Late Brady TD pass helps Patriots hold off Ravens 30-23
By KYLE HIGHTOWER
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The New England Patriots needed a big play, and Tom Brady delivered - again.
Brady connected with Chris Hogan for a 79-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to help the Patriots to a 30-23 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night.
Brady threw for 406 yards and three touchdowns, becoming the fourth NFL quarterback with at least 450 career touchdown passes. He also threw just his second interception of the season.
LeGarrette Blount rushed for 72 yards on 18 carries, passing 1,000 yards for the first time since his rookie season with Tampa Bay in 2010.
The Patriots (11-2) have won four straight games and eight of their last nine as they continue to inch toward their eighth straight AFC East title.
"It was a big game for us," Brady said. "You play at home in December on Monday night against a great defense, it was important for us to come out and play well. We knew it was gonna be a 60-minute game."
The Ravens (7-6) had won two in a row. They now face a challenging route to the playoffs with two of their last three on the road.
Joe Flacco did his best to keep Baltimore in the game, finishing 37 of 52 for 324 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The 37 completions set a franchise record.
The Patriots led 23-3 before the Ravens turned back-to-back New England fumbles on special teams into touchdowns.
New England still had a 23-17 lead in the fourth quarter when the Ravens drove to the Patriots 12 before Flacco was sacked by Rob Ninkovich, forcing Baltimore to settle for a field goal.
The Ravens entered the week with the NFL's top-ranked defense, giving up just 296.1 yards per game. But the Patriots defense shined early on, limiting the Ravens to just three points and 142 yards in the first half.
The Ravens rushed only four times for 7 yards in the opening 30 minutes, and were just 3 for 8 on third downs.
The Patriots appeared to be in control after Martellus Bennett's 19-yard touchdown reception made it 23-3 with 8:45 to play in the third. But Cyrus Jones couldn't get out of the way of Sam Koch's 53-yard punt. It brushed off his foot as it fell to the turf and was picked up by Chris Moore on New England's 3. The Ravens scored two plays later.
The Patriots then gave Baltimore another gift on the ensuing kickoff when returner Matt Slater lost the ball after a hit by Patrick Onwuasor. Shareece Wright recovered for the Ravens, and Flacco threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Kenneth Dixon.
"I think there were some plays I wish we all could have had back," Brady said. "But they're a competitive team. They force you into some errors. It was great to finish the game with the ball in our hands. We always love doing that."
"It's something that we preach about, through the whole OTA's, camp, preseason and all that. We want to eliminate big plays. We had a bust," Ravens linebacker Zach Orr said of Brady's touchdown to Hogan. "If you miss an assignment, Tom Brady and those guys will exploit that to the max."
Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin showed off his athleticism in the first quarter by hurdling the Ravens' line and then blocking Justin Tucker's 34-yard field goal attempt. It was part of a big first half for McClellin, who was also involved in five total tackles in the opening 30 minutes.
It was the Patriots' third safety of the season - a franchise record. They also got one on Oct. 9 against Cleveland when Browns quarterback Cody Kessler fumbled the ball out of the end zone and the following week when Dont'a Hightower sacked Cincinnati's Andy Dalton in the end zone.
Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith left in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
Ravens: Host the Eagles Sunday in their final home game of the regular season.
Patriots: Play two of their final three on the road, beginning Sunday with a trip to Denver.
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Updated December 13, 2016