A Patriots game finally did not come down to the wire.
No last-second heroics were necessary, though New England’s defenders provided them anyway. There was nothing immediately on the line, either — the Patriots had already clinched a playoff spot and the AFC East prior to kickoff. But New England finally put together 60 minutes of quality football. It wasn’t the most impressive effort by either the offense or defense, but they came together to beat the Ravens.
The first seven games of the Patriots’ season were dominated by quality defense. The next seven, it was all Tom Brady and the offense. Maybe the final two will be team efforts.
Let’s take a look at the five stars of the game for the Patriots.
Logan Ryan: The rookie cornerback did not let up too many yards through the air and came away with two interceptions. He has played well all season and has a knack for big plays.
Ryan now has five interceptions on the season. He has earned the nickname “Instant Offense” by his teammates. Ryan drew the start over Alfonzo Dennard. He could earn starting snaps as the season goes along. He’s been a ball hawk.
LeGarrette Blount: Blount earned his third straight start, and as long as he keeps running hard, holding onto the ball and breaking off big plays, he will keep getting them. Blount was key in New England’s final offensive drive by helping to kill the clock.
He finished with 16 carries, 74 yards and two touchdowns. Stevan Ridley also had a strong game. And he’s holding onto the ball, which is the most important thing.
Dont’a Hightower: After becoming the scapegoat for some poor run defense, the linebacker has strung together three very good games. Hightower made his presence known right away, deflecting a pass right into Ryan’s waiting arms.
Hightower was stout in run defense, as well. He made some key stops in the middle of the field. He went down with an injury briefly but came back and continued to play well. He also had a key pressure on Joe Flacco, forcing an incompletion on fourth down.
Logan Mankins: There wasn’t much, if any, drop-off from the left guard as he moved over to left tackle. Nate Solder missed the game after suffering a concussion in consecutive games.
It wasn’t an easy matchup for Mankins, who had to line up across from Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. He held up extraordinarily well. Mankins played left tackle in college, so it wasn’t a huge stretch for him, but he made it obvious he could have played that position in the NFL, too.
Jamie Collins: The rookie isn’t quite there in the run game yet, but he’s been what this team has needed for the past few years as a cover linebacker. He was on Dennis Pitta for much of the game and came up with some key pass breakups.
The rookie seems to be improving every week. He played more than usual with Dane Fletcher out with a groin injury.