AFC Championship: Patriots vs. Ravens
FOXBOROUGH, Mass — There’s something about the Baltimore Ravens that brings out the worst in Tom Brady.
Against most teams, he plays like one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Against the Ravens, he gets outplayed by Joe Flacco.
So what’s the problem?
Start with the Ravens’ inspirational, hard-hitting leader, Ray Lewis. Add a talented secondary led by Ed Reed. And throw in a strong defensive line with Haloti Ngata leading the charge.
“They have a lot of playmakers at each level of the defense,” Brady said Wednesday before the New England Patriots practiced. “It’s not like you beat this team, 50-0. It’s always a tight game. There’s tight coverage. There’s tight throws, tough reads because schematically they do quite a few things. So it’s never easy.”
He doesn’t expect it to be in tonight’s AFC championship game.
“You play against a team like this, that’s able to adjust because of their personnel and because they do a lot of things schematically, there are a lot of ‘what ifs’ in preparation throughout the course of the week,” he said. “That’s really what we’re trying to hone in on this week.”
Brady is 5-2 in his seven games against the Ravens, not a bad record. But his personal statistics are among the poorest against any of the 31 teams he’s faced in his 13-year career.
His 58.6 completion percentage and 74.1 passer rating are the lowest against any opponent. The Ravens are the only team he’s thrown more interceptions against (eight) than touchdowns (seven). They’ve sacked him 16 times, one of five teams averaging more than two a game against Brady.
In five games against the Patriots, Flacco is 2-3 but has completed 64.7 percent of his passes with a 95.7 passer rating. He’s thrown for nine touchdowns and just four interceptions.
Brady’s 49.1 rating in a 33-14 playoff loss to Baltimore on Jan. 10, 2010 is his lowest in his last 101 games and sixth lowest in his 198 career starts, including the postseason.
“For one, you’ve got a guy (Lewis) that’s been playing ball for 17 years sitting in the middle, so that tells you right there that their leadership is one of the best things that they have,” Patriots running back Stevan Ridley said. “They’re known for defense. They’re known for Ray Lewis. They’re known for Ed Reed.
“You’re going to see some of the greats going at it (Sunday night). What else could you ask for. This is what you live for. This is playoff football.”
Some quarterbacks say they establish their legacy with their postseason play.
Brady, winner of two regular-season MVP awards and two more in Super Bowls, has no time to dwell on that now.
“I don’t really think about any of that,” he said. “I’m just trying to win a football game this week. I think we’re very short-term focused and playing against a great football team that obviously deserves the right to be here. We know how challenging of a team they are.”
The Ravens know how good Brady can be even though he’s struggled at times against them.
“We’ve got to play smart. We’re dealing with a brilliant quarterback,” safety Bernard Pollard said. “We have to understand … the pieces he has around him. He can fire that ball to anybody, and they’re going to play their tails off for him.”
In their most recent meeting, the Patriots led 30-21 on Sept. 23 in the fourth quarter but punted on their last two possessions. The Ravens then scored 10 points in the last 4:01 and won 31-30 on Justin Tucker’s 27-yard field goal on the final play.