BALTIMORE — Two key members of the Patriots — one on offense, one on defense — left Sunday’s 41-7 rout of the Ravens with injuries and did not return, although both were spotted after the game.
Running back Shane Vereen suffered a groin injury late in the first quarter. He headed for the locker room with members of the medical staff, returned to the sideline in the second quarter, and spent time riding the stationary bike behind the team bench.
Vereen carried just twice for 6 yards, and caught one pass for 4. The team’s most productive third-down back, Vereen was replaced by Brandon Bolden, who also got his hands on the ball three times: two receptions, one carry.
Safety Devin McCourty sustained a head injury while tackling Ravens tight end Ed Dickson early in the third quarter. He was one of the first players to come out of the Patriots locker room after the game, prior to the door being opened to the media, but was not accompanied by medical personnel, a good sign. McCourty had three tackles and was credited with two passes defended.
Other than those two players, the Patriots appeared to come through fairly healthy. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower left the game for two plays after making a tackle, and safety Steve Gregory injured his right leg in the second quarter but was back by the third.
Edelman answers call
Julian Edelman led the Patriots with seven catches for 77 yards, but it was two plays early in the game — neither of them a pass reception — that helped the Patriots jump in front. On New England’s second possession, Edelman drew a 34-yard pass interference call on cornerback Jimmy Smith in the end zone, setting up the Patriots at the 1-yard-line. LeGarrette Blount scored one play later, and after the extra point it was 7-0.
On the next drive, set up by the first of two Logan Ryan interceptions, Edelman drew a 5-yard illegal contact penalty on Lardarius Webb. That pushed the Patriots into Baltimore territory, gave them a first down, and led to another first-quarter touchdown.
“They contacted me illegally both times, one was down the field and one was past the 5-yard mark. If they didn’t call it, I would have been mad, because that’s the rule in the book,” said Edelman, who has 96 catches on the season, more than doubling his previous career high. With 991 yards, he’s also closing in on his first 1,000-yard season.
Are penalties sometimes just as good as a catch?
“No, you always want to catch the ball, but they happened in crucial parts of the game early on, and it was good that we got that,” Edelman said.
As expected, Logan Mankins slid from left guard to left tackle, taking the place of Nate Solder, who was one of the Patriots’ seven inactive players. Solder, who suffered concussions in consecutive weeks, was ruled out on Saturday, as was receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, who missed his third straight game with a hip injury.
Aaron Dobson ended his three-game absence, coming back from a foot injury and giving the Patriots some needed depth at receiver, because Josh Boyce also missed the game with an ankle injury. Dobson played most of the game, and had one catch for 21 yards.
Re-signed Dec. 9 after the season-ending injury to Rob Gronkowski, tight end D.J. Williams was inactive for the second straight game. In addition to Solder, Thompkins, Boyce, and Williams, the other three inactives were linebacker Dane Fletcher, who was limited in practice last week with a groin injury and was listed by the Patriots as questionable; defensive end Jake Bequette; and defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga, who had played in all six games since being acquired from the Eagles in an Oct. 29 trade. Sopoaga and Bequette were healthy scratches.
A sack of momentum
The Patriots wanted to set the tone early, and they did so defensively. Baltimore ran no first-half plays on the Patriots’ end of the field, and had three consecutive drives end with sacks of Joe Flacco. Andre Carter got the first sack on a third-and-5 play, followed by Kyle Arrington coming in clean on a cornerback blitz, and Rob Ninkovich — who noted last week that the Ravens give up a few sacks — capping the streak with his seventh of the season.
“We definitely wanted to come in here and set the right tone, and to be able to get off the field in that fashion, it was monumental,” said Arrington, a Maryland native whose first career sack came last week at Miami. “Flacco saw me coming; I just wanted make sure I didn’t miss.”
Sealver Siliga had the fourth sack for the Patriots. Like Arrington, he’s also had his first two career sacks the past two weeks.
Jones is keeping up
Chandler Jones picked a great time to score his first NFL touchdown. He recovered a fumble by backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the end zone, turning the game into a laugher by the two-minute warning.
“It was a scoop-and-score moment; we do the drill every day in practice,” Jones said. “I didn’t know if I should dance or jump around, but it was fun, it was great.”
Most important, it finally gave Jones a win over his brother, Art, a defensive tackle for the Ravens. Last year, in Chandler’s rookie season, the Ravens beat the Patriots twice.
“It felt good to get a win over him. He was up two on me,” Jones said.
Finale moved to 4:25
Next Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Bills at Gillette Stadium has been moved from 1 p.m. to 4:25 p.m. . . . One key question was how well the Patriots would fare inside the red zone, because the Ravens defense came in giving up red-zone touchdowns only 42.9 percent of the time, fourth-best in the NFL. On Sunday, the Patriots were 3 for 3. They had been just 1 for 4 at Miami the week prior . . . Tight end Dennis Pitta was a defensive focus for the Patriots. He wasn’t targeted at all in the first half, and finished with four catches for 34 yards . . . Before three late gains by Taylor, the Patriots had held the Ravens in check on the ground. Ray Rice had 40 yards on 11 carries, and Bernard Pierce had 31 yards on 10 rushes . . . Tom Brady tied Dan Marino for fourth place on the list of career wins by an NFL quarterback. Both have 147; John Elway is third, with 148 . . . With his second extra point of the game, Stephen Gostkowski scored career point No. 1,000. He also added two field goals, giving him 34 on the season. Gostkowski owns the franchise record for field goals in a season; he had 36 in 2008.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.