Every Ravens fan and every Patriots fan remembers the last time these two teams met. The Ravens simply embarrassed the Patriots in their own stadium. The Ravens scored 24 points in the first quarter, and never looked back, essentially just running out the clock for the remainder of the game.
When is the last time a QB only had to complete four passes in a playoff game to win it?
I certainly don't expect a repeat performance this Sunday. The Patriots are an improved team defensively from last year, and I can't imagine them having another big letdown. They are coming off a bye week, which gives Bill Belichick, one of the best game planning coaches in the league, two weeks to prepare for the Ravens.
Here are three things the Ravens must do to come away with a win against an (almost) always tough opponent.
Establish the Run
This worked last year, and it needs to work again this year. The patriots don't respond well to physical smashmouth play, and establishing the run will wear the defense down. It also eats up the clock, keeping Tom Brady off the field.
Continue Solid Pass Defense
I think this game is going to come down to one team moving the ball slowly and methodically (Ravens), and one team trying to take big shots to get big plays (Patriots). I don't think the Pats have a running game that is going to be successful against the Ravens.
So, I expect to see Tom Brady try to work some magic. The Ravens must generate a pass rush and get Brady on the ground. The secondary also needs a solid game.
The Ravens need to continue to bend, but not break, and keep the Patriots out of the end zone.
Control Special Teams
I don't think the Ravens need to run back two punts for touchdowns to win this game. What they do need to do is make sure the Patriots don't get a chance to repeat what they did last week against Miami. They are very well coached and have the ability to change the game using their special teams play.
The Ravens need to worry more about making sure kicks don't get blocked than worrying about downing the ball at the five yard line.
The Patriots scored 14 points directly off special teams plays against the Dolphins; the Ravens need to make sure that doesn't happen again.
I predicted this as a win for the Ravens in my preseason picks, and I'm sticking with that. I did predict this would be a blowout, and I'm now expecting a tough close game. Either way, the Ravens will show that win last year in the playoffs wasn't a fluke.
Paul is a Ravens Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report
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