The Patriots are in the postseason.
New England dominated the Ravens Sunday afternoon, suffocating the Baltimore offense and putting up 17 first-half points on the way to a 41-7 win over the Ravens in front of a packed house at M&T Bank Stadium.
Thanks to Buffalo’s win over Miami, the Patriots (11-4) clinched the AFC East even before they took the field. But the victory over the Ravens means New England holds steady at the No. 2 spot, and with a week to go (and only the Bills left in next week’s regular-season finale), the Patriots have to feel good about their chances to come away with the second seed in the conference and a first-round bye.
Tom Brady went 14-for-26 for 172 yards and a touchdown, while LeGarrette Blount had 16 carries for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns, with one coming late in the fourth quarter. His second touchdown came at the end of a drive that squeezed the life out of the Ravens, and ended with Blount bursting into the end zone from seven yards out — he punctuated the score with the Ray Lewis dance. In addition, Julian Edelman had seven catches for 77 yards.
As for the Ravens, they struggled to maintain any sort of offensive consistency all afternoon. Joe Flacco had major issues against New England, and ended his day 22-for-38 for 260 yards with four sacks, no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, while Torrey Smith had three catches for 69 yards.
Here are a few quick notes:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
- For a team that has struggled at times with slow starts, the Patriots were really impressive from the jump. New England had an excellent start, putting 14 first-quarter points on the board for the first time since Oct. 20 against the Jets and taking a 17-0 lead at halftime. New England played excellent complementary football — the Patriots assembled a pair of really nice drives, reaching the end zone quickly (both drives took less than 3:30) and going 2-for-2 in the red zone (Blount finished one from a yard out, while Shane Vereen caught a four-yard pass on another). The Patriots were 3-for-3 in the red zone against one of the best red-zone defenses in the league. On defense, New England was equal to the challenge — the Ravens were 1-for-5 on third down over the first two quarters, and Flacco was 5-for-10 for 52 yards, one interception and three sacks in the first half for a passer rating of 25.8. And special teams was solid enough to the point where Baltimore’s average starting field position over the first two quarters was its own 16-yard line.
- It wasn’t just early on. The New England defense rose to the challenge in an impressive fashion. The Ravens did not run a single play in New England territory until there was 13:48 left in the third quarter. The Patriots forced an early turnover when Logan Ryan came away with a first-half pick of Flacco — the turnover ended up setting up New England’s second touchdown of the game. The rookie, who now leads the Patriots in interceptions with five, added a second one with just over 10 minutes left in the third quarter that set up a third-quarter field goal from Stephen Gostkowski. (The Patriots padded their turnover totals with two late takeaways: Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor fumbled away a ball late in the fourth quarter, which was recovered by defensive end Chandler Jones, who grabbed it for a late touchdown to make it 34-7 with 1:59 left. And defensive back Tavon Wilson added a pick-six off Taylor with less than a minute to go to make it 41-7.) On the day, the Ravens were 5-for-14 on the afternoon and 0-for-3 on fourth down.
- Of course, the Patriots got some help from the punchless Baltimore offense — the Ravens, who had five offensive touchdowns in the last four weeks entering Sunday, were unable to get out of their own way at times, and couldn’t punch it in until midway through the fourth quarter. (It ended a streak of seven-plus quarters without an offensive touchdown for the Ravens.) Compounding their problems was the sight of the usually reliable Justin Tucker missing a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter, which broke a streak of 33 consecutive made field goals for the Baltimore kicker.
The Patriots are in the postseason.