Patriots pound the Ravens, 41-7
Sunday, December 22, 2013
The Patriots were winners Sunday in Baltimore, even before they kicked off against the Ravens.
Thanks to Buffalo's 19-0 whitewashing of the Miami Dolphins, New England did not have to worry about reaching the playoffs...clinching their 5th straight AFC East Division title (and 11th under Bill Belichick) thanks to the Dolphins' defeat. But could they still earn a first-round bye? For that, they needed a win at Baltimore...and the Ravens were only too happy to accomodate with a mistake-filled effort as the Pats pounded the defending Super Bowl champs 41-7.
After the teams' exchanged three-and-outs to open, the Patriots struck first - thanks in large part to a Baltimore defensive mistake. Ravens' CB Jimmy Smith was called for pass interference on Julian Edelman, a 34-yard penalty that gave the NE offense a 1st-and-goal at the one. The early Christmas gift was one the Patriots managed to take advantage of, as LeGarrette Blount pounded the ball into the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 9:39 to play in the quarter. Mistake #2 - or gift #2, depending on your point of view - came just a few plays later as Logan Ryan picked off a Joe Flacco pass, tipped first by Dont'a Hightower. Six plays and 53 yards later, Tom Brady hit Shane Vereen on a four-yard scoring pass...after another costly Ravens' mistake (illegal contact penalty) and a 34-yard pass completion to Danny Amendola.
14-0 Patriots, with 4:51 still remaining in the first. A rare fast start for New England, a start that could not have been planned any better.
On the first play of the 2nd quarter, Stephen Gostkowski added to the lead with a 45-yard field goal, after a drive stalled at the Baltimore 27 for a 17-0 lead. The successful kick put Gostkowski over 1000 points (1001) for his NFL career. And while the offense proved to be opportunistic, the defense was equal to the task...coming up with three 3rd down sacks of Flacco and limiting Baltimore to just 71 yards of total offense in the first half.
The Ravens did not have an offensive snap in Patriots' territory until the opening drive of the 3rd quarter. But the drive died at the NE 39 as a 4th down pass attempt intended for Jacoby Jones was knocked away by Ryan. The Patriots couldn't do anything with the ball after the stop, but maybe they didn't need to. On a 3rd down pass attempt for TE Dennis Pitta, Flacco's pass was deflected by Flacco right into Ryan's hands for the rookie's 2nd interception of the game. The Baltimore miscue led to another Gostkowski FG, coming from 42 yards to make it 20-0 with 7:15 left in the period.
Baltimore's offense finally clicked late in the quarter, with a 42-yard completion to Torrey Smith setting up a 4th-and-1 conversion try at the NE four - which fell short by two inches on a Ray Rice run. The defensive effort went unrewarded, however, after a Ryan Allen punt and a 22-yard Jones return gave the Ravens the ball at the Patriot 38. But the Ravens' could only reach the 19, and a 37-yard FG try by Justin Tucker missed to the left - Tucker's first miss in 34 attempts.
New England could not turn the gift of a rare Tucker miss into a scoring chance, giving the Ravens one more shot to climb back in it. Flacco led a nine play, 90-yard drive and following a 23-yard pass interference call on Steve Gregory against Torrey Smith at the two, he capped it off with a one-yard sneak for the score to put his team on the board with 9:21 to play. Three-and-out from the Patriot offense (only three first downs in the 2nd half to this point), put Baltimore back in business.
This game however, belonged to the play of a seemingly inspired NE defense. With a heavy rush on Flacco, a 4th-and-10 attempt for Pitta was knocked away by LB Jamie Collins, giving the offense the ball at the Baltimore 48 with a chance to put things away. Which they managed to do, rushing for three straight first downs against a defense that knew the run was coming. It was impressive. Blount powered his way into the end zone on a seven-yard TD run with 2:05 to go that put the score at 27-7. The defense wasn't through with its impressive day however, as the Ravens followed up by fumbling the ball into their own end zone where it was recovered by Chandler Jones for the score, and Tavon Wilson rubbed salt into the wound with a pick-six of QB Tyrod Taylor...returning it 74 yards for the exclamation point and the stunning 41-7 final.
The game as a whole was impressive for the now five-time defending AFC East champs, who were winners before the game even got started.
Post Game Notes
Ryan's two interceptions gives him five total on the year, leading the Patriots and all NFL rookies in the category...Flacco was 0-for-3 passing with an interception on throws of 15+ yards downfield in 1st half. This season, he has three TD and 8 interceptions on such throws after having 11 TD's and 2 picks last season...CB Devin McCourty left the game in the 3rd quarter with a head injury after a collision with TE Ed Dickson, and did not return...Vereen also left the game in the first half with a groin injury and did not return...LB Dane Fletcher was a late scratch with a groin injury...after a 1-for-4 red zone performance by the offense last week in Miami, the Patriots converted three-for-three against the Ravens, all for TD's...the loss for the Ravens is the largest home loss in team history for Baltimore, since a 27-point loss in 1999 to the Kansas City Chiefs...New England has now qualified for the playoffs 21 times in its 54-year history. The Patriots have earned 15 playoff berths in the 20 seasons since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994...the Patriots are the first team since the merger to win 10 division titles in an 11-season span...Tom Brady has won 147 games as a starting QB, tied with Dan Marino for the fourth-most in NFL history...Brady will play make his 11th postseason appearance as a starting QB, tied with Joe Montana for the third-most in NFL history...and Brady added on to his NFL record with his 11th division championship. Peyton Manning has the second most with ten division titles...since 2008, the Patriots are now 27-3 in December and have won 18 of their last 20 games...