While the Patriots defense sacked Kyle Boller four times, forcing one fumble and an interception, Corey Dillon was running for 123 yards and a touchdown as the Patriots dominated Baltimore in the second half after being tied at 3 at halftime.
It was a convincing win for New England against one of the NFL's best defenses.
"It was one of those old-fashioned games today," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "I thought our team did a much better job in the second half, coming out and playing a more complete game. It was a good team victory. It was a tough week for us. I thought the players really handled it well. We battled back from a short week and everything else that went into this game and to be able to come out there, once we got past the first half, I thought we played pretty competitively. That is the story."
Like the last few weeks, the Patriots secondary was playing on fumes with Ty Law, Tyrone Poole and Asante Samuel all inactive. This week, safety Eugene Wilson saw action at corner from time to time with linebacker Don Davis taking snaps at safety. But unlike last week when the Patriots had to make do against the high-powered Chiefs offense, the Ravens lackluster passing attack and the weather made this much less a challenge for the undermanned Patriots.
"It is a big one," Tom Brady said."It was an excellent team we played and they are tough on defense. Under these conditions, I think everybody was happy to come out with a win."
Both teams' offenses were stuck in the mud in the first half, literally and figuratively, as punts were the name of the game and a steady, wind-blown rain soaked the field prior to kickoff. Even a Ravens turnover, usually something the Patriots convert into points, ended up just another harmless play.
It came in the first quarter with Boller working at midfield on first down. He had just converted a third and five with his legs on a 6-yard run and on first down looked to pass to Kevin Johnson. Randall Gay was exactly where he needed to be and picked off the pass, returning it 13 yards. A 15-yard illegal block penalty on the Ravens added to the play and New England was first and 10 on the Ravens 36.
But Gay's play went for naught as two Dillon runs only netted 1 yard and Brady was pressured on third down and threw incomplete. All New England could do was punt.
That's all either team could do throughout the first quarter until Brady began to engineer a drive that had his team third and five from the Baltimore 8-yard line as the second quarter began. Hard running by Dillon marked the early stages of the possession. Once in Ravens territory, Brady hit Daniel Graham for 22-yards while stepping up nicely in the pocket to avoid pressure. He followed that up with a sideline strike to Branch for 12 yards but on third and five from the 8, he was sacked for a 2-yard loss by Marques Douglas and the Patriots settled for a 28-yard field goal by Vinatieri.
The three points marked the sixteenth straight time the Patriots scored first in a regular season game, an NFL record.
To picture how ineffective the offenses were -- or how good the defenses were depending on how one views things -- the Patriots actually looked to simply run out the clock with a little over a minute and two timeouts left in the first half rather than go for points. When was the last time that happened?
The strategy backfired as Baltimore wasn't content to see the half end, and called timeout, forcing New England to try and gain a first down.
New England couldn't and on the ensuing punt, Matt Chatham was called for a facemask and then an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty followed when Tedy Bruschi kicked the flag. With the return and the 30 yards of infractions the Ravens were first and 10 on the Patriots 16.
The Patriots defense held the Ravens out of the end zone but not off the scoreboard as Matt Stover hit on a 22-yard field goal to send the teams to their locker rooms tied at 3.
"I don't think we were thriving too much in the first half," Belichick said. "We were struggling. But, the good thing was, offensively, we didn't turn the ball over. The Ravens gave us a lot of pressure there in the first half. They were bringing some secondary blitzers off the edge. We had a little problem picking that up. I thought that Charlie [Weis] and Dante [Scarnecchia] did a really nice job at halftime and made some adjustments. That was a lot less of a problem in the second half than it was in the first half. That is a credit to the players to be able to go out there and play through those conditions and still execute well or reasonably well against a good team like Baltimore. They deserve the credit."
New England got those three points right back with their first series of the second half. Bethel Johnson returned the opening kickoff to the Patriots 41. From there Dillon ground out some tough yards while Givens came up big with catches of 14 and 9 yards.
Vinatieri was good on his 40-yard attempt.
The rain came down throughout but never harder than midway in the third quarter. It was then that Dillon knocked off runs of 9 and 18 yards down to the Ravens 25. After a 2-yard run by Patrick Pass, Brady hit David Patten in the end zone from 23 yards out but Patten was flagged for pushing off. Next, Joe Andruzzi was caught ripping off a Ravens helmet and suddenly the Patriots were second and 33 from their own 48.
Two passes to Pass made up some of the yardage, enough for Vinatieri to come on and hit his third field goal on the day, a 48-yarder. "Those were tough conditions with the [48-yarder] that was a tough kick," Belichick said. "He nailed that one. There is no kicker I'd rather have. Let's put it that way. He did a nice job kicking off too, again, in challenging conditions. One thing about Adam, I don't think he lets those things affect him. He just goes out there and hits them. Lonie [Paxton] and Josh [Miller] did a good job on the whole operation. It wasn't easy, but those guys did a good job. You have to take your hat off to Adam. Those were big kicks."
The New England defense held Baltimore to six plays from scrimmage in the third quarter, not including punts, and the way things were looking, a Patriots touchdown would seal the game.
As the fourth quarter began, New England was 2 yards from doing so and on the first play, Dillon ran it in. New England went for the two-point conversion and a Dillon run up the middle was successful for a 17-3 lead.
The scoring drive went nine plays with Dillon running six times and Branch catching a 15-yard pass on third and six from the Ravens 20. The Ravens helped out the effort when Adalius Thomas was called for pass interference on Daniel Graham earlier in the drive.
The Patriots defense put an exclamation point on its effort on the Ravens next series. Ted Johnson sacked Boller for a loss of 10 on first down. On second down, Bruschi was sent after the quarterback. He got there and Boller lost his grip. The ball got knocked around until Jarvis Green fell on it in the end zone for his first career touchdown.
That made the score 24-3 and with the middle of the field a complete mess coupled with the Ravens inability to move the ball, there was little doubt as to the outcome of this one with still half the fourth quarter to play.
"It was a great game for our defense, you have got to give us credit, we played hard and only gave up three points," Rodney Harrison said. "We just go out there and try to perform to the best of our level and we went out there and showed what we can do as a defense. Every time we step on the field we want to play well regardless of what defense we are playing. I think our defense showed people that we can hang in with the best of them."
Patriots.com reporter Frank Tadych contributed to this report.