December 22, 2013

NFL: Patriots roll over Ravens

Blount scores two touchdowns in New England victory over Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — The rematch was a mismatch.

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New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) celebrates his touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Logan Ryan had two interceptions, LeGarrette Blount scored twice and the playoff-bound New England Patriots breezed past Baltimore 41-7 Sunday, ending the Ravens’ four-game winning streak and diminishing the postseason hopes of the defending Super Bowl champions.

The previous time these two teams met, the AFC title hung in the balance and Baltimore used a strong second half to pull out a 28-13 victory.

In this one, New England took a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and never let up behind a defense that forced four turnovers and had four sacks.

It was Baltimore’s most lopsided loss since a 37-0 defeat at Pittsburgh in 1997. Things went so bad for the Ravens that Justin Tucker’s run of 33 straight field goals ended when he went wide left on a 37-yarder with 14:19 remaining.

The Patriots (11-4) were assured their fifth straight AFC East title before the game started when Miami lost at Buffalo. It’s the 11th division crown for New England coach Bill Belichick, tied with Don Shula for most since the 1970 merger.

The loss eliminated the Ravens (8-7) from contention in the AFC North and dropped them into a tie with Miami and San Diego for the final AFC wild-card slot. Baltimore closes the regular season at Cincinnati, which displaced the Ravens as division champs.

Joe Flacco went 22 for 38 for 260 yards and two interceptions for the Ravens, who fell to 6-2 at home this season. Wearing a brace on his left knee after being injured last week in Detroit, Flacco had difficulty escaping the unyielding pressure applied by New England’s defensive front.

Baltimore trailed 20-0 late in the third quarter when Ray Rice was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 at the New England 4. That effectively ended any chance of a comeback.

The Ravens scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Flacco with 9:21 left, which enabled Baltimore to avoid its first shutout loss since 2002, against Tampa Bay.

New England responded with a 7-yard run by Blount with 2:05 to go, then added another touchdown when an errant snap eluded Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Chandler Jones recovered the ball in the end zone.

Tavon Wilson capped the scoring with a 74-yard interception return with 40 seconds remaining.

Tom Brady completed 14 of 26 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown for New England.

Baltimore’s previous three games were decided by three points or fewer, but it became evident early that this one would not be close.

New England went up 7-0 on its second possession. A 34-yard pass interference penalty against Jimmy Smith put the ball at the Baltimore 1 before Blount bulled into the end zone.

Three plays later, Flacco threw into double coverage and was intercepted by Ryan at the New England 47. After completing a 34-yard pass to Danny Amendola, Brady connected with Shane Vereen for a 4-yard score.

The Patriots quickly got the ball back, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 45-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to make it 17-0.

Shortly after halftime, the Ravens went for it on fourth-and-3 at the New England 39 and Flacco threw an incomplete pass.

Baltimore’s next possession ended with Ryan’s second interception of the game and fifth of the season. Seven plays later, Gostkowski kicked a 42-yard field goal.

Flacco tried to rally the Ravens, but after a 42-yard completion to Torrey Smith produced a first down at the New England 13, he couldn’t get into the end zone.

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