Final Word: Ravens at Patriots

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
1:30
PM ET
Conference Championship Final Word: Ravens-Patriots | Giants-49ers

Three nuggets of knowledge about Sunday's Ravens-Patriots AFC championship game:

Tight coverage on Patriots tight ends: This a case of strength versus strength. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been the NFL's most dangerous tag team at tight end this season, combining for 2,237 receiving yards (an average of 139.8 per game) and 24 touchdown grabs. The Ravens have been one of the league's best defenses at containing tight ends. Baltimore has allowed 667 receiving yards to tight ends this season, third-fewest in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Some defenses have difficulty matching up with athletic tight ends when they split out wide, but that hasn't been the case with the Ravens. They’ve been particularly stingy to tight ends lining up as wide receivers -- only 199 of the 677 yards allowed were to tight ends splitting to the outside.

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Frank Victores/US PresswireThe Ravens are 21-1 in the past two seasons when Ray Rice gets at least 20 touches.
Throwing to Rice: Over the last two seasons (including playoffs), the Ravens are 21-1 (.954) when running back Ray Rice gets at least 20 touches. They are 5-8 (.385) when he doesn't. The key is touches and not necessarily carries. After Rice gained 159 yards rushing in a 2009 playoff game, the Patriots limited him to 88 yards rushing on 28 carries (a less-than-mediocre 3.1 yards per carry) in the last meeting. Look for the Ravens to get Rice into space by throwing him the ball. In New England's final three regular-season games, running backs averaged 13.4 yards per catch against the Patriots. Since 2008, Rice has led running backs in catches (250) and yards receiving (2,235).

Playoff road warriors: Baltimore hasn't been the best road team this season, going 4-4 and losing to two teams with losing records (Jacksonville and Seattle). But the Ravens are perhaps the best postseason road team ever. The Ravens are 7-4 on the road in the playoffs, the second-best road record for any franchise behind the Panthers (4-2), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Since the Ravens began playing in 1996, their seven road playoff victories are two more than any other team. Only three teams in NFL history (Packers, Cowboys and Titans/Oilers) have more playoff road wins than the Ravens.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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