The New England Patriots have struggled in recent weeks, eking out wins by the skin of their teeth. That was not the case on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, as the team rolled to a 41-7 victory.
The day got off to a good start when the Miami Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills, 19-0, which clinched the AFC East for the Patriots by default. They weren't content with backing into the playoffs, though, and took the positive energy onto the football field for the resounding win.
Hard to find much wrong with what happened today, but here's a look at some players who did well and some areas that need cleaning up.
Dont'a Hightower: Made a rare play in coverage when he reached up over his head and nearly intercepted an errant pass. His effort was enough, as it allowed cornerback Logan Ryan to make the play. Hightower made plays all over the field, finishing with four tackles and two assists. He also had a key pressure on fourth down in the fourth quarter, hitting to force an incomplete pass.
Stevan Ridley: Ridley had his most extensive work since his fumble against the Broncos, and finished with 15 carries for 54 yards. That's more carries he's had since he had 26 against the Steelers in Week 9. The Patriots showed a lot of confidence in Ridley when they gave him the ball in the fourth quarter to milk the clock. That's a far cry from him being inactive against the Texans just a few weeks ago.
Logan Ryan: Got the start opposite Aqib Talib at cornerback and made the most of it, logging two interceptions -- one in each half. As the Patriots hope to get its secondary back to full health in time for the playoffs, having quality depth like Ryan will give the team some confidence if it needs to go to its reserves.
Devin McCourty: Dropped two would-be interceptions in the first half, both on poorly thrown deep balls by Flacco. It wasn't a particularly bad game for McCourty, and those missed opportunities were lost in the rout, but those were two I bet McCourty would like to have back. He suffered a head injury during the third quarter that kept him out of the game from that point on, and the Patriots would really miss his steady presence on the back end if he's out for any extended period of time.
Replacement referees: Because really, that's the only feasible explanation for what we witnessed from referee Ron Winter and his crew. The Patriots were flagged seven times on the day, five of those coming in the first half, so the league's least-penalized team did not have a good day in that respect. Still, with 16 penalties and several calls overturned for one reason or another, the refs spent far too much time on the television screen and the length of the game could be directly attributed to their involvement in the game.
The author is solely responsible for the content.