Tom Brady vs Ray Lewis: Breaking Down AFC Championship Matchup Between NFL Icons
Can Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens crumble another future Hall of Fame quarterback's chance to advance to the Super Bowl?
The legendary linebacker, his defense and the strong arm of signal-caller Joe Flacco led a heroic double-overtime win over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, and now they're tasked with beating Tom Brady in Foxborough.
Brady and Lewis have epitomized achievement at their individual positions for the past decade and they'll square off one last time with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
Let's break down their matchup.
During their respective illustrious careers, Tom Brady and Ray Lewis have met seven times—five instances in the regular season and twice in the playoffs.
Although Brady's New England Patriots hold a 5-2 advantage over Lewis' Baltimore Ravens, Lewis has won two of the last three meetings.
In the five regular-season meetings against the Ravens, Brady has completed a shade above 58 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and three interceptions.
In the two postseason outings—2010 Wild Card Round and last year's AFC title game—the legendary quarterback has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and five interceptions.
It's safe to say Brady hasn't been quite himself when facing Baltimore with Ray Lewis roaming the middle of the defense.
Lewis has sacked Brady once.
How Tom Brady Should Attack Ray Lewis and the Ravens Defense
Tom Brady should attack Ray Lewis specifically.
While the transcendent linebacker is still a tackling machine, the fact that he has lost a half-step of quickness and acceleration makes him a relatively easy target in coverage.
The Patriots' passing game is predicated on its fast-paced nature and features a variety of quick passes.
Aaron Hernandez or either one of New England's youthful running backs should be able to do damage as receivers with Lewis in coverage.
As far as attacking Baltimore's defense as a whole, the Patriots must stick to their uptempo style and mix in plenty of power running plays.
How Ray Lewis and the Ravens Defense Should Attack Tom Brady
When it comes to slowing down the Patriots offense and shaking Tom Brady's seemingly unwavering confidence, a defense must pressure Tom Brady up the middle.
While New England's quarterback is occasionally taken down by an edge-rusher, his pocket presence is arguably the best of all time, and he has no issue drifting away from pressure by moving up into the pocket and delivering the ball down the field.
However, pressuring Brady up the middle isn't easily done.
The Patriots have one of the most fundamentally sound and rugged offensive lines in football and it's well-versed on stopping stunts on the interior.
Due to the presence of legitimate superstar Haloti Ngata in the middle, Lewis should be able to get close to Brady on a few delayed blitzes.
If Lewis surveys the line of scrimmage for a second and picks his pass-rushing lane, he could knock Brady down a few times.
Tom Brady should be able to use his speedy arsenal of pass-catchers to complete many short-to-intermediate passes, especially when Ray Lewis is in coverage.
However, because the Ravens defense has defensive playmakers, good schematic coaching and plenty of momentum, it should get to Brady on a few occasions.
Don't be surprised if Lewis is the guy who accumulates a few of those pressures, hits or sacks.
In the end, though, at home, Brady will be too much for Joe Flacco and the Ravens to overcome.
Baltimore's quarterback grew up in the face of adversity last week against the Broncos and will have a solid outing against a sometimes susceptible Patriots secondary. But Brady's offense can score so quickly that his team will win a high-scoring, tightly contested affair with a big second half.