Take all those whacky scenarios where the Patriots miss the playoffs and throw them out the window.
For the 10th time in 11 seasons, the Patriots (11-4) are AFC East champions. The Dolphins made it official even before the Patriots and Ravens kicked things off, having lost to the Bills, 19-0, earlier Sunday.
Even so, the Patriots came out with something to prove, and dominated the Ravens, 41-7.
It was a defensive effort to remember, as Joe Flacco and the Ravens were completely shut down from start to finish.
Tom Brady finished the game 14-of-26 for 172 passing yards, a touchdown and zero interceptions. The Patriots displayed a much more balanced offensive attack though, as they combined for 142 rushing yards on 34 carries.
What we learned …
1. Fast start
Going into the game knowing they had just won the division, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to see the Patriots come out a little flat. And considering the Ravens had plenty of momentum, there was a chance it could have been ugly. It did get ugly, but for the Ravens, not the Pats. New England scored a touchdown on their second drive with a LeGarrette Blount 1-yard run, intercepted Flacco on the ensuing drive and turned that into another touchdown six plays later. The Pats led 17-0 heading into halftime, and it was clear they came to play after a tough loss a week before in Miami.
2. Defense first
Three interceptions, three turnovers on downs, a fumble recovery and two touchdowns were all in a day’s work for the Patriots defense on Sunday. The Ravens didn’t even sniff New England’s side of the field until well into the third quarter. They held Flacco to just 260 passing yards on 38 attempts, and Ray Rice to 40 rushing yards on 11 attempts. And nobody was a bigger fan of New England’s two late 4th-quarter defensive touchdowns than Tom Brady, who might still be looking for high fives on the sidelines.
3. Playing for a bye
With the win, the Patriots still hold the No. 2 seed in the AFC. If they take care of business against the Bills next week in Foxboro, they will earn themselves a first-round bye and at least one home game in the playoffs. But if the Patriots lose and Cincinnati or Indianapolis win, the Patriots drop out of the No. 2 seed and will be forced to play in the wild-card round.