Patriots 20, Ravens 3
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) _ Too late for the playoffs and probably for coach Pete Carroll, the Patriots finally won.
Troy Brown had three long kick returns to lead New England to a 20-3 victory over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday and give Carroll a pleasant memory to leave with if he loses his job as expected.
The Patriots won just two of their last eight games after starting the season 6-2, and they have gotten worse in each of Carroll’s three seasons since he took over the AFC champions from Bill Parcells.
The Ravens also finished at 8-8, but they have more reason for optimism with wins in four of their last five games and a young, dominating defense.
The small crowd reflected the games’ meager significance. Neither team had a shot at the playoffs, and the 50,263 fans who watched them end their season was the smallest crowd at Foxboro Stadium since the Patriots last home game in 1995. Carroll took over after Parcells led them to the Super Bowl in the 1996 season.
The win allowed the Patriots to avoid their first losing season since 1995.
On Sunday, the Patriots’ offense wasn’t much better than it had been when it averaged 12.6 points in its previous seven games. The Patriots, without leading receiver Terry Glenn, were outgained 313 yards to 151 for the game. Carroll suspended Glenn for missing three medical checkups after he contracted the flu.
But Brown’s three returns in the first half and two key turnovers in the second half sparked New England.
Brown’s returns led to a 13-3 halftime lead, defensive end Chad Eaton brought back Tony Banks’ fumble 23 yards for a touchdown with 7:01 left in the third quarter, and cornerback Kato Serwanga intercepted Banks’ pass at the back of the end zone with 2:41 remaining in the period. Banks left the game with a strained left knee after the quarter and was replaced by Stoney Case.
Brown returned the opening kickoff 54 yards, but New England couldn’t get a first down and turned the ball over on downs.
After Matt Stover’s 19-yard field goal on the third play of the second quarter, his 18th consecutive successful attempt, Brown returned the kickoff 49 yards. But the Patriots settled for Adam Vinatieri’s 25-yard tying field goal with 10:01 left in the period.
Kyle Richardson punted after Baltimore’s next series and Brown returned that kick 52 yards to the Ravens’ 23. Five plays later, Drew Bledsoe threw a 1-yard scoring pass to tight end Mark Bartrum, whose two catches in four seasons with the Patriots went for 1-yard touchdowns against Baltimore.
Vinatieri, who missed a field goal with two seconds left in regulation and another in overtime in a 13-10 loss to Buffalo the previous Sunday, then connected on a 51-yarder on the past play of the half.