It is the second straight year the Patriots and Ravens will battle for rights to advance to the Super Bowl. While Baltimore’s miraculous win ensured the Patriots an additional home game, there is plenty of reason to remain cautiously optimistic about Sunday’s affair.
New England is 4-2 against Baltimore since 2007, but their average margin of victory is just 3.75 points—their lowest against any opponent during that span.
Patriots fans have been spoiled by the gaudy numbers put up by Tom Brady, but even he has proven mortal against the Ravens smash-mouth defense.
In five career regular season games against the Ravens, Brady has a completion percentage of 58.9 (third-worst against any team), a passer rating of 83 (fifth worst) and has been sacked 12 times—the most by any non-divisional opponent.
So how did this bitter AFC rivalry come to be? Let’s look back at some of Baltimore and New England’s most memorable games.
In 2007 it was the 4-7 Ravens who almost derailed New England’s quest for a perfect season—in fact, they are the only ones who even came close. The juggernaut Patriots boasted a perfect 11-0 record going into their Week 12 Monday night matchup at Baltimore. Trailing 24-20 with 44 seconds to go in the game, Tom Brady found wide receiver Jabar Gaffney in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The Patriots won 27-24, their smallest margin of victory that season.
The two met again during the 2009 regular season with the Patriots earning a 27-21 win in Foxborough. Following the game Ray Lewis made waves, publicly criticizing the officials’ ruling of roughing the passer after Terrell Suggs lunged at Tom Brady’s surgically repaired knee. "You look at the replay, and he's barely touched,” said Lewis. “He's a man. [Quarterbacks] can be hit just like us."
The Ravens capitalized on a shot at redemption three months later, blowing out the Patriots 33-14 at Gillette Stadium in the 2009 AFC Wild Card Game.
In a contest during Week 5 of the 2010 season, Tom Brady and Terrell Suggs were caught exchanging pleasantries after Suggs made a huge hit on the quarterback. Despite trailing by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Patriots rallied and forced overtime, eventually winning the game 23-20.
Terrell Suggs later told reporters that Brady “better hope he don’t see [the Ravens] again.”
In 2011 the Patriots and Ravens once again met in the playoffs, this time in the AFC Championship Game. New England outlasted Baltimore at Gillette Stadium for the right to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The contest became an instant classic. Trailing 23-20 With 22 seconds remaining, Baltimore was at the New England 14-yard line.
Joe Flacco nearly connected with wide receiver Lee Evans with what would have been the go-ahead touchdown. Two plays later on 4th-and-1, the Ravens were forced to attempt a game-tying field goal from 32 yards out. Placekicker Billy Cundiff infamously missed wide left, sending New England to the Super Bowl.
And most recently, the Patriots and Ravens faced off on Sunday Night Football during Week 3 of the 2012 season. Just one day after losing his younger brother in a motorcycle accident, Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith had the game of his career—hauling in six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns in an emotional win over New England.
There is certainly no love lost between these two franchises, and on Sunday fans will be reminded why it is always a spectacle when they meet. Baltimore players have already started the smack talk leading to Sunday’s kickoff.
Ravens linebacker Brendan Ayanbadejo took to Twitter after New England’s win over the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional Round last Sunday. “New England does some suspect stuff on offense,” he tweeted. “Can’t really respect it. Comparable to a cheap shot b4 a fight.” Ayanbadejo also referenced New England’s “Spygate” scandal and 18-1 record after losing to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 42.
As if that wasn’t enough, Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin provided further bulletin board material when he guaranteed a Ravens victory.
The usually tight-lipped Tom Brady said it best in 2010 telling Boston media, “[The Ravens] talk a lot for only beating us once in nine years.” Although the Ravens have now won twice against Brady’s crew, one should wonder why either team would be overly confident in winning handily. After all, four of their last six games have been decided by three points or fewer.
The expectation is this Sunday will be no different.
Prediction: New England 24, Baltimore 21