Baltimore. The Ravens. Dark wings, dark thoughts. Painful memories…
January 10, 2010 (which will be 5 years ago to the day on Saturday), Ray Rice abusing the Patriots like they were engaged to him, the Ravens scoring 24 in the 1st quarter, Brady throwing 3 picks.
January 20, 2013, the last meaningful game the Patriots lost at Gillette Stadium. Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith taking advantage of Aqib Talib’s injury. Joe Flacco throwing 3 TDs while Brady had a QB rating of 62.3.
Even January 22, 2012, when only a missed field goal prevented the game from going into overtime.
So yeah, there are reasons to not be thrilled to face the Ravens. Even though they’re the 6th seed. Even though they were 6-6 this season against non-NFC South teams.
Joe Flacco’s postseason resume is another cause for concern. Of the other AFC playoff QBs, only he and Roethlisberger have a fearsome playoff pedigree. Flacco is also a proven winner at Gillette. Hell, he’s been significantly better than Brady in playoff games in Foxborough the last 5 years.
Psychological scars and matchup issues aside, if you can’t beat the #6 seed, at home, then you don’t deserve to win a Super Bowl. It’s as simple as that. So while this is a relatively tough opponent for the Patriots to face, this is football, this is winter, it’s supposed to be tough. It was tough in 2001 facing the Raiders, Steelers, and Rams. It was tough in 2003 and 2004 facing the Colts, Titans, and Eagles.
So let’s move on from the past and focus on Saturday’s game.
I’m going to be short and sweet in my analysis. The Patriots need to avoid the three Fs:
Fumbling (and throwing fucking picks)
The Pats can’t play mediocre football for a half or 3 quarters, then hope to put it all together at the end. The clock in a playoff game moves unbelievably fast when you’re playing from behind. So no fucking around, no waiting until after halftime to play your best.
Another thing the Pats can’t fuck around with is play calling. Baltimore isn’t good at defending the pass and were 4th best defending the run. So yes, Josh McDaniels, the Ravens will be expecting you to throw the ball. And that’s okay. It’s okay to do what they expect, because the reason they expect it is because they’re not good at stopping it.
When Josh McDaniels was a young child, I bet he poured sugar on slugs, because he figured the slugs expected salt.
No fucking up starts with not letting Tom Brady get killed. Don’t run plays that require Brady to sit in the pocket for 30 seconds while a receiver makes a double move or a crossing route develops. Short quick passes will keep Brady on his feet. Not doing so would be a colossal fuck up.
No Wes Welker style drops. No missed field goals. No botched snaps. No Patrick Chung fake punts. No blown coverages or missed tackles that result in 40 yard gains. No unnecessary penalties.
Last but certainly not least, protecting the football is of paramount importance, more than in most games. In the three recent playoff games against Baltimore, the Pats turned the ball over 10 times. Baltimore only turned it over 3 times. The Pats don’t need to win the turnover battle to win the game. But if they don’t lose the turnover stat, then it will be nearly impossible for the Ravens to win the game.
As physical and tough as the Ravens are, as well as Flacco has played in Foxborough, this is still the Patriots’ game to lose. If they avoid getting cute, play a full 60 minutes, don’t make massive mistakes, and keep the ball in their hands, they should win.
My prediction: Patriots 27, Ravens 17