FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots have had trouble finishing off games at times this season. They got an assist from Mother Nature to help close out their biggest victory.
Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score and the Patriots fought through rain and wind to hold off the Baltimore Ravens 23-17 on Sunday night.
Damien Harris ran for a career-high 121 yards to help the Patriots (4-5) win consecutive games for the first time this season. Newton was 13 of 17 for 118 yards. His touchdown pass, on a short sprint-out to Rex Burkhead in the first quarter, was his since first since Week 3 — a span of four games.
“Just finding ways to win. That’s pretty much been it,” Newton said about the past two wins. “Having good weeks in practice and following it up with in-game performances. … We’ve just got to keep doing that moving forward.”
The Ravens’ road winning streak ended at 10. Baltimore (6-3) is 0-6 in the regular season in New England.
Lamar Jackson was 24 of 34 for 249 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens.
“We’re ticked off. Nobody likes losing,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of talent on our team. We’ve got to regroup.”
New England bottled him up on the ground for most of the game, limiting him to just 11 rushes for 55 yards.
“Overall certainly we played it much better than we did last year,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
Down 23-17, Baltimore had a chance to take the lead with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter. But the possession quickly fell apart after an errant snap by centre Matt Skura resulted in a 16-yard loss.
The Patriots got the ball back and were able to pick up enough first downs to run down the clock to just over a minute to play before putting the ball back.
As rain and wind pelted the field, the Ravens started the drive with a penalty, pushing them back to their own 9. Facing fourth-and-26 on the 21, Jackson had J.K. Dobbins open along the sideline, but Dobbins bobbled the ball for an incompletion and turnover on downs.
The loss came with additional costs for Baltimore, which will also be without one of its best blockers for the foreseeable future after tight end Nick Boyle was carted off the field with 6:24 left in the third quarter. The team said he suffered a knee injury when he had his left pinned underneath him while being tackled by Terez Hall following a 4-yard reception.
Coach John Harbaugh said Boyle is done for the season.
With rain being blown sideways across the field due to a persistent 15 mph wind that gusted higher than that, both quarterbacks threw sparingly early on. The passes they did attempt were often no more than 15-yard quick-outs or shorter dump-offs.
Most of the exceptions were by the Patriots.
They used some trickery just before halftime to take a 13-10 lead. Facing second-and-6 on the Ravens 24, Newton threw what appeared to be a wide receiver screen to Jakobi Meyers. But Meyers pivoted and lofted a pass to a wide-open Rex Burkhead for a touchdown.
“It’s something we practiced over the last couple of weeks. Just didn’t know when it was going to come up,” Meyers said. “I was just trying to be playmaker.”
Harbaugh acknowledged it was a mental miscue by linebacker Patrick McQueen.
“Rookie mistake. He was on his guy, hesitated a bit. Burkhead made a really nice play on it,” Harbaugh said.
Baltimore was without two stalwarts on defence with tackle Calais Campbell (calf) and linebacker L.J. Fort (finger) both out. Cornerback Jimmy Smith is also sat with an ankle injury.
“It’s impossible to measure it but I’m sure it had an impact,” Harbaugh said.
New England kept things going on its opening drive of the third quarter.
First, Harris broke a 25-yard run to get into Ravens territory. That was followed by Newton connecting with Meyers on a 26-yard pass that also included an unnecessary roughness call on cornerback Marcus Peters for a hit out of bounds. Newton ran it in on the next play from 4 yards out to make it 20-10.
Ravens: DT Brandon Williams left with an ankle injury did not return. … CB Terrell Bonds needed help getting off the field in the third quarter after suffering a knee injury.
Because of the inclement conditions, both teams relied mostly on running the ball in the first period. Of the 27 plays in the quarter, 17 were running plays. The result was a period that lasted just 28 minutes.
Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson’s interception in the closing seconds of the second quarter was his sixth pick of the season. He now has an interception in five straight games, a new franchise record.
Ravens: Host Tennessee next Sunday.
Patriots: At Houston next Sunday.
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New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.
A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.
Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.
He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.
He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.
The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.
Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.
–Field Level Media
NHL wants answer on Canada border crossing soon
The Canadian teams played only each other during the 2020-21 season in a revamped North Division because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that will continue during the first two rounds of the playoffs. It’s what happens after that — in the semifinals and finals — that is up in the air.
“The conversations are ongoing. We’ve told them we really do need to know by the end of the first round, and that’s around June 1,” Steve Mayer, the league’s chief content officer, told ESPN. “That’s pretty much the date that we’ve talked to them about, saying we have to know one way or another.”
Last season, the playoffs were held in bubbles in Edmonton and Toronto.
Under current rules, American-based teams couldn’t play in Canada without mandatory quarantines, which would make travel for home-and-away games impossible under the playoff calendar.
The NHL and government representatives last talked a week ago, and the Canadian officials submitted a variety of questions for the league’s response.
In the interim, Mayer said, the league has discussed the possibility of the Canadian team that advances from the North Division being based in the U.S. for the duration of the postseason. Talks have occurred with officials at NHL arenas where teams didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
An NHL source told ESPN this week that the league expects “a positive resolution” to the issue, however.
–Field Level Media
Canada to play 2 more home World Cup qualifiers in U.S.
As Canada continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s national soccer team will play two more of its home World Cup qualifying matches south of the border in June.
Canada will face Aruba in Bradenton, Fla., on June 5, and will take on Suriname in suburban Chicago on June 8, Canada Soccer confirmed Monday.
The games are Canada‘s last two of four matches in CONCACAF Group B. A March 26 Canadian home match against Bermuda was held in Orlando, Fla., which Canada won 5-1. Also, the Caymen Islands were the host team on March 29, when Canada rolled, 11-0.
Only one national team advances to the next round, and Canada and Suriname top the group and the game against Suriname in Bridgeview, Ill., figures to be the deciding match in both teams’ efforts to advance.
Thirty nations from Central and North America are competing in this first round with six group winners advancing to a second round of head-to-head knockout matches for the right to compete in the CONCACAF final round of eight teams competing for four places in the 2022 World Cup. A fifth team from CONCACAF advances to an intercontinental play-in round.
As was executed in Orlando, the match in Chicago will be staged in accordance with the FIFA International Match Protocols supported by the relevant public health requirements.
“We had hoped to play these matches at home with Canadian fans providing the support and momentum to play a tough nation like Suriname in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers,” said John Herdman, coach of the Canadian men’s national team. “The reality of the global pandemic and the priority to keep our communities in Canada safe means the match will be played at a neutral site in Chicago with no home advantage, but we will embrace that challenge.
“Whatever comes at us, we will take it on and do whatever we need to do to advance to the next round.”
-Field Level Media
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