Time and time again this season, we have seen the New England Patriots struggle to close out the opposition, as demonstrated by their NFL-high 10 games decided by a single score. However on Sunday, we finally witnessed the Patriots put together a game-winning drive over a dangerous Baltimore Ravens team that eventually leading to a 41-7 win.
When the Ravens got the ball with 7:56 left in the game, Patriots fans buckled their seat belts. Despite being in control the whole contest, the Ravens were only down two scores at the start of the drive. A touchdown here and pressure would have been put on the Patriots’ lackluster second half offense. Instead, the Patriots defense did a 180 from last week’s 24-20 loss at the Miami Dolphins, as Duron Harmon swatted a Joe Flacco pass on fourth down.
The defense stepped up so now it was the offense’s turn. As Tom Brady led the squad back out at midfield with 6:57 left, no one could have imagined the artistry that happened next. Steven Ridley and LeGarrette Blount marched downfield at just the right pace to run out the clock, playing hot potato on the drive’s carries. Following nine runs totaling 52 yards, the Patriots were up 27-7 on a Blount score. The drive was executed to perfection (save for a Blount eight-yard gainer on which he ran out of bounds), as the backs just kept plugging forward, killing clock, and keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands. By the time Baltimore got the ball back 4:32 came off the clock, effectively ending any hope of a Ravens.
That 4:32 demonstrated why New England is back as a true AFC contender, for only the best teams are able to put together such a perfectly executed drive in the December days. Not to mention at a tough opponent like the Baltimore Ravens. Drives like that game-winner is what has to happen when the Patriots likely have to hit the road for the AFC Championship Game.
The Patriots could have exited Sunday in an unfavorable scenario if Miami had won and they had dropped the revenge match against the defending Super Bowl champions. If that was the case New England would have had a 10-5 record, potentially be spotted as the AFC’s four seed, and not yet named as AFC East champions. Rather, Bill Belichick‘s team have showed us than can win the demanding road game as underdogs and are holding onto a first-round bye heading into the NFL’s final week. The rest of the league has to take watch.