3. The Ravens are in Tom Brady's (gorgeous) head after he tormented them for years. For the better part of a decade, the New England Patriots bullied the Ravens whenever they would meet, crossing paths in the regular season every few years. A lot of that had to do with quarterback Tom Brady, who didn't put up his typically stellar numbers against the Ravens but always seemed to be smirking after the game's final whistle. That all changed three years ago, when the Ravens went up to Foxborough, hit Brady in his male-model mouth, and shattered the mystique of Gillette Stadium with a 33-14 playoff victory. Brady chucked three interceptions in that game, lost a fumble and threw for just 154 yards. I don't know about Brady, but the Ravens never looked at him the same. Now, the Ravens and Patriots play each other all the time. That's what happens when you are in the same conference and make the playoffs every season. The trash talk has been ratcheted down the past couple of years, but the intensity has not, and this has become arguably the best non-divisional rivalry in the NFL. The teams have met three times in the past four postseasons, and the Ravens have made Brady look surprisingly mortal in each of those games, including the Patriots' win in last year's AFC title game, so much so that while lifting the Lamar Hunt Trophy, Brady apologized to his teammates for his poor play. In those three playoff games, Brady has thrown seven interceptions and lost a fumble while throwing just three touchdown passes. Two of those interceptions came in the final quarter of Sunday's 28-13 loss, but make no mistake, the Ravens won this time around because of the passes that hit the turf in the first half. The Patriots controlled the game and the clock, not allowing the Ravens to flip field position, and they moved the ball at will. Until they crossed the Baltimore 20-yard line, that is. The Ravens, as they have done all season, clamped down inside the red zone and held the Patriots to one touchdown on their three red-zone trips before halftime. If the Ravens had allowed Brady to do more damage then, their slow-starting offense might not have gotten a fair chance to make it a game later on. After halftime, Brady and the Patriots would soon see their lead slip away. And with the bull's-eye squarely on Brady, just how they wanted it, the Ravens were able to tee off on Brady as he tried to erase a two-score deficit. First it was Haloti Ngata who crashed into him. Then it was Terrell Suggs. I'm pretty sure a couple other Ravens got a shot in there, too. Under pressure throughout the fourth quarter, Brady threw a pair of interceptions deep in Ravens territory, ones he will lament for a while. After the game, a loss that keeps him out of a record sixth Super Bowl, Brady admitted that it will take him a while to shake off Sunday's loss, another long day in which he got bullied by the Ravens again.
Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore Sun