|Mike Petraglia, Chris Price explain how Tom Brady outgunned Joe Flacco and how Patriots beat Ravens||12.13.16 at 1:19 am ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots overcome their own miscues and Tom Brady outduels Joe Flacco as the Patriots improve to 11–2 with a big win over the Ravens Monday night inside Gillette Stadium. Mike Petraglia and Chris Price have your recap.
|Snap Judgments: Tom Brady, Patriots air it out, overcome miscues to beat Ravens||12.12.16 at 11:50 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tom Brady outgunned Joe Flacco Monday night.
In their first meeting since New England’s epic 35-31 win in the 2014 AFC divisional playoffs, Brady recorded his ninth career 400-yard passing game and LeGarrette Blount tied Curtis Martin’s single-season franchise mark with his 14th touchdown as the Patriots held on for a 30-23 win at Gillette Stadium Monday night.
The Patriots improved to 11-2 and now stand a full game ahead of the Raiders and Chiefs for the top spot in the AFC with three weeks remaining. The Ravens fell to 7-6 and one game behind the Steelers in the AFC North.
The Patriots built a 23-3 lead only to see special teams miscues from rookie Cyrus Jones and Matthew Slater allow the Ravens back in the game.
But on the first play after field goal cut New England’s lead to three, Brady connected with Chris Hogan for 79 yards to put the game on ice. Brady finished 25-of-38 for 406 yards and three touchdowns. Blount finished with 18 carries and 72 yards, giving him 1,029 yards, a new career high.
Flacco set a new franchise record with 37 completions. He finished 37-of-52 for 324 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
While Tom Brady and the offense struggled to find their rhythm early it was the defense and the special teams that provided the early spark. After the Patriots went 3-and-out for the second straight series to start the game, Brady went over to the sideline screaming and yelling. He had just missed Julian Edelman on a seam route at the Ravens 5, forcing another punt.
Ryan Allen then boomed a 56-yard punt down to Devin Hester. The veteran returner let it bounce and Jonathan Jones raced past him, caught the ball in the air, flipped it back to Matthew Slater, who downed it at the Baltimore 1.
That play might have been the key play of the game. On their first snap, Joe Flacco handed off to Kenneth Dixon, who ran off right guard. He never made it to the line as Malcom Brown blew past fullback Kyle Juszczyk and tackled Dixon in the end zone for New England’s third safety of the year and a 2-0 lead with 10:47 left in the first quarter.
Special teams did it again after the Ravens forced a punt after the safety. The Ravens, thanks to a 40-yard pass play to Juszczyk and a 15-yard personal foul on Malcolm Butler, had the ball at Patriots 16. But on a 34-yard-field goal attempt by Justin Tucker, Shea McClellin pulled a page out of Jamie Collins’ playbook and jumped the center on a perfectly-timed leap and blocked the field goal. The Patriots took the ensuing possession and marched 74 yards in 10 plays, capped by a one-yard plunge by LeGarrette Blount. The touchdown not only put the Patriots up, 9-0, it gave Blount 14 touchdowns on the season, matching the single-season record held by Curtis Martin in 1995 and ’96.
The Patriots went up, 16-0 on the next drive when Brady marched the Patriots 89 yards in eight plays. That drive featured the explosiveness of James White. The Patriots running back took a short pass over the middle and raced 61 yards down to the Ravens 22. Five plays later, Brady hit Malcolm Mitchell over the middle for six yards and a touchdown.
[For a full box score and stats, click here.]
|Scene-setting: Patriots and Ravens square off in the clear and cold as Bill Belichick set to make history||at 4:54 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After three weeks of inferior competition, the time has finally come for the Patriots to face a real challenge as they look to officially clinch a playoff berth for the eighth straight season. The Patriots would become the second NFL team (and first in the AFC) to clinch a playoff spot. The 11-2 Cowboys have already locked up their spot in the postseason.
The 10-2 Patriots host the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens in Monday night football at Gillette Stadium, the first Monday night meeting between the two since their epic meeting on Dec. 3, 2007, when Tom Brady found Jabar Gaffney in the back corner of the end zone in the closing minute.
That night, the 4-7 Ravens were looking to spring the upset on ESPN behind Kyle Boller in what became the most-watched game in the history of cable television.
That game featured several twists and turns in the final two minutes. Facing a 4th-and-1 from the Ravens 30 with 1:48 remaining, Tom Brady attempted a sneak and was stopped short of the first down. But the play was nullified by a timeout called by Ravens’ defensive coordinator Rex Ryan just before the snap.
On the next attempt, Heath Evans lost a yard on the next try but a false start penalty by Russ Hochstein nullified the play. On 4th-and-6, Brady scrambled for the first down and additionally, Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle was penalized for illegal contact to give the Patriots another five yards, moving them to the Ravens’ 18-yard line with 1:38 left on the clock.
A 5-yard Kevin Faulk rush and two incompletions gave the Patriots another fourth down situation. Brady’s throw to Ben Watson in the end zone fell incomplete, but the Patriots again received a fresh set of downs after Ravens defensive back Jamaine Winborne was called for defensive holding. On 1st-and-goal from the Ravens 8 with 55 seconds remaining, the Patriots took their first lead since the first quarter on a Gaffney touchdown reception that was upheld by official review.
Bart Scott lost his mind and drew a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties for throwing a penalty flag into the stands. Ed Reed was called for offsides on the kickoff and the Patriots kicked off from the Ravens’ 35. The Ravens completed two passes, bringing them to their own 45 with eight seconds left. Boller threw a Hail Mary pass that was caught by wide receiver Mark Clayton at the Patriots’ 3-yard line. But he was tackled shy of the end zone as time expired.
The stakes are even higher this time around. The Patriots, while not able to clinch the AFC East, can clinch a playoff berth while the Ravens need a win to keep pace with the 8-5 Steelers atop the AFC North.
Joe Flacco is the only quarterback in the NFL that has two playoff wins in Foxboro, beating the Patriots in Jan. 2010 and Jan. 2013 in the AFC championship. Flacco nearly had a third but the Ravens couldn’t hold onto leads of 14-0 and 28-14 in the AFC divisional round in Jan. 2015 and was intercepted by Duron Harmon in the closing seconds to seal New England’s 35-31 win.
The Patriots enter game with the sixth-ranked offense in the NFL while the Ravens, behind a run defense allowing just 73.8 yards per game, lead the NFL in overall defense. After Seattle allowed 38 points on Sunday in Green Bay, the Patriots and Ravens are tied for fewest points allowed (207) in the NFL heading into the Week 14 finale.
|Scouting Report: What you have to know about Ravens-Patriots||12.11.16 at 9:57 pm ET|
Everything you need to know for Monday’s showdown at Gillette between the Patriots (10-2) and the Ravens (7-5).
WHEN THE PATRIOTS RUN THE BALL
There have been many occasions this year where LeGarrette Blount (230 carries, 957 yards, 13 TDs) has put the offense on his shoulders and carried the Patriots to victory. Monday will not be one of those times. The Ravens have the best run defense in football, and, as we have on many occasions these two teams have met, there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to trying to run the ball against Baltimore. The Ravens allow a paltry 73.8 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry, both of which are the best totals in the league. In nine of the 12 games they’ve played, they’ve held opponents to 65 yards or less on the ground. Only two backs (Matt Forte and Isaiah Crowell) have hit the 100-yard mark all year against them. The wild cards in all of this? New England’s two third-down backs, Dion Lewis (16 carries, 74 yards) and James White (31 carries, 129 yards). The two guys who have topped 100 yards against the Ravens in Forte and Crowell were multidimensional types like Lewis and White who had the capability to attack an opposing defense in two different ways. Maybe one of them can find a way to pick up quality yards on the ground against a defense that has been tough all year long against the run.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS PASS THE BALL
This is where New England will make its stand. The Ravens have always made it tough for Tom Brady (208-for-302, 2,470 yards, 19 TD, 1 INT), and it’ll be even more difficult without the likes of Rob Gronkowski (and possibly Danny Amendola). But with Baltimore’s big run defense, this is the best shot for the Patriots to succeed. According to Football Outsiders, Baltimore is best in the league when it comes to defending tight ends. Maybe pump the brakes on the level of expectation for Martellus Bennett (44 catches, 58 targets, 544 yards, 4 TDs), at least when it comes to this week. The good news for New England fans? The Ravens have been up-and-down when it comes to defending the third and fourth options in the passing game, including running backs. While Julian Edelman (72 catches, 111 targets, 718 yards, 2 TDs) has come in strong in recent weeks and figures to be a big part of the game plan, this could also be a sizable opportunity for the likes of Chris Hogan (27 catches, 40 targets, 484 yards, 3 TDs), Malcolm Mitchell (24 catches, 37 targets, 317 yards, 3 TDs) and the White/Lewis tandem (47 catches, 67 targets, 393 yards, 4 TDs for White; 11 catches, 17 targets, 71 yards).
The Ravens are seventh in the league in passing yards allowed (222.3 yards per game). But Baltimore has shown some vulnerabilities to better than average quarterbacks like Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning and Dak Prescott, all of whom have had 250 or more passing yards. The defense has 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. (The 22 takeaways are tied for fourth in the league.) Safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley are tied for the team lead with three interceptions each, while Terrell Suggs is tops on the team with eight sacks. One more note: former New England defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been Baltimore’s DC since 2012. In four career games vs. Pees’ Baltimore defenses, quarterback Tom Brady is 2-2, and has gone 104-for-171 (61 percent) for 1,194 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.
|Devin McCourty ready for daredevil Joe Flacco, Steve Smith and Ravens ‘West Coast’ offense||12.07.16 at 8:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The last time Devin McCourty went up against Joe Flacco and the Ravens, the end result was great. But the journey to a 35-31 win in the AFC divisional round was like pulling teeth.
Even with an interception in the game, it wasn’t an experience that McCourty tries to recall all that often, partially because Flacco and the Ravens were able to score at will on the Patriots secondary, a secondary that also featured Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Flacco threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and Baltimore had leads of 14-0 and 28-14.
“We won. That’s it. I mean it was a tough game,” McCourty recalled Wednesday. “We were down 14 twice but just kept playing. [We were] able to make some plays offensively and defensively that really decided that game, but a little bit different teams on both sides personnel-wise, so we’ll see if that even has any bearing on this one.”
That was the game McCourty picked off Flacco, the first playoff interception of Flacco’s career. In that game, Steve Smith caught the first of four touchdown passes from Flacco. What has made 37-year-old Steve Smith so good for so long?
“I don’t know him personally but I would probably guess his work ethic,” McCourty said. “To still play at a high level I think one thing is obviously he’s very competitive. He goes out there and competes his butt off every game for 60 minutes. To keep getting older and keep getting better you have to probably have a tremendous work ethic and he obviously has that and he [has been] a tough matchup for years in this league.”
Smith is also one of the biggest trash talkers in modern NFL history.
“I don’t even think I need to say anything. I mean guys are competitive,” McCourty said Wednesday. “You’ve just got to go out there and play. You know, each week you’ve got guys that talk and obviously he’s elite at it, definitely. You’ve watched him do it for years. But I think it starts with going out there and playing well.”
The Ravens have gone through several offensive coordinators in the last several seasons. In 2012, on their way to Super Bowl XLVII, they fired Cam Cameron and replaced him with Jim Caldwell. In 2014, Gary Kubiak replaced Caldwell. This year, they fired Marc Trestman after a loss to the Redskins and promoted Marty Mornhinweg.
“If we do those things then we don’t have to worry about anything that’s being said out there and just have to focus on what we’re doing,” McCourty added. “I think just from a total team standpoint and aspect, we understand how important that is to do what’s best for the team out there on the field and we’ve talked about that numerous times as players, and coaches tell us. So I don’t think that will be an issue for us.”
|Chris Long: Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback||at 3:05 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Is Joe Flacco elite?
That is a question that has been asked for years, and not only in just football circles, including most recently at presidential debates.
One person who does believe Flacco is elite is Patriots defensive end Chris Long.
“He’s smart, he can move around a lot better than people give him credit for in the pocket,” Long said. “He does a lot of things that make him an elite quarterback.”
Long was also asked about how physically tough the Ravens are and he found a way to mention Flacco being elite.
“As far as I can remember, Baltimore has been one of the most physical teams in the league,” Long said. “Of course, Coach [John] Harbaugh does a great job with that. They’ve got guys up front, they have good skill guys and obviously Joe, being an elite quarterback, is a big challenge.”
While Bill Belchick didn’t say Flacco was elite, on a conference call with the Baltimore media, Belichick praised the Ravens quarterback.
“We’ve played him quite a bit,” he said. “It seems like he always plays well against us, so I have a lot of respect for him. He’s a good football player and he’s been pretty good. Don’t forget, he took them to the Super Bowl championship.”
Flacco is completing 64.6 percent of his passes this season for 3,258 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
|5 things to know about Ravens: Stout run defense helping carry Baltimore down stretch drive||12.06.16 at 7:50 pm ET|
Five things you have to know about Ravens (7-5), who will travel to meet the Patriots (10-2) in a key AFC clash Monday night in Foxboro.
They’re OK at throwing the ball. Veteran quarterback Joe Flacco (321-for-497, 65 percent, 3,258 yards, 15 TDs, 11 INTs) leads a better-than-average passing attack that is currently 12th in the league (258 yards per game). Flacco does a nice job spreading things around in the passing game — six different offensive skill position players have 20 catches or more on the season, led by tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches, 87 targets, 529 yards, 2 TDs), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57 catches, 92 targets, 851 yards, 4 TDs) and the ageless Steve Smith (54 catches, 76 targets, 589 yards, 3 TDs). The depth of the Baltimore passing game will be a good test for a New England secondary that has been tweaked a bit over the last few months.
They will occasionally have issues when it comes to pass defense. The Ravens are seventh in the league in passing yards allowed, having yielded an average of 222.3 yards per game. (Kirk Cousins, Eli Manning, Dak Prescott and Andy Dalton all had 250 or more passing yards against Baltimore.) The defense is pretty good when it comes to takeaways, as the Ravens have 14 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. (The 22 takeaways are tied for fourth in the league.) Safety Eric Weddle and linebacker C.J. Mosley are tied for the team lead with three interceptions each, while Terrell Suggs is tops on the team with eight sacks. One more note: former New England defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been Baltimore’s DC since 2012. In four career games vs. Pees’ Baltimore defenses, quarterback Tom Brady is 2-2, and has gone 104-for-171 (61 percent) for 1,194 yards, with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Not bad, but not great either. With Baltimore’s run defense so stout and Rob Gronkowski on the shelf, Monday will be a sizable challenge for Brady and the Patriots’ passing game.
They’re really good at stopping the run. From a statistical standpoint, this is the best run defense the Patriots will face all season. The Ravens allow a paltry 73.8 rushing yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry, both of which are the best total in the league. In nine of the 12 games they’ve played, they’ve held opponents to 65 yards or less on the ground. Only two backs (Matt Forte and Isaiah Crowell) have hit the 100-yard mark all year against them. Bottom line? Don’t look for the Patriots to run the ball a lot on Monday.
As good as they are at stopping the run, they struggle to run the ball as a team. If there’s a weakness to the Ravens, it’s probably their lack of a ground game. Baltimore averages 89.7 rushing yards per game, 28th in the league, while the 3.7 yards per carry is good for 26th overall. Terrance West (163 carries, 650 yards, 5 TDs) is the closest thing they have to a lead back, while Kenneth Dixon (46 carries, 206 yards, 18 catches, 100 yards) is their answer as a third-down/change-up guy. While the Ravens occasionally been able to get the running game cranked up — they had 130 yards in an October loss to the Raiders — they’re pretty much a one-dimensional offense.
Kicker Justin Tucker is one of the best in the league. Tucker is the only regular kicker in the league who has been perfect when it comes to field goal attempts this season; the Texas product is 28-for-28 from the field (including 8-for-8 from 50-plus) and 20-for-20 on extra points. Punter Sam Koch is pretty good as well, as his 46 yards per punt average is 12th in the league and his 39.4 net is 21st. The Ravens have used a few different returners, but right now, veteran Devin Hester appears to be getting the majority of reps at both spots. Hester gas 24 punt returns for an average of 7 yards per chance and 17 kick returns for an average of 25.1 yards per opportunity. Good numbers, but nowhere near as impactful as he was earlier in his career. They do not have a return for touchdown, but yielded a punt return for a touchdown earlier in the season.
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