Ahhh… Patriots week.
Usually dreaded, not so much anymore.
The history is rich in what is considered by many Ravens fans as the fieriest rivalry outside of the AFC North. For the first time in ages, John Harbaugh and the Ravens will get to take on a Patriots team without HOF QB Tom Brady. I’m not complaining.
Historically, the Ravens have not fared too well against The Patriots. New England leads the series 10-4 and have outscored the Ravens 373-319.
Thanks to January Joe Flacco and Ray Rice, who we all knew and loved, the post-season record between the two is dead even at 2-2. While it isn’t quite time to etch another W into our post season record, the Ravens certainly have a great shot to add another win to their 6-2 season. The Patriots have been more inconsistent than any of us would have imagined even three years ago. The once power house, chalked up Super Bowl contenders, have morphed into a team that even the NY Jets can compete with all game long, and it feels good. Damn good.
The Ravens should have a field day on both sides of the ball, but particularly on defense against an inconsistent Cam Newton and a struggling surrounding cast that has been missing their #1 RB and WR in Sony Michel and Julian Edelman. While this week’s game may prove to be one of the lesser exciting affairs of the season, it has historically been an exciting matchup that had us losing our voices the next day, for as long as we can remember.
The one game in all of Ravens-Patriots history that still haunts me to this day (as I am sure it does many of you), is the 2011 AFC Championship.
It was a battle between the favorites to win it all, The Patriots against “that team you don’t want to play in the playoffs”, the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens looked like the better team for most of this game and had Ravens fans feeling like we were gonna beat the Patriots and go win the Super Bowl.
Really, the Ravens outpaced the Patriots in basically all facets of the game. Here is a list:
Rush yards: Ravens 116 Patriots 96
Pass yards: Ravens 282 Patriots 234
Sacks: Ravens 3 Patriots 1
Forced turnovers: Ravens 3 Patriots 1
Possession time: Ravens 33 Patriots 26
Unfortunately, what was ultimately the most important facet of the game was not up to the task. Passionately disliked by me and passionately loved by Patriots fans, former Baltimore Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff! I’ve mentioned him before and I will never stop. Outside of the Ravens’ Super Bowl win over the 49ers, the only other moment in Ravens history I remember so vividly that I can still feel all of the emotions is that exact moment in time where Cundiff shanked the game-tying field goal. If you’re reading this Billy, you left a traumatic scar on my childhood.
Anyway, with 11 seconds on the clock, all Billy had to do was kick a simple 32-yard field goal. Pretty routine, right? Well we all know how that turned out. While this is always the play we remember, we have to cut Billy just the slightest amount of slack because two plays earlier, Lee Evans dropped a game-winning TD in the end zone. It was in this game that Tom Brady won his 16th career post season game, tying Joe Montana’s record. Respect.
Aside from Billy’s little mishap, the Ravens played outstanding against one of the most stacked Patriots teams in history. They were loaded up on offense with Brady, Gronk, Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, and who could forget the household name, stud running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis!
Of course, all’s well that ends well. If Evans makes that catch, or if Cundiff makes that kick, it’s likely the Ravens don’t move on to new rookie kicker Justin Tucker in 2012. The team likely isn’t as energized in 2012, and perhaps doesn’t get revenge on that same field on their way to a Super Bowl XLVII win. But there was no way to know that’s how things would play out, and Ravens fans will still never forget the pit in our stomachs following those two fateful plays. Plays that, had 2012 not happened, would define the Flacco-Harbaugh era in Baltimore.
While it will be nice to – hopefully – not be nearly induced into cardiac arrest due to the high blood pressure those games brought us, I will surely miss the Brady battles.
They were some of the most intense and harshly fought games we’ve had.