- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Picked-up pieces from reviewing the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 41-7 win over the Ravens:
1. Defensive end Rob Ninkovich seemed to have his way with right tackle Michael Oher, and Sealver Siliga could give Ninkovich an assist for helping produce his sack (12:09 remaining). Ninkovich gained the edge on Oher, forcing Flacco to step up into the pocket where Siliga was waiting for him. Good coverage also contributed to the end result.
3. Rookie safety Duron Harmon showed good range to get to the sideline two different times in a three-play span (7:03 remaining on Torrey Smith down the right sideline and 6:52 remaining on Marlon Brown down the left sideline). Both were incomplete passes. Encouraging signs for the Patriots with Harmon, the third-round pick from Rutgers.
4. Dont'a Hightower can be a load when he gets going downhill as a pass-rusher, which we saw when he almost completely leaped over running back Bernard Pierce to create the Patriots' third fourth-down stop (6:46 remaining). Hightower forced Joe Flacco into a quicker-than-desired decision with the strong rush in which he was leaped over Pierce, tumbled to the ground briefly, before quickly getting back on his feet. That's impressive athleticism for a player his size (6-3, 268) as this was one of Hightower's better games.
5. The officials ultimately got a neutral zone infraction penalty on defensive tackle Chris Jones correct, reversing their original call, but I'm more interested in how they came to that conclusion. If it was by looking at the scoreboard for a replay, which was played at the stadium, that's not supposed to happen. The line judge who made the initial call of a false start seemed convinced of the penalty, even as the umpire came over to double-check, before being overruled by the head linesman who couldn't have had as good of an angle. Later on the drive, the line judge incorrectly ruled Dennis Pitta out of bounds before a replay reversal. Tough day overall for Ron Winter's crew.
6. Spotted on the Patriots sideline: Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala, one of Bill Belichick's close friends.
7. On the stat sheet, it won't look great for Ryan Allen with a 25-yard punt after the Patriots' opening drive of the quarter stalled at the Ravens' 35. But it was a good situational effort, avoiding the touchback, as he showed nice touch to force the Ravens to start at their own 10.
8. The Patriots' four-minute offense closed things out with one of its most impressive drives of the season -- nine straight runs to cover 48 yards and score a touchdown in 4:32. The Patriots made it a priority to be the more physical team and this drive solidified it. Hard-charging running from both Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount as well. One thing stood out on the drive -- most of the runs were to the left side where Logan Mankins played an excellent game at tackle.
9. Notable line on the Patriots from CBS analyst Phil Simms: “They think they are mentally a tougher team this year than they were last year. Tom Brady said last night ‘We lost to the Ravens in the championship game. They were just tougher than us.' I think they were out to prove something today.”