Dec 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is sacked by New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones (95) at M

New England Patriots: Four Takeaways From 41-7 Domination Of The Ravens

With the Cincinnati Bengals right on their heels, the New England Patriots needed to win today’s game in Baltimore, in order to stay on track for that first round bye in the playoffs. The Pats jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead, and it was never really close after that. The decimated New England defense had arguably their best outing of the 2013 season, holding the Ravens to one late touchdown, along with taking the ball away four times. Tom Brady’s pass offense wasn’t as sharp as it has been in previous weeks, but they were able to rely on a resurgent ground attack, to net results in this one.

Here are four quick takeaways from this big win.

Dec 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco (5) is sacked in the second quarter against the New England Patriots at M

1. Defense Rises Above Injuries, Shuts Down Baltimore

As I just mentioned, it was the Patriots defense that won this game for them, not the offense. Despite losing Devin McCourty in the early portion of the second half, New England kept it together, and went on to dominate the Ravens offense. Sealver Siliga and Brandon Spikes anchored the run defense, which held Baltimore to 73 total rushing yards, on 24 carries (not including Tyrod Taylor’s three scrambles late in the game). The Pats also wreaked havoc for Joe Flacco all game long, sacking him four times, and getting seven quarterback hits in on him. This obviously disrupted Flacco’s timing with his receivers, and that, coupled with some good coverage by the back end resulted in a great performance from this unit. The Pats haven’t been taking the ball away as often as they would have liked over the last few weeks, but getting four turnovers today is definitely a good sign, and hopefully a sign of things to come from this group.

Dec 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount (29) scores a touchdown in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M

2. Commitment To Run Game Pays Off

I have been saying for quite some time that in order for this years’ Patriots offense to be effective, they must run the ball a lot more than they have been. Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are Tom Brady’s only two consistent targets, making it tough for New England to just drop back and chuck the football around. But Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount did a great job at pounding the ball on the ground, combining for 130 yards on 31 carries, and two Blount touchdowns. The Ravens came into this game with the seventh best run defense in the NFL, making what New England did on the ground even more impressive. This balanced offense will come in handy in a few weeks, when the playoffs begin, and competition rises.

Dec 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the Baltimore Ravens at M

3. Offensive Line 

All things considered, the Pats offensive line did a decent job today against the Ravens defensive front. They were without their best lineman in Nate Solder, which forced Logan Mankins to move to the left tackle position, while rookie Josh Kline manned the left guard spot. Tom Brady was only sacked twice, while Baltimore mustered up a mere four quarterback hits. Their blocking in the run game was solid, as anytime you churn out 142 yards on the ground, a lot of credit has to be given to the big boys up front. But this group wasn’t perfect, and the immense amount of penalties they committed was the biggest problem today. Hopefully Solder is able to return for the playoffs, because while this group played very well today, I don’t know how they will hold up down the road.

Dec 22, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) congratulates running back Shane Vereen (34) after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M

4. Injury Situation

The injury bug has hit Foxboro hard this year, claiming victim after victim as the season has gone on. Two more important Patriot players were hit with an injury today, as they lost safety Devin McCourty, and running back Shane Vereen. McCourty left with a concussion, and Vereen appeared to pull up with a groin injury. I think that Vereen will be able to recover in time for the playoffs, but I am not so sure on McCourty. Concussions are a tricky injury, and you never know how serious they can be. All of the injuries the Patriots have suffered make getting a first round bye extremely important, which makes winning next week’s game against the Bills a must.

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