As much as the running attack keyed the Ravens' 33-14 rout of the New England Patriots in the 2009 playoffs, another critical factor was the defense's ability to pressure quarterback Tom Brady.
In that contest, the unit sacked Brady three times and registered three more quarterback hits. It's fair to say that the pass rush contributed to the quarterback tossing three interceptions.
The Ravens know they are going to need a similar effort against Brady in Sunday's AFC championship game.
"You have to pressure Brady," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "If you let him stand there, he is going to kill you."
Generating a consistent pass rush has been somewhat of a concern for the defense, which has accumulated just three sacks and eight quarterbacks hits in its last four contests. The unit failed to take down Houston Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates once in Sunday's 20-13 win in the divisional round.
"How important is it to get pressure on the quarterback? Well, you don't want, particularly this guy, to get into a seven-on-seven matchup with your defensive backs, especially when they have a 6-12, 260-pound tight end that runs about a 4.5 [40-yard dash]," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "You don't want him back there just like, 'Oh, we're just going to play catch today.' You don't want him to zone in, get in his zone, so to say. So I think pressure is going to be crucial, but it's always crucial. But particularly when you are playing these type of quarterbacks, it's pivotal."
Brady was sacked 32 times in the regular season, which put him in a tie for 13th with the Cleveland Browns' Colt McCoy for the most sacks in the NFL. Brady, who avoided getting sacked in New England's 45-10 thrashing of the Denver Broncos last Saturday, isn't taking the Ravens pass rush lightly.
"You can't take plays off against those guys," Brady said. "You can't take things for granted when you're out there against them. You have to see where they're at on every play because they're guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that they're in, they're making plays."