We fell prey to conventional wisdom: Tom Brady and the Patriots weren't good enough to overcome a season full of injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, the latest being left tackle Nate Solder, who didn't dress Sunday in Baltimore.
Turns out, it didn't matter. The Patriots led the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens 20-0 before heading back to Foxboro with a decisive 41-7 late-season win that, at the very least, assured them of the division title and a playoff spot. Win next week and they can wrap up the No. 2 seed in the AFC.
Against, the Ravens, the Patriots looked like, well, the Patriots. And we were reminded one more time that as long as Brady and coach Bill Belichick are running things, New England should be the prohibitive favorite.
But it wasn't just the offense -- or Brady, who finished a modest 14-of-26 for 172 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions -- that carried the load (the running game deserves a lot of credit too, by the way); the defense capitalized on a hobbled Joe Flacco, who suffered a knee injury in Monday night's win against the Lions. Not only did he lack his usual mobility, but his accuracy was off, and the Patriots turned that into two Logan Ryan interceptions. (Tavon Wilson added a 74-yard pick-six late in the game after Flacco had been replaced by Tyrod Taylor.)
For the Ravens, it was their most lopsided loss since a 37-0 defeat to the Steelers in 1997, and things were so out of whack that Justin Tucker missed a kick for the first time in 33 attempts.
The Patriots, meanwhile, won their fifth consecutive AFC East title, and they'll wrap up their regular season next week against the Bills. When there and New England will have a much-needed first-round playoff bye.
“I thought it was a really good job from our team today," Belichick said. "We had a lot of guys banged up coming into the game, lineup changes and all of that, but we had a good week of practice. I thought our players really prepared hard and played hard, and played well.
"I'm really proud of the way they played; that they competed. Being able to finish and play 60 minutes is good. They earned it today and that's a good football team we played. I'm happy to win the AFC East and hopefully we can build off this game. It was a good one for us."
What this means for their Super Bowl aspirations remains to be seen but for now, it's a huge win when virutally everyone -- us included -- had counted them out.