Photo courtesy of the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise
The New England Patriots came into Sunday’s contest against the Baltimore Ravens having already clinched the AFC East. However, they still had a lot to play for and getting a win was not expected to be an easy task, especially in the unfriendly confines of Baltimore.
In the first quarter, both teams struggled early, going three-and-out on their first possessions. However, it was during the Patriots second drive that things began to click for them. Starting from their own 36-yard-line, LeGarrette Blount raced to the 50-yard-line on a 2nd and 10 play for a gain of 14 yards. Shane Vereen then carried the ball twice for a gain of six yards bringing up 3rd and 4 from the Baltimore 44. Tom Brady did not connect with Julian Edelman on the play, but as the pigskin fell to the ground, so did a yellow flag. Cornerback Jimmy Smith was called for a 34-yard interference penalty and all of a sudden what seemed to be a dead drive turned very much alive again with New England setting up shop at the Baltimore 1-yard-line. Blount then used his massive frame to bulldoze his way into the endzone and give New England a 7-0 advantage. The drive took six plays, 64 yards and 2:47 off the clock.
After another Baltimore drive failed to yield any points, the Patriots received the ball again and marched down the field. The biggest play of the drive was a 34-yard connection from Brady to Danny Amendola which put New England at the Baltimore six-yard line. After a two-yard run by the elusive Stevan Ridley, Brady completed a short pass to Shane Vereen for four yards and a touchdown. That gave New England a 14-0 advantage and that would be all in the scoring department for the first quarter.
As the first quarter came to a close however, the Patriots were driving, and put themselves in a position to open up the second quarter with a score. That is exactly what they did as a 17-yard pass from Brady to Edelman from the New England 36 yard-line set up a 45-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski to give New England a 17-0 lead. It would stay that way for the rest of the quarter as both teams ramped up their defenses, neither giving the other team an inch. Much of the talk leading up to this game was about how great these two defenses were, and they certainly lived up to that billing in this quarter. New England would enter the locker room at halftime maintaining that 17-0 lead.
The Ravens received the ball to start off the second half, but were not able to do anything with it. They drove down into New England territory and managed to make it all the way down to the New England 38 yard-line, but after failing to convert on a 4th and 3 play, the ball was turned back over to the Patriots. They were unable to do anything with it, and neither were the Ravens on their next possession. It was not until the 10:25 mark that the running game led the Patriots to points as a failed third-down conversion led to another Gostkowski field goal and a 20-0 Patriots lead. The quarter ended that way as unsuccessful drives by both teams amounted to no points being scored.
It was not until the fourth quarter that Baltimore scored their first (and only points) of the contest. Starting from their own 10 yard-line Joe Flacco tore the Patriots defense apart on this drive with his passing. Dennis Pitta and Marlon Brown came up with key catches, and the Baltimore offense was aided by a pass interference penalty on Steve Gregory and a Ray Rice run and that put them at the 1 yard-line. Flacco then took it upon himself to run it in for the score and that made it a 17-7 game.
A seven –yard touchdown run by Blount, his second of the day, and a fumbled snap by backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor led to two more New England scores and Tavon Wilson sealed the deal with an interception returned 74 yards for a touchdown making the score 41-7 and giving the Patriots the victory.
New England’s season finale takes place next Sunday, December 29 against the Buffalo Bills at 1:00 PM. Baltimore will also play the 29th when they travel to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals at 1:00 PM.