Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis doesn't care that the Ravens are eight-point… (Patrick Semansky / Associated…)
Ready for an (almost) instant replay?
The Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots are meeting in the AFC championship game Sunday for the second consecutive year in a matchup that has almost always come down to the final possession.
New England’s Bill Belichick and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh have faced each other five times, and Belichick is 3-2. There has been one blowout — the Ravens beat the Patriots, 33-14, in a wild-card game at New England in January, 2010 — but the margins of victory in the other games were, in order: 6, 3, 3 and 1.
Winning will be a tall order for the Ravens, seeing as the Patriots have never lost at home with the Super Bowl on the line.
“I think we personally kind of wanted to play the Patriots again,” Baltimore defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said. “If we go to the Super Bowl, it would be great to go through Foxborough.”
The Patriots are favored by eight points, and Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis could not be happier about it.
“My Super Bowl year in 2000, we were never picked one time the entire season to win a game. Not one time,” Lewis said. “But at the end of the day, we held the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champs. That alone taught me a valuable lesson — that no one outside dictates how we play on the inside.”
We meet again
Sunday’s AFC matchup marks the seventh time two teams have faced off in the AFL/AFC championship in back-to-back seasons and the first time since the 1986 and 1987 seasons (Denver-Cleveland). If the Patriots beat the Ravens, the record of clubs who defeated the same opponent in the previous year’s AFC championship game will improve to 6-1.
AFC championship game-winning teams that faced the same opponent in the next year’s title game:
W, 23-20 (OT)
New England quarterback Tom Brady has thrown for 5,629 yards and 41 touchdowns in his postseason career.
If Brady passes for at least 227 yards and four touchdowns this weekend against Baltimore, he would surpass Brett Favre (5,855 yards, 44 touchdowns) for the most postseason passing yards and tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana (5,772 yards, 45 touchdowns) for the most postseason passing touchdowns in NFL history.
Last week, Brady (17) surpassed Montana (16) for the most playoff wins all-time.
Quarterbacks with the most postseason passing yards and passing touchdowns in NFL history (*active this weekend):
CBS’ Phil Simms: “Joe Flacco plays in a system that’s what I call, and I don’t mean this to demean the staff at the Ravens, it’s not quarterback-friendly. It’s not about hitting a tremendously high percentage of your passes because look where he throws it. I mean, watch the game the other day. What team throws the football down the field like that? He doesn’t get a lot of screens. There’s not a lot of quick throws, there’s not a lot of gadgets. I take that into account when I do judge quarterbacks. I don’t know their numbers. I don’t care. I let my eye tell me what I know about them.”
By the numbers
How teams compare statistically during the regular season. All stats are per-game averages, except for sacks and turnover differential, which are for the season (league rank in parentheses):
The Ravens in an upset. Their defense is coming together at the right time, and Flacco is capable of putting a solid game together. Four of the last five times these teams have met, the game has come down to the last possession. This will be no different. RAVENS 28, PATRIOTS 27.