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Shane Vereen helps Pats clinch division

Posted: December 22, 2013 9:56 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2013 9:56 p.m.

Valencia High graduate and New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen, left, scores a touchdown on a pass from Tom Brady during Sunday's 41-7 win over the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore.

 

BALTIMORE (AP) — The New England Patriots put on a performance worthy of a division winner.

Making it even sweeter was that it came at the expense of the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, who bounced New England from the postseason last season.

Logan Ryan had two interceptions, Valencia graduate Shane Vereen scored a touchdown, and the playoff-bound Patriots breezed to a 41-7 victory Sunday, ending the Ravens’ four-game winning streak and diminishing their postseason hopes.

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 a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and never let up behind a defense that forced four turnovers and had four sacks.

Vereen’s only catch of the game was a 4-yard scoring pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter, his third touchdown of the season, but he left the game shortly after with a groin injury.

Vereen had two rushes for 6 yards before that.

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.”

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.”

The 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 got to go in there and win. That was going to be the case no matter what,” said Harbaugh, who is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time in his six seasons with Baltimore.

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.

Joe Flacco went 22 for 38 for 260 yards and two interceptions for the Ravens, who fell to 6-2 at home.

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.

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