Ryan L. Fox
They say that there’s always that one team that gives you fits, one team that always seems to be your kryptonite. Not many teams in the AFC can hold that claim against the New England Patriots except for one team. One team who is not afraid to come into Gillette Stadium and punch the Pats in the mouth. That team is the Baltimore Ravens. On a cold, December evening, the New England Patriots welcomed their AFC rivals for a Week 14 Monday Night Football showdown at Gillette.
Baltimore Ravens won the toss but elected to defer the kick, giving the Patriots first crack on offense. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker booted the opening kickoff out of the end zone and the Pats started the game with the ball on their own 25 yard line. However the Ravens’ defense forced them to go 3 and out as Pats punter Ryan Allen booted the ball to the Baltimore 21. The Ravens took over as Ravens QB Joe Flacco got things rolling with an 11-yard pass to RB Terrence West on 2nd down to get the ball to their 32. However the Pats defense held up as then DE Trey Flowers sacked Flacco on 3rd and 6, forcing the Ravens to punt to the Pats 37.
The Pats couldn’t muster anything on their second position and Allen was forced to punt for the second time. However Ravens PR Devin Hester elected not to go after the ball as it took a Patriot bounce to the Ravens 1 yard line where WR/ST Matthew Slater downed the football. That decision to let the ball bounce proved costly as on the next play, Ravens RB Kenneth Dixon was tackled in the end zone by DT Malcolm Brown & S Patrick Chung for a safety to make it 2-0 in favor of the home team.
Ravens P Sam Koch booted the ensuing free kick to the Pats 15 where WR/KR Julian Edelman scampered 19 yards to the 34. There, Brady and the offense took over for their 3rd possession and began to move the ball fluidly. They got down to the Ravens 31 and were poised to add on a second score. But a costly intentional grounding penalty on 2nd down and an incompletion on 3rd down killed the drive as the Pats punted the ball. Unfortunately for them, Allen ended up booting the football into the end zone as the Ravens got the ball at a reasonable starting point, their own 20 yard line.
Unlike their last possession though, the Ravens were able to move forward. Instead of backwards. They were able to drive all the way down to the Pats 16 on the arm of Flacco, which included a 40 yard catch-and-run to FB Kyle Juszczyk to the Pats 36. However the Ravens offense spurted as Justin Tucker lined up to attempt a 34 yard field goal. However Pats LB Shea McClellin was able to hurdle over the long snapper and block the kick, keeping the Ravens from taking the lead.
The Pats got the ball back and proceeded to drive the football from their 26 yard line all the way down the field to the Ravens 22. A 14 yard pass from Brady to RB James White put the ball on the Ravens 8, the first time they got into the red zone for the first time in the game. The Pats continue to drive all the way down to the Ravens 1 yard-line as RB LeGarrette Blount bowled over for the touchdown. That was his 14th rushing touchdown of the season, tying the franchise record set by former Pats RB and NFL Hall of Famer Curtis Martin in 1995 and in 1996. Stephen Gostkowski made the extra point as the Pats extended their lead to 9-0.
Baltimore got the ball back with 1:04 left in the first quarter at their 25 yard and drove to their 49 as the first quarter came to a close. Once play resumed in the second quarter, the Ravens drove to the Pats 41 before having to punt the ball. The Pats got the ball back at their 11 yard line and proceeded to drive to their 17 yard line. Then on 3rd and 4 from the 17, Brady hooked up with White for a 61-yard catch and run all the way down to the Ravens 22. From there, it was the Blount show as the power back bulldozed his way to the Ravens 6 yard line as the drive was capped off with a 6-yard TD pass from Brady to WR Malcolm Mitchell, his 4th TD catch in the last 4 games, to make it 16-0, Pats.
An interception by S Devin McCourty gave the Pats the ball on the Ravens 38 yard line. However a holding penalty during the return backed the ball to the 48 yard line. However the Ravens challenged that McCourty was down by contact at the Pats 23, the spot where he originally intercepted the ball. After viewing the replay, the officials decided that McCourty was in fact down by contact at the Pats 23, much to the chagrin of Pats fans and their media. However that made no difference as Brady threw two long bombs, a 27-yarder to TE Martellus Bennett and then a 34-yarder to Mitchell, to put the ball on the Ravens 16. They drove all the way down to the 2 yard line and looked prime to blow the Ravens right out of the game. But then on 3rd and goal from the 2, Brady’s pass to WR Chris Hogan was intercepted by Ravens S Eric Weddle in the end zone as Weddle brought the ball out to the Ravens 10.
The Ravens then drove to their 39 where they faced a critical 4th and 2. Flacco tried to draw the defense off sides but the Ravens committed a false start penalty instead. Koch punted the ball to the Pats 17 yard line where Brady and Co. went back to work. However for the first time that night, the Pats offense went backwards and were forced to punt. Hester brought the ball out to the Ravens 48 where Flacco and the offense took over with one minute left in the half. They were able to drive to the Pats 32 where the Ravens had to settle for a 50-yard field goal by Tucker to make it 16-3 before the half.
In an impressive 1st half, Tom Brady went 15-for-26 (57.7 % completion) with 210 yards, one touchdown, and one duck of an interception. LeGarrette Blount had 9 carries for 41 yards (4.6 ypc) with one touchdown while 4 different Pats players (White, Bennett, Mitchell, Edelman) had three catches apiece with White having the most receiving yards (81) and Edelman the most targets (9).
Ravens opened up the second half with the ball. A holding call at the Ravens 14 yard line negated a big return by Hester, forcing the Ravens to start at their own 7. The offense spurted out before being forced to punt to the Pats 28. Pats PR/S Patrick Chung brought the ball to the 35, where the offense began their first possession of the second half. The Pats drove down to the Ravens 19 where Brady hooked up with Bennett for a 19 yard TD pass to push the score to 23-3.
After forcing another Ravens 3 and out, the Pats awaited to get the ball back. However PR/CB rookie Cyrus Jones ended up muffing the punt and the Ravens ended up recovering the ball at the Pats 3 yard line. It then took the Ravens 7 seconds to find the end zone as Flacco threw a 3 yard pass to TE Darren Waller to cut into the Pats’ lead, 23-10. Then on the ensuing kickoff, Pats KR Matt Slater ended up fumbling the ball and Ravens CB Shareece Wright recovered to give his team 1st down at the Pats 22. Four plays later, Flacco hooked up with RB Kenneth Dixon for an 8-yard touchdown to make 23-17 in favor of the Pats.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Pats had Dion Lewis take a knee in the end zone to ensure there wouldn’t be any more fumbles. The Pats started from their 25 and were seemingly ready to put a stop to the Ravens’ momentum. However another costly penalty set the drive back and the Pats were forced to punt the ball. However Ryan Allen yet again pinned the Ravens deep within their territory with a 53 yard punt that went out of bounds at the Ravens 2 yard line.
Ravens took the ball but unlike the first quarter where they started on their 1 and gave up the safety, they were able to move the ball successfully to their 27 yard line. However on the last play of the 3rd quarter, Dixon was tackled by Pats rookie CB Jonathan Jones, taking over for Malcolm Butler who was injured during a previous play, for a 4-yard loss.
The Ravens began the 4th quarter with finishing up their drive at their own 30 before punting the ball to the Pats 23 yard line. The Pats could only go as far as their 30 yard line before punting the ball back to the Ravens at their 24 yard line. They were able to drive all the way down to the Pats 18 yard line, looking to take the lead for the first time in the game. However the drive stalled out as then on 3rd and 4 from the Pats 12, Flacco was sacked by LB Rob Ninkovich at the Pats 20 yard line. Justin Tucker then booted a 38-yard field goal to then make it 23-20 with a little over 6 and a half minutes remaining in the 4th quarter.
But then all that momentum that the Ravens had built up to that point seemingly evaporated on one play. Right after getting the ball back at their 21 yard line, Brady threw a bomb to Hogan, who then proceeded to outrun the Ravens secondary on his way for a 79 yard touchdown to put the Pats up 30-20. Interestingly enough, that touchdown pass by Brady was his 450th all-time, joining Peyton Manning (539), Brett Farve (508) and Drew Brees (458) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 450 or more touchdowns.
The Ravens got the ball back with 6:15 left on the clock. However they carelessly drove down the field, eating up precious time before getting down to the Pats 20, where they ended up settling for a 37 yard field goal by Justin Tucker to make it 30-23 with 2:07 left to play. The Ravens tried the onside kick but Chung covered up the ball at the Ravens 47. From there, the Pats just ran down the clock with Blount to seal the game.
Brady ended up finishing the game going 25-for-38 (65.8 %) for 406 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT for a QB rating of 116.8. This was Brady’s 76th 300-yard passing game, which places him 3rd all-time behind Drew Brees (104) and Peyton Manning (93) as well as his 9th 400-yard passing game, tying him 4th all-time with Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger behind Brees (15), Manning (14), and Dan Marino (13).
Also achieving a milestone in this game was LeGarrette Blount. His 72 yards (on 18 carries and 1 TD) brought his season total of 1,029 rushing yards, the highest of his career (Blount had 1,007 yards during his rookie season in 2010 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Receiver Chris Hogan had a career high 129 yards receiving on 5 catches and 1 TD. This was the second time in his career that Hogan surpassed the 100-yards receiving mark, the first time was back in Week 5 when he had 114 receiving yards in a 33-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Teammate Julian Edelman led the team in targets with 14.
With the win, the Patriots moved to 11-2 on the season and still hold the #1 seed in the AFC. However they head onto the road for Week 15 4:25 p.m. (EST) showdown in the Mile High City to face the other AFC team that has given them fits in the past, the defending Super Bowl Champions Denver Broncos.