AFC Championship Game 2013: Revitalized Pass Rush Key for Ravens vs. Patriots
The Baltimore Ravens collected a combined six sacks in the playoffs against the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos.
This was despite posting 37 sacks during the regular season, tied for 15th in the NFL.
Make no mistake about it, getting pressure on Tom Brady will be key if the Ravens are to upset the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Brady was sacked three times in New England's 41-34 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15. He responded by averaging a mediocre 6.8 yards per pass attempt, while tossing one touchdown to two interceptions.
In the 41-28 victory over the Houston Texans in the divisional round, Brady was sacked just once. In the process, he averaged 8.6 yards per attempt, while tossing three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
As Brady has exhibited time and again throughout his career, if you let him sit back and feel comfortable in the pocket, he's going to pick you apart.
Unlike the two teams' last meeting in Week 3, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs is now healthy for the Ravens. In Baltimore's 38-35 overtime victory over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the divisional round, Suggs collected two sacks and one quarterback hit.
How the Patriots' offensive line fares against Suggs could be the difference between a win and a loss for New England.
Will the Ravens upset the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game?
On top of that, while Ravens cornerback Corey Graham hasn't been perfect since grabbing the starting job in Week 10 (he gave up Brandon Stokley's touchdown catch last week), he's proved a nice surprise for Baltimore more often than not. All in all, he's making enough plays to make the Baltimore secondary better overall when he's on the field.
As a result, there may be a few instances in Sunday's game where Brady has to hold the ball a bit longer than he wants. Combined with the fact Brady doesn't have tight end Rob Gronkowski anymore (fractured forearm), I certainly wouldn't expect it to be an easy game for the veteran signal caller, even in Foxborough.
The Patriots may be favored in the AFC Championship Game, but the Ravens certainly have a shot at upsetting Brady and company, especially after their thrilling victory over the Broncos in the divisional round.
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