Strange things can happen when the Ravens play the New England Patriots.
The teams have a history of controversial calls, hard hits, and banter between the players that lasts long after the final whistle.
There’s not exactly bad blood between the teams because they don’t see each other that often.
But expect the unexpected when the Ravens and Patriots meet on Sunday night in the marquee matchup for Week 9.
“It’s even more exciting because you’re playing the defending champs,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Obviously, they’re playing great. [They are] a very well-coached football team, always are. [They are a] very smart football team, tough football team. So, that gets you fired up. That’s what you’re in this business for. We’ll be excited for it, but for us, it’s really more about just taking care of our business day to day and getting ready to play the game.”
Many fans will remember another prime-time meeting in Baltimore.
It was only the most infamous game in the history of the Ravens.
On Dec. 3, 2007, the Ravens were just one play away from handing the Patriots their first loss of the season in front of a national television audience on Monday Night Football.
Then, the game completely unraveled.
The Ravens needed to stop the Patriots on a fourth-and-1 with 1:48 remaining to seal the win. The defenders appeared to get that stop when they pushed Tom Brady back into the pile on an attempted quarterback sneak.
Just as the Ravens were about to celebrate, the referee informed the players that then-defensive coordinator Rex Ryan had called a timeout just before the ball was snapped. New England took advantage of another opportunity to convert the first down from the Ravens’ 30.
But things got even worse for Baltimore.
The Ravens forced an incomplete pass from Brady to Benjamin Watson on a fourth-and-5 from the 13. The celebration was cut short once again when defensive back Jamaine Winborne was penalized for holding, which gave New England another first down from the 8. The Ravens vehemently protested the call, sending the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium into a howling frenzy.
Once again, Brady made the Ravens for their mistake and threw a touchdown pass to receiver Jabar Gaffney in the corner of the end zone. However, the Ravens protested that Gaffney never had control of the ball; it wobbled as he landed out of bounds.
The Patriots escaped with a 27-24 victory and improved to 12-0. They suffered their only loss of the season in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants.
“It’s hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time,” former Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister said after the game. “They put the crown on top and they want them to win.”
The Ravens got a measure of revenge on another Sunday night game on Sept. 23, 2012 at M&T Bank Stadium. Justin Tucker made one of the biggest kicks of his rookie season when made a 27-yard field goal as time expired to give the Ravens a 31-30 victory. The Patriots protested that Tucker’s kick sailed wide right … it didn’t.
Torrey Smith caught six passes for 127 yards with two touchdowns just one day after his brother was killed in a motorcycle accident.
The Ravens would certainly love to have an easier time when the teams meet again this weekend. However, New England is once again undefeated and the heavy favorite to win their seventh Super Bowl title.
The Patriots are balanced on both sides of the ball. They have a whopping +189 point differential. The Ravens simply cannot turn the ball over because New England makes teams pay for their mistakes.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has been solid taking care of the football thus far. He will need to play his best game to topple the Patriots.
“They’re creating an incredible amount of turnovers, especially early in games. But the basis of it to me is they’re an old-school defense,” Harbaugh said. “They’re a big, strong defense. They play straight ahead. They play square. They lock out. They get off blocks. They keep their eyes on their responsibility.
“They’ll play a good mix of man and zone but mostly man in the back end. They have cover guys back there that can cover exceptionally well. [They have] a lot of experience in the back end, as well, so they know what they’re doing. They play with good technique. It’s just a very solid defense, a very physical defense, too.”
Drama … intrigue … this Sunday night matchup should have it all.
The Patriots lead the regular-season series 8-1. The teams have split their four playoff games.
The confident Ravens are looking to surprise everyone, but themselves.
Buy Todd’s new book, No Limits, on Mark Amatucci’s storied coaching career at Calvert Hall and Loyola College, at Amazon.