Final

Ravens 20

(12-4, 4-4 away)

Patriots 23

(13-3, 7-1 home)

Coverage: CBS

3:00 PM ET, January 22, 2012

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA 

1 2 3 4 T
BAL 0 10 10 020
NE 3 10 3 723

Top Performers

Passing: J. Flacco (BAL) - 306 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: B. Green-Ellis (NE) - 15 CAR, 68 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: A. Boldin (BAL) - 6 REC, 101 YDS

Ravens-Patriots Preview

STATS LLC

After cruising to a lopsided victory behind another extraordinary Tom Brady-led offensive display last weekend, the New England Patriots find themselves on the verge of their fifth Super Bowl appearance in 11 seasons.

While the Baltimore Ravens' path to the AFC championship game proved to be a bit more rocky, they continue to persevere thanks to one of the stingiest defenses in the league.

The Ravens look to slow down Brady and the prolific Patriots offense Sunday when these teams meet in Foxborough with a trip to Super Bowl XLVI on the line.

Coming into last weekend with three consecutive postseason defeats -- the first of those a loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII -- New England (14-3) snapped that skid in emphatic fashion in the divisional round Saturday. The Patriots jumped out to a 14-0 lead and rolled to a 45-10 blowout of Denver, as Brady threw for 363 yards and matched an NFL postseason record with six touchdown passes.

"You lose a few playoff games and it's a very bitter way to end the season and it sits on your mind for quite a long time," Brady said. "For us to come out and play the way we did, have a very solid performance in the most important game of the year, is very gratifying.

"From this point on, everyone will be focused on what we need to do to be better next week and, hopefully, come out and play for another championship."

While Brady was able to pick apart the Broncos' defense, a repeat performance against the Ravens (13-4) may be harder to come by. Baltimore ranks third in the NFL with 16.6 points and 288.9 yards allowed per game, and it led the conference with 48 sacks -- 14 by Terrell Suggs.

The challenge for New England's passing attack, second in the league with 317.8 yards a game, is solving a Ravens' pass defense that gave up 196.3 yards per contest during the regular season -- fourth in the NFL.

The Ravens "are the best team we've faced all year," Brady said. "There's no one that's going to overlook a team like that. It would be impossible to do. They present a ton of challenges in all three phases of the game ... they're physical, they're tough, they can cover.

"They've got some of the best players in the history of the NFL at their position, in Suggs and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata."

Brady is all too familiar with Baltimore's ability on defense. Those four players were part of a unit that helped spark the Ravens to a 33-14 wild-card victory over New England in the teams' only playoff meeting Jan. 10, 2010. Brady threw three interceptions, was sacked three times and threw for just 154 yards as the Patriots lost after falling behind 24-0 in the first quarter.

"We really haven't given it much thought because it is a different season and a different team," special teams captain Matthew Slater said of that defeat. "We do remember the sting of getting embarrassed at home. ... Those guys beat us from the opening snap all the way through. We have to try to avoid that."

New England will be facing a Ravens team that seems unlikely to be intimidated by the Gillette Stadium surroundings as it seeks its first Super Bowl appearance since winning the championship in 2000.

"We've gone (to Foxborough) and played before," said Baltimore's Joe Flacco, who threw for just 34 yards and had an interception in that playoff game as Baltimore ran for 234 yards -- 159 from Ray Rice.

"We have won in New England. They are one of the teams, like us, that's tough to beat at home. We know how tough it is to go into a place like that, a place like here, and win a football game. So we're going to have to make sure we prepare well all week and bring our A-game up there."

At least one of Flacco's teammates, however, could be worried about whether the quarterback will do that. Baltimore survived against Houston in the divisional round, winning 20-13 after forcing four turnovers -- including Reed's late interception to help seal the win.

In a radio interview this week, Reed expressed some concern about the team's ability to move the ball after the Ravens gained only 227 yards against the Texans.

"I think a couple of times he needed to get rid of the ball. It just didn't look like he had a hold on the offense," Reed said.

"I think Flacco can have a breakout game, especially after last week. ... I know he is definitely coming back to show himself off."

Flacco shrugged off the comments, saying he had resolved things with Reed.

"It was a little funny to me, I was a little caught off guard," he told the team's official website. "It is what it is, we talked about it. It's not really that big of a deal."

Flacco, the only quarterback in NFL history to win a playoff game in each of his first four seasons in the league, threw for 176 yards and two touchdowns versus the Texans but was sacked five times and missed several easy throws.

That could be a problem if Baltimore can't get its 10th-ranked rushing game going for a second straight week. Rice, second in the league with 1,364 yards on the ground, managed 60 on 21 carries as the Ravens rushed for 87 yards -- well below their 124.8 average.

New England allowed 117.1 yards rushing per contest this season and gave up 144 last week.

"I would anticipate, against the team we're about to play, you have to do a better job offensively in terms of stats and points," said coach John Harbaugh, whose team managed one field goal over the final 46 minutes versus Houston.

While New England could struggle to slow down Baltimore's ground game, the Ravens are sure to have their hands full with the Patriots' tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Gronkowski, who broke NFL single-season records for his position with 1,327 yards and 17 TDs, caught 10 passes for 145 yards and matched a postseason record with three more scores versus Denver. Hernandez hauled in four passes for 55 yards and a TD to go along with a team-high 61 rushing yards before leaving with a head injury in the fourth quarter.

"Everybody makes big plays on this team," said Hernandez, who is expected to be available Sunday. "That's why our offense is real dangerous. We've got so many weapons they don't know who to cover."

The Patriots averaged 428.0 yards, second in the league, and their 32.1 points a contest were third. Brady's 5,235 passing yards were second most in NFL history, trailing Drew Brees' 5,476, a mark he established this year.

New England has dominated Baltimore in the regular season, winning all six meetings, while Brady has gone 4-1 against the Ravens including the playoff game. However, his 71.4 quarterback rating in those contests is his lowest against any team.

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Passing Leaders

BaltimoreCMP%YDSTDINT
J. Flacco63.4105572
New EnglandCMP%YDSTDINT
T. Brady59.179142
J. Garoppolo85.77010

Rushing Leaders

BaltimoreCARYDSAVGTD
J. Forsett442555.82
L. Taliaferro331494.52
New EnglandCARYDSAVGTD
S. Ridley572043.61
S. Vereen281224.41

Receiving Leaders

BaltimoreRECYDSAVGTD
S. Smith2542917.23
T. Smith813817.31
New EnglandRECYDSAVGTD
J. Edelman2628310.91
B. LaFell1016516.51

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

TEAM OFFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Total YardsBAL
 
 339
NE
 
 428
Yards PassingBAL
 
 214
NE
 
 318
Yards RushingBAL
 
 125
NE
 
 110
TEAM DEFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Yards AllowedBAL
 
 289
NE
 
 411
Pass Yds AllowedBAL
 
 196
NE
 
 294
Rush Yds AllowedBAL
 
 93
NE
 
 117

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

New England leads 5-1
Oct 17, 2010BAL 20, @NE 23
Jan 10, 2010BAL 33, @NE 14
Oct 4, 2009BAL 21, @NE 27
Dec 3, 2007BAL 24, NE 27
Nov 28, 2004BAL 3, @NE 24

Research Notes

When Joe Flacco and the Ravens take on the Patriots Sunday, it will be just the 6th game this season that Ravens will NOT be playing a top-10 defense (including playoffs). However, Flacco has actually performed better against the top-10 defenses, with just 6 interceptions in 12 games. The Ravens were 10-2 against top-10 defenses and just 3-2 against the "lesser" defenses.
  [+]
When Tom Brady and the Patriots play the Ravens Sunday, it will be the 4th game this season that they have faced a top-5 defense (Jets twice, Steelers). While Brady had more yards per game against the "lesser" defenses, he actually had just 1 interception in those 3 games against top-5 defenses and a higher QBR!
  [+]
The AFC Championship game will pit the Ravens defense which ranked 3rd in scoring and 4th against the pass against a Patriots offense that was 3rd in scoring and 2nd against the pass.
  [+]

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