Sunday, January 13, 2013
Quick Take: Ravens at Patriots
By Jamison Hensley
Five things to know about the Baltimore Ravens' matchup against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday at Gillette Stadium:
1. Rematch doesn't favor Ravens. This marks the sixth time since the 1970 merger that the same two teams are playing in the conference championship game in back-to-back years. While the Ravens are motivated to settle the score after how last year's championship game ended, NFL history isn't on the Ravens' side. The teams that won the first meeting in the championship game are 5-0 in the rematch. The last time this happened in the AFC was 1986 and 1987, when the Broncos beat the Browns both times to go to the Super Bowl. The Ravens are 1-2 in AFC championship games, beating the Raiders in the 2000 season before losing to the Steelers in the 2008 season and the Patriots last year.
2. The deep ball. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has excelled at throwing deep downfield in the playoffs. He has averaged 20.4 yards per completion in the postseason. Of his 30 completions, 11 have been 20 yards or longer. Four of Flacco's five touchdowns have gone for 70, 59, 32 and 20 yards. The Patriots were the 29th-ranked pass defense because of their inability to stop big plays. New England gave up 74 passes of 20 yards or longer in the regular season, the most in the NFL. In the first meeting with the Patriots this season, Flacco brought back the Ravens from a 13-0 deficit with touchdown passes of 25 yards to Torrey Smith and 20 yards to Dennis Pitta in the second quarter.
3. Road tested. The Ravens have had their struggles away from M&T Bank Stadium over the past two seasons, but they rise to the occasion on the road come playoff time. Since 2008, when Flacco became quarterback and John Harbaugh was hired as coach, the Ravens have the most road playoff wins in the NFL with five. That includes winning Saturday at top-seeded Denver, where Broncos had only lost three times in 16 home playoff games. Flacco's five road playoff victories are tied with Eli Manning for the most in NFL history.
4. Coming up with picks. Baltimore has caused Tom Brady fits recently, which is why the Patriots quarterback is 2-2 against the Ravens in his last four meetings. Over that span, Brady has thrown four touchdown passes against the Ravens while getting picked off seven times. Where Brady has gotten into trouble against Baltimore is throwing deep. Six of Brady’s last seven interceptions against the Ravens have come on passes thrown over 10 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Interceptions have played a big part in the Ravens' playoff success. Baltimore has an NFL-leading 20 picks in the postseason, including two against Peyton Manning in Saturday's AFC divisional playoff game.
5. Which Ray shows up? Not talking about linebacker Ray Lewis, who leads the NFL with 30 tackles this postseason. The player in question is running back Ray Rice. In his first playoff game in New England, he ran for an 83-yard touchdown, the second-longest run in NFL playoff history. He finished with a franchise playoff record 159 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Last year in the AFC championship game, Rice was held to 67 yards on 21 carries, a 3.2-yard average. His longest run was 12 yards. Rice ended a playoff rut in Saturday's divisional playoff game, where he gained 131 yards and scored a touchdown. The Ravens are 6-0 in the playoffs when they have a 100-yard rusher.