BALTIMORE (AP) — The best thing the Baltimore Ravens could do after being humbled by the New England Patriots was to box up the loss, cast it aside and immediately forget about it.
Needing a victory to remain in the hunt for the AFC North title, the defending Super Bowl champions came up with a dud of a performance and fell to the Patriots 41-7 Sunday.
Baltimore committed four turnovers, yielded four sacks, fell behind 17-0 in the second quarter and gave up three touchdowns in the final 125 seconds.
The rematch of last season’s AFC title game was quite the mismatch.
“You know, we’re used to going out there and playing well when we need to when the playoffs are on the line,” said Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw two interceptions. “We come out today hungry and ready to go get ourselves into the playoffs or make that next step toward it, and we just didn’t do it.”
he loss eliminated the Ravens (8-7) from contention in the AFC North and dropped them into a tie with Miami and San Diego for the final AFC wild-card slot. Baltimore closes the regular season at Cincinnati, which displaced the Ravens as division champs.
“We lost the game, putting it behind us and moving on,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We have a lot at stake next week. That’s what we’ll be looking forward to prepare for.”
Logan Ryan had two interceptions and LeGarrette Blount scored twice for the playoff-bound Patriots, who ended the Ravens’ four-game winning streak.
The previous time these two teams met, the AFC title hung in the balance and Baltimore used a strong second half to pull out a 28-13 victory. In this one, New England took control early and never let up.
The Patriots (11-4) were assured their fifth straight AFC East title before the game started when Miami lost at Buffalo. It’s the 11th division crown for New England coach Bill Belichick, tied with Don Shula for most since the 1970 merger.
“Happy to win the AFC East,” Belichick said. “Hopefully, we can build off this game.”
Tom Brady completed 14 of 26 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. He has led his team to 11 division titles, two more than any other starting quarterback in NFL history.
“They’re all special. It’s hard to come by, and this team’s really fought hard all year,” Brady said. “We’ve earned it. Eleven wins in the NFL’s not easy, and to win a division title’s not easy.”
It was the Ravens’ most lopsided loss since a 37-0 defeat at Pittsburgh in 1997. Things went so bad for Baltimore that Justin Tucker’s run of 33 straight field goals ended when he went wide left on a 37-yarder with 14:19 remaining.
Flacco went 22 for 38 for 260 yards. Wearing a brace on his left knee after being injured last week in Detroit, Flacco had difficulty escaping the unyielding pressure applied by New England’s defensive front.
“I don’t think he played well,” Harbaugh said.
Refusing to use the brace as an excuse, Flacco said, “I would have liked to play better. The brace had nothing to do with anything.”
Baltimore trailed 20-0 late in the third quarter when Ray Rice was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1 at the New England 4. That effectively ended any chance of a comeback.
The Ravens scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Flacco with 9:21 left, enabling Baltimore to avoid its first shutout loss since 2002, against Tampa Bay.
It was of very little consolation to the defending champs.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “Definitely a frustrating loss.”
New England scored on a 7-yard run by Blount with 2:05 to go to make it 27-7, then added another touchdown when an errant snap eluded Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Chandler Jones recovered the ball in the end zone.
Tavon Wilson capped the scoring with a 74-yard interception return with 40 seconds remaining.
Baltimore’s previous three games were decided by three points or fewer, but it became evident early that this one would not be close.
New England went up 7-0 on its second possession. A 34-yard pass interference penalty against Jimmy Smith put the ball at the Baltimore 1 before Blount bulled into the end zone.
Three plays later, Flacco threw into double coverage and was intercepted by Ryan at the New England 47. After completing a 34-yard pass to Danny Amendola, Brady connected with Shane Vereen for a 4-yard score.
The Patriots quickly got the ball back, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 45-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter to make it 17-0.
NOTES: New England DB Devin McCourty left with a head injury, and Vereen left with a groin injury. … Tucker’s miss was his first since Week 2. … Baltimore finished with more yardage, 358-300.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)