BALTIMORE — Unlike last season, there was no end-of-game collapse in Baltimore as the Patriots built up a three-score first-half lead and never let the Ravens in the game.
The Patriots posted just their fourth road win of the season in impressive fashion Sunday, 41-7, against the defending Super Bowl champions.
And it happened without a superstar effort from Tom Brady, who was 14 for 26 for 172 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
Instead, the Patriots defense had three interceptions, the final one returned for a touchdown by little-used defensive back Tavon Wilson in the closing seconds. Moments earlier, Chandler Jones also got his first career touchdown on a fumble recovery.
The 34-point loss was the worst for the Ravens in the nearly six full seasons John Harbaugh has been head coach.
The Patriots clinched their fifth consecutive AFC East title — and 11th in the 13 years of the Bill Belichick-Brady partnership — before taking the field. The Dolphins were shut out in Buffalo in the 1 p.m. game.
If the Patriots, Colts, and Bengals all finish with the same record, the Bengals will be the second seed by virtue of head-to-head victories.
The Patriots went three-and-out on their first possession, but got into the end zone on their second.
Starting at their 36 — the defense forced a Ravens’ three-and-out — LeGarrette Blount picked up 14 yards on a second-down carry, and on third and 4, Brady and Michael Hoomanawanui picked up 9 yards.
But the play of the drive came on the next snap, when Brady threw for Julian Edelman in the end zone. Cornerback Jimmy Smith was flagged for pass interference, a 34-yard penalty that gave New England the ball at the 1. Blount got the ball over the goal line with his second effort, and the Patriots were ahead, 7-0.
They doubled their points just a few minutes later, getting the ball near midfield thanks to an interception by rookie Logan Ryan, who started in place of Alfonzo Dennard (knee/shoulder injuries).
A sideline pass attempt from Joe Flacco for Jacoby Jones was batted up by Dont’a Hightower, and Ryan grabbed the ball out of the air. It was the first turnover for the Patriots’ defense since Ryan intercepted the Texans’ Case Keenum three weeks earlier.
Danny Amendola got New England in a goal-to-go situation with a 34-yard catch-and-run on third down. Two plays later, Shane Vereen motioned from the backfield to the right slot, and Brady hit him with the screen pass, which he got over the goal line for his third touchdown on the year.
After going 1 for 4 in the red zone a week earlier, New England started 2 for 2, and went 3 for 3 against a Baltimore defense that came in with the fourth-best red-zone defense in the NFL.
New England went ahead, 17-0, on the first play of the second quarter, on a 45-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski.
Baltimore did not take one offensive snap in Patriots’ territory during the first half.
The only lowlight for the Patriots was an apparent groin injury to Vereen, who did not play in the second half.