Pass interference hurts Ravens early (Pats up 17-0)

After being forced to punt to start the game, the Patriots were moving the ball just fine on their own before a huge penalty set them up for an easy score.

Cornerback Jimmy Smith got a fistful of receiver Julian Edelman’s jersey in the end zone, and was spotted by officials for a 34-yard pass interference penalty.

That put New England on the 1-yard line, and on the very next snap, LeGarrette Blount forced the ball into the end zone for a 7-0 lead. That capped a six-play, 64-yard drive, more than half of which was gained on the one flag.

The Patriots are outgaining Baltimore 34-17 so far, as the Ravens went three and out on their first possession and just committed a turnover on their second - Joe Flacco’s 18th interception of the season, hauled in by Logan Ryan after being tipped.

And the Pats are once again on the move.

Update: Well, just over 10 minutes into the contest, the Ravens are in trouble. New England has run out to a 14-0 lead after Tom Brady hooked up with Shane Vereen for a 4-yard touchdown pass.

Baltimore has had severe difficulty scoring touchdowns this season, and all of their scoring last week came off of Justin Tucker field goals. With the way this game has begun, that simply won’t cut it.

Flacco, less than a week removed from taking a helmet off his left knee, will need to pull the Ravens out of this hole. So far, he hasn’t shown any evidence that he’ll be able to do that. Baltimore’s offense has now been forced to punt twice and turn it over once.

It’s worth mentioning that the Bengals thrashed the Vikings earlier today, meaning it will be very difficult for the Ravens to back into the postseason. They need to win, and that will be a tough task down two touchdowns to the Patriots.

Baltimore can clinch a playoff berth today with a win and a Chargers loss or tie after the Dolphins were shut out by the Bills earlier. But if the Ravens lose to New England, they will longer be in complete control of whether they make the playoffs if the Chargers beat the Raiders today.

The entire complicated scenario will be mapped out in this space after the game. But it can’t be understated how much the Ravens need to win if they want to make it six straight postseason berths.

Update II: If the Ravens were in trouble before, it might be approaching Terrell Suggs’ DEFCON-5. Stephen Gostkowski’s 45-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter has increased the Patriots’ lead to 17-0.

Down three scores to New England before this one is even 30 minutes old? Probably not where the Ravens wanted to be at this point. The offense is still seeking a spark, having yet to cross midfield 18:05 into the contest.