NFL-Ravens need a wild-card berth after pounding by Patriots

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By Steve Ginsburg BALTIMORE, Dec 22 (Reuters) - The New England Patriots pounded the Baltimore Ravens 41-7 on Sunday to leave the defending Super Bowl champions in a precarious three-way tie for the AFC's final wild-card spot. Quarterback Tom Brady completed 14 of 26 passes for a modest 172 yards and a touchdown and LeGarrette Blount rushed for two scores in the Patriots' lopsided victory. In having their four-game winning streak snapped, the Ravens (8-7) conceded the AFC North title to Cincinnati and are tied with Miami and San Diego for the wild-card route into the playoffs. The Patriots (11-4) entered the game as AFC East champions because the Buffalo Bills had blanked Miami 19-0 earlier in the day. Despite having earned a ticket to the playoffs while still in the lockerroom, it was New England that came out on fire, rolling to a 17-0 first-half lead. A one-yard touchdown run by Blount, a four-yard scoring pass from Brady to Shane Vereen and a 45-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to open the second quarter had Ravens fans sitting through a light rain wondering what was happening. A 42-yard, third-quarter field goal by Gostkowski pushed the lead to 20-0 before the Ravens finally managed to score on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Joe Flacco with 9:24 left in the game. The Patriots, however, responded with a seven-yard touchdown run by Blount to pushed the lead to 27-7 with 2:10 left and trigger a mass exodus by the 71,433 at M&T Bank Stadium. Flacco completed 22 of 38 passes for 260 yards but was intercepted twice and replaced late in the game by Tyrod Taylor. In the last two minutes, New England's Chandler Jones scooped up a fumbled snap by Taylor for a score and Tavon Wilson returned an errant Taylor pass 47 yards for another touchdown. Even Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had an off-day, missing wide left on a 37-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter, ending his streak of consecutive successes at 33. (Editing by Gene Cherry)