FOXBOROUGH — When it comes to playing the Ravens, nothing has come easy for the Patriots or for Tom Brady, who is 1-1 in two postseason games vs. Baltimore.
“I think they have great personnel, they have a lot of playmakers at each level of the defense,’’ said Brady, who has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdown passes (2) in his playoff appearances against the Ravens.
“It’s not like you beat this team 50-0,’’ Brady said. “It’s always a tight game. There’s tight coverage, there’s tight throws, there’s tough reads because schematically they do quite a few things.
“It’s never easy. There’s not an easy throw. There won’t be an easy throw this weekend.’’
This will be a rematch of last year’s AFC Championship, which New England won, 23-20, despite the fact that Brady (2 interceptions, no touchdowns) was outplayed by Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (306 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT).
Overall, Brady has a 58.6 completion percentage and a 74.1 passer rating against the Ravens, his lowest marks against any opponent.
“I think they really challenge you,’’ Brady said. “That’s why they’re in this game. That’s why our guys will see if we can step to that challenge. They’re not just going to hand you the ball, hand you points, hand you easy scores.
“They’re great in the red area, they’re great on third down, they really make you earn it.’’
Friend and foe
Vince Wilfork spoke with reverence about the impact Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis has had on the game. But the Patriots nose tackle said he would set aside his collegial feelings for his fellow University of Miami alumnus when the teams meet Sunday.
“We bleed Orange and Green,’’ Wilfork said. “I love to see my guys around the league. It just shows you that we had something special down there.
“We have mutual respect, but at the end of the day, I want to win and he wants to win. We are always competitive. Hurricane or no Hurricane, I’m a New England Patriot and I want to win, plain and simple.
“I’m pretty sure he is Baltimore and he wants to win, so we are going to battle our tails off for however long it takes.’’
Win or lose, Wilfork said he would seek out Lewis to pay his respects.
“After the game we’ll wish each other luck and hopefully, with that guy going out, I’ll just let him know what he meant to this game,’’ Wilfork said. “Because he meant a lot to this game.’’
The way to eight?
The Patriots are making their ninth appearance in the AFC Championship game and trying to advance to their eighth Super Bowl, which would match Dallas and Pittsburgh for most in the league.
It is, most players say, a reflection of the Patriot Way.
“To me, it starts at the top with the Kraft family,’’ said linebacker Jerod Mayo. “Not only being a good football player, but being a good person and falling in line.’’
The success, Mayo said, is based on sacrifice as well.
“If you want to be a good football team, you’ll never be stuck in rush-hour traffic,’’ he said. “You are the first one here and the last one to leave. I think guys really buy into that. Guys that come from other teams, I think they follow the lead of the bulk of this team and it has worked well here.’’
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard missed Wednesday’s practice session in sweats and shells. The team listed Dennard’s absence as being non-injury-related . . . The Patriots listed five players as being limited: cornerback Marquice Cole (finger), defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle), offensive lineman Nick McDonald (shoulder), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), and running back Danny Woodhead (thumb). The Ravens, meanwhile, had one player miss practice — cornerback Asa Jackson (thigh) — and listed four others as limited: running back Anthony Allen (head), guard Gino Gradkowski (head), running back Bernard Pierce (knee), and wide receiver David Reed (thigh) . . . The Lamar Hunt AFC Championship Trophy was on hand at Gillette Stadium. It was put on a pedestal adjacent to a podium, but was scarcely noticed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who ranks third all-time in postseason wins (18) behind Don Shula (19) and Tom Landry (20). Asked about his legacy, Belichick said, “Right now, I’m trying to beat the Ravens. That’s where our football team’s challenge is. That’s what we’re focused on. The rest of it is for another time or another place.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.