Instant analysis: Patriots 41, Ravens 7

Instant analysis: Patriots 41, Ravens 7
December 22, 2013, 8:00 pm
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Harbaugh doesn't think Flacco's knee affected his play

Game recap: The Ravens’ four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt as Tom Brady threw for 172 yards and a touchdown and the Ravens offense accomplished little while it mattered in a 41-7 loss that ended the Ravens’ run as AFC North champion.

Playing with his left knee in a brace after being injured at Detroit last week, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco struggled to get into any kind of rhythm early in the game. He underthrew an open Torrey Smith on the Ravens first series and was intercepted on the Ravens second possession.

That led to a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Shane Vereen for a 14-0 Patriots lead with 4:51 left in the first quarter. 

Flacco was 1-for-5 for 9 yards with one interception in the first quarter, and the Ravens (8-7) never crossed midfield in the first half.

[RELATED: Joe Flacco on protective brace: "My knee felt great" (VIDEO)]

Down 17-0 at halftime, the Ravens had a promising third-quarter drive stall when Flacco threw incomplete on fourth down from the Patriots’ 39-yard line. Their next drive ended when Flacco’s pass bounced off Dennis Pitta and was picked off by Logan Ryan. Later in the third quarter, Ray Rice was stuffed on fourth-and-1 from the Patriots’ 4-yard line.

Things went from bad to worse in the fourth quarter when Justin Tucker missed a 37-yard field goal, ending his streak of 33 straight made kicks.

The Ravens finally got on the board on a 1-yard sneak by Flacco with 9:21 left, but their next possession ended with a fourth-down incompletion. 

Flacco finished 22-for-38 for 260 yards before yielding to Taylor with two minutes left. On Taylor's first snap, the ball sailed past him and the Patriots' Chandler Jones recovered for a touchdown. It was that kind of game. 

[MORE: Photo Gallery Week 16: Ravens vs. Patriots]

Turning point:  On the Patriot second possession of the game, Brady threw for Julian Edelman in the end zone. Cornerback Jimmy Smith got twisted around, bumped Edelman and was called for a 34-yard penalty to the 1-yard line. LeGarrette Blount scored on the next play for a 7-0 Patriots lead, and the Ravens were on their heels the rest of the way. 

Injuries: Linebacker Daryl Smith left the game briefly with an apparent right leg injury but returned. Wide receiver Marlon Brown was shaken up in the fourth quarter but returned. Flacco, Rice (thigh) and Elvis Dumervil (ankle) were all listed as questionable but played.

What it means: The Bengals, who rolled over Minnesota, 42-14, have clinched the AFC North title. The Ravens can still earn a playoff spot with a win next week, but it’s not that simple; if the Ravens, Miami and San Diego all win and end in a three-way tie at 8-8, the Dolphins win the tiebreaker. But if the Ravens win and either Miami or San Diego loses, the Ravens win the tiebreaker and the No. 6 playoff spot.

From the Locker Room:

Flacco: "(the knee brace) didn't affect me. I would have liked to have played better, but the brace had nothing to do with anything."

Terrell Suggs: "It's down to a one-game season"

Ray Rice: "They beat us. They came in here, they outplayed us. It's simple."