The history between Tom Brady and the Baltimore Ravens
If you've been paying attention to most major sporting news media outlets, you would know that the Baltimore Ravens have beaten the New England Patriots in the playoffs and that this matchup is the worst possible scenario for the boys of Foxborough. Whether it was ESPN throwing out more worthless stats than you could ever imagine, or NFL.com telling you that Flacco has torn up the Patriots and Brady has played awful against the Ravens, it's not hard to get the impression that the Patriots have no chance in this game. Just stop yourself right there, take a deep breath, and prepare for some stats that will be put into the correct context.
I'm going to focus on Tom Brady, due to his impact on this game and how often he has been attacked as part of the reason why the Patriots have struggled against the Ravens. In the regular season, Brady has a 5-1 record against the Ravens, but in the postseason his record is 1-2. Six wins and only three losses is a good record, and while some people like to point out that the postseason games matter more, the context in which those losses have come make them quite understandable.
In the most recent playoff loss, the Patriots lost 28-13, with a team that looks much different today, against a team that is much different today. The Patriots outgained the Ravens 428-356 in total yards, was only slightly behind in time of possession at 28:54 to 31:06, and Brady threw for 320 yards. So why did they lose? Brady was picked off twice, once by Cary Williams, the other by Dannell Ellerbe, two players no longer on the Ravens. For as feared as this pass rush may be, the Ravens only sacked Brady once. Ray Lewis, Corey Graham, and Bernard Pollard led the team in tackles with 14, 11, and 9 respectively. None of them are on this team. Brandon Spikes was forced to lead the defense, despite not being nearly the complete linebacker that Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins have become. Brady was able to complete 29 of 54 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown to Welker.
Unlike this year, Brady was forced to throw to only three receivers: Welker, Hernandez, and Brandon Lloyd. These three accounted for 24 of Brady's 29 completions. Needless to say his options are drastically better this year in terms of confidence spreading the ball around when needed. In reality, the big reason the Ravens won this game was Flacco's ability to spread the ball around against the depleted Patriots secondary. The Ravens only averaged 3.7 yards per carry, and no receiver had more than five catches or over 69 yards. Injuries limited this team, and forced the Patriots to minimize their offense and defense, which resulted in a loss.
So how did the most recent game go? In a must-win game for the Ravens, the Patriots stepped on the gas and never took their foot off. When the bloodshed was over, the Patriots emerged as the dominant victor to the tune of 41-7. Despite not having Gronkowski and Vollmer on offense, they only needed 300 total yards to dominate the Ravens. Brady went 14 for 26 for 172 yards and one touchdown to Shane Vereen. LeGarrette Blount punished the Ravens for 76 yards rushing and two touchdowns. This was a game where the defense stepped up and allowed the Patriots offense to take it easy and coast the entire game. Did Brady play great? Not exactly, but he didn't need to. This year's defense has also allowed that to happen a number of times.
In the six regular season games against the Ravens, Brady has had a 58.29 completion percentage, 1486 yards, six touchdowns, three interceptions, which results in a QB rating of 83.6. In the playoffs, Brady hasn't lived up to his standards. His 56% completion percentage, 713 yards, three touchdowns, and seven interceptions are significantly worse than what you expect from him. That being said, his most recent loss to the Ravens was his best performance out of the three playoff games.
If this trend continues, I'd expect his best game yet against this Ravens team. But that's why they play the game.