Winning the toss and choosing, as they have all season, to defer, the Patriots gave their defense a chance to maintain their momentum from their win over Denver last week. They did just that. With Brandon Deadrick stuffing Ray Rice on the first play from scrimmage, the Pats forced Flacco into a passing situation. The first attempt would bounce harmlessly off of Anquan Boldin's hands, and the second would never leave Flacco's. Faced with good coverage, the Raven's quarterback was forced to scramble for just four yards, leaving him well short of the first.
With good field position, the Patriots seemed primed to replicate another aspect from the Denver game: a quick start. And after their first offensive play of the game went to Danny Woodhead for 8, it seemed even more likely. But Brady's next pass was batted down at the line, and some smothering defense by Ray Lewis on Deion Branch spelled the end of New England's first series.
The Ravens would fare no better on their second opportunity, however, with the New England defense providing another three and out and some more good field position for Tom Brady and co. And this time, they moved the chains. BenJarvus Green Ellis carried the burden early, picking up 11 yards on a pair of runs before Brady hit Deion Branch, Aaron Hernandez, and Julian Edelman for a total of 21 more.
The Patriots would flirt with disaster on their next set of downs when a pass to Wes Welker was tipped up in the air and intercepted, but a flag for illegal contact erased the pick and set up another first on a pass to Rob Gronkowski. The drive would fizzle out deep in the red zone, however, with Tom Brady taking a sack, and a last-ditch shot to Wes Welker in the end zone falling incomplete. Facing 4th-and-10, the Pats settled for just a short field goal.