Two of the last three times these two teams have met were in AFC Championship Games, so they’re used to playing with a lot on the line. While the implications of this Sunday’s game at M&T Bank Stadium aren’t quite what those of the last two in Foxborough were, both the Ravens and Patriots have plenty to play for on Sunday.
New England can lock up the AFC East crown with a win or tie (or a Miami loss or tie in the early game), while with a win and some help they can also secure a first-round bye playoff bye.
The Ravens, of course, can secure their own playoff spot with a win and some help – particularly a Miami loss or tie AND a San Diego loss or tie. In addition, a win will keep them in the hunt for the AFC North crown, regardless of what the Cincinnati Bengals do against Minnesota early in the day.
Let’s take a look at the numbers, stats, and quotes, in this week’s Crab Bag brought to you by Jimmy’s Famous Seafood.
KNOW THY ENEMY
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“We don’t panic. We don’t let the situation get too big. I wish it wasn’t like that, that we
wouldn’t have to continue to play these types of [close] games. But we’ve played a lot of them. We’re used to having to make plays in crunch time when you’re down a couple of points or up by a couple of points. We’ve played in a lot of big-time games and in a lot of big-time atmospheres. Everybody knows how to handle them pretty well.” – QB Joe Flacco on the Ravens in crunch time
“The thing I love about our football team is that we are a team of faith. We believe. We trust. Because of that, we’ll fight. We will run the race right down to the end. That’s something that our football team does. I’m very proud of them for that.” – Head coach John Harbaugh on overcoming adversity and battling back in improbable fashion
“A month ago, I was convinced the Baltimore Ravens weren’t going to make the playoffs. Now, after another can’t-believeit-until-you-see-it moment [at Detroit], I wouldn’t be shocked if the Ravens marched to another Super Bowl. I’m not saying the Ravens are the NFL’s best team. Heck, I can’t say they’re a consistent team. But, when the game is on the line, there is no team I trust more in the NFL right now than the defending Super Bowl champions. Just think about it: The Ravens control their fate in the playoffs and the AFC North because of the right leg of Justin Tucker and their one-legged quarterback. Obviously hurt by a hit to his left knee earlier in the fourth quarter, Joe Flacco completed a 27-yard pass on third-and-15 off his back foot to get the Ravens in range for a winning field goal. Tucker then booted a franchise-record 61-yarder with 38 seconds to lift the Ravens to another improbable victory.” – ESPN.com’s Jamison Hensley on the Ravens
“You can’t do it on a bigger stage. And for him to play the way he did in the Super Bowl, I think it was a great springboard coming into the offseason, because I think he realized, ‘I can be really good, but I’ve got to really work at it.’ … Now that he has confidence and is doing everything right, he is starting to look for the ball and make plays on the ball. That’s huge because quarterbacks in this league, if they know you aren’t going to make an interception or get your hands on the ball, they’ll just throw at you all day.” – Ravens secondary coach Teryl Austin on CB Jimmy Smith’s play in 2013, boosted by a standout game in Super Bowl XLVII
“Before [Justin] Tucker performed his heroics [at Detroit], Jacoby Jones performed his yet again. After the Lions took a one-point lead with two minutes, 21 seconds to play, Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 36 yards, giving the Ravens hope that they could get into Tucker’s range. Then, after two incompletions on which Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw off his back foot, seemingly favoring a knee that took a hit late in the game, Flacco fired a rope over the middle of the field that Jones reeled in for a 27-yard gain. Do the math. Between the kickoff return and long reception, Jones moved the ball 63 yards to set up Tucker’s kick. Add those plays to his growing collection of game-changers, the kickoff returns against Pittsburgh and Minnesota, the long catch against the Jets … His impact is huge every week.” – John Eisenberg, BaltimoreRavens.com columnist, on WR/RS Jacoby Jones’ impact the past several weeks
“The thing you have to love the most is the way he shrugs [adversity] all off, which is just more proof that he’s a solid guy who – despite his New Jersey roots – personifies Baltimore football in much the same way Johnny Unitas did.” – The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck on Ravens QB Joe Flacco
“It helps that Tucker is a delightfully even-keeled personality who felt compelled, first and foremost, to joke Monday night about his impact on fantasy football playoffs. He doesn’t appear to be a person easily affected by pressure.” – ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert on K Justin Tucker
GETTING TO KNOW YOU ~ Q&A with Joe Flacco
Why do you think the Ravens are usually in the playoff hunt?
“Because we’ve done it the last handful of years consistently, I think we have a lot of confidence, whereas a lot of teams would give up or count themselves out after stumbling or facing adversity. It’s amazing how many times we pull through things you didn’t necessarily think you could. We have a lot of guys who have confidence, and we just keep fighting until the end.”
How do the Ravens keep that consistent winning atmosphere with rookies and veterans coming in and out each year?
“The veterans who come in are usually good players and hungry to win. Year to year, there’s enough guys who are here – probably three draft classes – to keep that culture going. Because we’ve won the last five or six years, there’s going to be somebody on the team that has come in and been used to winning football games. Guys who are in college now, when they think of us, they think of a team that’s been winning. When they come in, they say, ‘Oh, they’re a good football team.’ That’s their first thought.”
What was your “welcome to the NFL” moment?
“We were in New England for my first preseason game. I hadn’t played the whole game, and John [Harbaugh] put me in with two minutes left inside our own 5-yard line. I got sacked, I fumbled, and they got the ball and scored a TD. They were down by 1 and went for 2 to win, but they didn’t get it. Thank goodness, because John was so ticked at me on the sideline. It stinks when you get in, and your first or second play you fumble, and they recover it. It was his first game as a head coach, so even though it was preseason, I’m sure he wanted to win. He would have been mad if they won, and it was on me. That was a little bit of a scary moment.”
What’s the best throw you’ve ever made?
“If you just think about last year, it’s tough to rule out the throw to Jacoby [Jones] to put the game into overtime in Denver. I threw one to Dennis [Pitta] in the Super Bowl. I rolled out left, and as I was getting hit, I flung one out to the sideline. I really like that one for whatever reason.”
What’s your favorite part of the touch football games you played as a kid?
“One of my favorite things to do in the school yard was play ‘Ed Reed.’ I’d sit back there, play safety, act like I wasn’t really covering anybody, but at the last second, make up the ground and make a pick. That was the most fun thing to do. Every now and then, I’d come home and tell my dad about some sweet catch I made throughout the day. I would try to be like Randy Moss or bait somebody into a pick like Ed.”
HEY, YOU LOOK FAMILIAR ~ Key Connections
Baltimore executive vice president/general manager Ozzie Newsome began his front office career as a special assignment scout with the Browns in 1991 when Bill Belichick was the head coach.
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees spent six seasons (2004-09) on the Patriots’ coaching staff. He spent his final four years in New England as the defensive coordinator. During his tenure guiding the defense, the Patriots were the only team in the NFL to finish in the Top 10 in scoring defense in four-consecutive seasons.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s first coaching job in the NFL was with the Baltimore Colts in 1975 as a special assistant to then head coach Ted Marchibroda. Baltimore finished 10-4 that season en route to claiming the AFC East Division championship.
Patriots special teams coach Scott O’Brien held the same position for the Cleveland Browns from 1991-95 and made the move to Baltimore with the franchise to coach the Ravens’ special teams for three seasons (1996-98).
Ravens S James Ihedigbo played with New England in 2011, seeing action in 16 games (12 starts) and posting 72 tackles (50 solo).
Ravens DE Arthur Jones is the older brother of Patriots DE Chandler Jones. The Jones brothers grew up in Endicott, NY, and both attended Syracuse University, playing together in 2009. Their middle brother, Jon “Bones,” is a UFC Champion and is ranked as the No. 1 light heavyweight fighter in the world.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was raised in Annapolis, MD. Belichick played football and lacrosse at Annapolis HS, where he is currently enshrined in the Hall of Fame. His father, Steve, coached at the U.S. Naval Academy for 33 years.
Patriots CB Kyle Arrington is from Brandywine, MD. He attended Gwynn Park (Prince George’s County) HS, where he led his team to a regional championship in 2004.
LAUGH OF THE WEEK AT EXPENSE OF RAVENS’ OPPONENT