 romp over the Ravens.

What the Ravens said

"They played a lot of zone, passing things off, and didn't let us get any of the chunk shots on them. The check downs were there, but we just didn't do it enough. We didn't play well enough and convert first downs." -- Quarterback Joe Flacco on Baltimore generating only 71 yards and five first downs in the first half.

What we learned about the Patriots

1. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for the season. The young receivers have battled inconsistency and injuries. That statement also applies to wide receiver Danny Amendola and the running game. Wes Welker and Aaron Hernandez are long gone. Running back Shane Vereen and cornerback Devin McCourty suffered injuries during the second quarter against the Ravens and did not return. This is how the Patriots' season has gone throughout.

Thanks to quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick preaching a next-man-up mentality, New England is once again kings of the AFC East division, claiming the title for a fifth straight season.

2. The Patriots' offense moved the ball during the first half, but did little after halftime, ultimately outgained 358-300. Because of solid defense, New England rolled to an easy victory. Baltimore committed four turnovers, three in the second half and two after pulling within 20-7 early in the fourth quarter.

What we learned about the Ravens

1. Some losses require ample study of game tape in the days to follow. The 41-7 thumping against the Patriots might not be one of them. Baltimore entered the AFC showdown on a four-game winning streak with the last three victories coming by a combined seven points. The defense proved stout, the offense effective, and the kicking game lethal. None of that showed against New England. Baltimore had only 71 yards of offense before halftime. The defense allowed scores in three straight first-half possessions.

2. It all comes down to Week 17. Baltimore must win in Cincinnati against the AFC North champion Bengals and receive help in other games. The defending Super Bowl champions are used to making a postseason push. The relying on help elsewhere is different. The Ravens defeated Cincinnati 20-17 in overtime at home on Nov. 10.
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