However, the Patriots were far from done on the day, as they trounced one of their fiercest rivals, the Baltimore Ravens, 41-7 on the road at M&T Bank Stadium.
The convincing road win can be credited in large part to the Patriots defense.
Without a doubt, the unit looked the best they have in weeks. In the first half, they pitched the shutout. They came up with three huge 4th down defensive stops in the second half, including a 4th and 1 from the four yard line late in the third quarter. It seemed like every time the Ravens seemed to get something going, the unit would come up with a key stop. For a Patriots team that has struggled in this area, that was huge.
The Patriots had strong games from a number of players defensively. Logan Ryan came up huge with two interceptions and another pass defensed. Dont'a Hightower played perhaps his best game of the season, stuffing the run and also deflecting a pass that led to an interception. Rob Ninkovich led a Patriots pass rush that was active throughout.
Another note defensively: the run defense was stellar for the second straight week. The Ravens pounded the ball a combined 21 times for 71 yards with Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce. Both backs have had significant struggles this season, but the Patriots have made a lot of mediocre running attacks look good this year, so this was another plus.
On offense, things were not flawless, but the unit got the job done.
Tom Brady's accuracy was a tad bit off as he completed just 14 of 26 passes while missing quite a few open receivers. Still, he was turnover free and made the necessary throws.
The most impressive portion of the passing attack was the protection up front. Logan Mankins stepped in for Nate Solder, out with a concussion, at left tackle and performed admirably. Rookie Josh Kline also held up well at left guard. With all of the injuries up front, this seemed like the game this offensive line could fall apart. Instead, they had perhaps their best game of the year.
Of course, I couldn't mention the offense without talking about the running game. After Shane Vereen went down with a groin injury in the first half, LeGarrette Blount and Stevan Ridley shouldered the load of the running attack. Both ran hard and with purpose, with Blount picking up two touchdowns, the second of which capped a run-only drive that sealed the Patriots victory.
This was simply the type of game where everything went right for the Patriots. I don't think I even mentioned the two defensive touchdowns in the final moments that turned a decisive Patriots victory into a rout.
The victory helps the Patriot maintain a one game lead over the Bengals for a first round bye. Either a win at home against the Bills for New England or a loss by the Bengals to the Ravens clinches the Patriots the #2 seed. If the Patriots win and the Broncos lose, the Patriots will clinch the one seed.