Quarterback Tom Brady has faced the Baltimore Ravens seven times in his career, and even though the Patriots are 5-2 in those games, rarely has it been easy. Just twice, in fact, has the scoring margin been more than a touchdown: the Patriots beat the Ravens, 24-3, in 2004, and the Ravens ended the Patriots' season in 2010 with a 33-14 playoff win at Gillette Stadium.
"It’s not like you beat this team 50-0," Brady said at a press conference on Wednesday. "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 won’t be an easy throw this weekend. They really challenge you, that’s why they’re in this game, they’re not going to just 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, so that has to be our mindset, that’s what we’ll really need to be able to do."
Brady said Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who has announced that this season will be his last, is someone he always needs to find. But even though he'll be able to see Lewis, Brady knows what kind of plays the 13-time Pro Bowler is capable of making.
"He doesn’t give up hardly any plays, makes a ton of tackles, great in the pass game, great in the run game," Brady said. "He blitzes well, like he did a few years ago. He’s really a playmaker for them, so they give him the opportunity to make those plays, and you see when he makes a play their whole sideline gets really amped up.
"You always have to know where 52’s at. He’s always right in the middle of the defense, but whether he’s blitzing or covering or he’s free in the middle of the field, you always have to take him into account."
Brady, unlike the regular-season game with the Ravens, won't have tight end Rob Gronkowski to throw to, since the tight end is out for the rest of the playoffs after breaking his left forearm in Sunday's win over the Texans for a second time this season. The Patriots went 4-1 without Gronkowski during the regular season, but they had the luxury of knowing they'd be playing a game the following week. They're not in that position anymore.
"We learned a little bit about ourselves. You prepare as if everyone’s going to be there, and then things happen in the game and you have to be able to adjust," Brady said. "There was quite a bit of adjusting the other night, same thing could happen this weekend. Whoever’s on the field has to perform at a high level, this is the biggest game of our year, so there’s really no excuses at this point, there’s nothing beyond this week that’s guaranteed, so we’ve got to go out there and earn it."