FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s been nine months and one week since the Ravens handed the Patriots their worst playoff defeat of the Bill Belichick era, and the teams will square off again this weekend in New England.
Aside from pride, this game could carry some AFC playoff tiebreaking implications for the Patriots (3-1) and Ravens (4-1) when the season is all said and done.
This will also be the Pats’ first test without star wideout Randy Moss. How will the offense manage without him?
The Patriots are 5-0 in regular-season matchups against the Ravens, including three home victories, but Baltimore is 1-0 against the Pats in the playoffs. The Patriots were 4-11 against the Browns before they moved from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996, including a 2-4 record against the Browns when Bill Belichick was the head coach in Cleveland.
The Patriots’ front-seven has to do a better job against the Baltimore offensive line than it did in January, when the Ravens consistently won the battle up front. New England’s defense has been far more effective this season when it has limited its opposition’s running game, although the run defense has been inconsistent at times in 2010.
While Baltimore’s Joe Flacco is on his way to being an upper-echelon quarterback, he’s not there yet. If the Patriots can force him to take charge of the offense, they’ll have a big advantage in a key area. Ravens running back Ray Rice has 363 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards this season, and if the Patriots allow him to be the catalyst of the offense, they’ll be in serious trouble.
In three regular-season games against the Ravens, quarterback Tom Brady has completed 54-of-100 passes for 687 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Wide receiver Brandon Tate has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and both have come on the second-half kickoff. Raymond Clayborn holds the single-season franchise record with three touchdowns on kickoff returns in 1977.
Safety Patrick Chung became the first player to block a field goal and a punt in the same game since Texans cornerback Ramon Walker did it against the Patriots in 2003.
The Patriots are 61-11 when Brady throws for two or more touchdowns in a game.
Brady became the fastest quarterback in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to win 100 games as a starter (131 games). Also in the top five of that list are Joe Montana (139 starts), Terry Bradshaw (147), Brett Favre (153) and Peyton Manning (154).
The Ravens are allowing 156.6 passing yards per game, which is the second-best mark in the NFL.
The Ravens are 13-11 on the road, including the playoffs, since John Harbaugh took over as head coach in 2008. The Colts have a league-high 14 road wins in that span, and the Jets and Eagles also have 13.
The Ravens have the NFL’s top-rated third-down defense. Opponents have converted just 17-of-64 attempts (26.6 percent). However, the Patriots have converted a league-high 55.3 percent of their third-down chances (26 of 47). Ravens opponents have converted 4 of 5 on third-and-1, 4 of 8 on third-and-2-3, 3 of 11 on third-and-4-5, 5 of 22 on third-and-6-9, and 1 of 18 on third-and-10-plus.
The Ravens are 22nd in the NFL in points scored (18.4 per game) and fourth in points allowed (14.4)
Inside linebacker Ray Lewis has recorded 49 total tackles (31 solo) and one pass defense in five career games against the Patriots. He has not recorded an interception, sack, forced fumble or fumble recovery, but he has reached double-digit tackles in three consecutive games against New England.
From Thursday’s practice report
Quarterback Tom Brady (shoulder) fully participated and will play.
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot) fully participated and should be ready to play.
Safety James Sanders (hamstring) had limited participation and will probably play.
Running back Fred Taylor (toe) did not participate and will unlikely play.
Tackle Jared Gaither (back) did not practice and will not play.
Linebacker Tavares Gooden (shoulder) did not practice and will not play.
Wide receiver Donte Stallworth (foot) did not practice and will not play.
Tight end Edgar Jones (thigh) had limited participation.
Linebacker Jameel McClain (knee) had limited participation.
Safety Ken Hamlin (ankle) had limited participation.
Linebacker Paul Kruger (knee) had limited participation.
Running back Le’Ron McClain (shoulder, knee) had limited participation.
Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (knee) had limited participation.
Running back Ray Rice (knee) had limited participation.
Cornerback Josh Wilson (thigh) had limited participation.
The Patriots are coming off their most impressive road victory in years, and they’ve got a serious opportunity to come together, create some chemistry and knock off a team that did them wrong last January. They’ve also got the bye week to their advantage, having used six full practices to prepare for the Ravens, who have yet to reach their bye and are coming off a game against the Broncos.
The Ravens are an elite team, though, and they’re better than the version that eliminated the Patriots, 33-14, in the playoffs. This is a game the Patriots can win, and they’d create a serious statement if they pulled it off.