January 16, 2013

QB Brady braces for team that often has his number

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New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) and quarterback Tom Brady run during practice at the NFL football team's facility in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. The Patriots will play the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game for the second year in a row at Foxborough this Sunday. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady responds to a reporter's question during a media availability at the NFL football team's facility in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. The Patriots meet the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game on Sunday. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

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The Patriots got off to a horrible start against the Ravens in their wild-card matchup three years ago and Brady was a major factor.

Ray Rice scored on an 83-yard run on the game's first offensive play. Then Brady turned the ball over on three of his first four possessions, leading to 17 points and a 24-0 Ravens lead after one quarter.

They started at the Patriots 17-yard line after Terrell Suggs recovered Brady's fumble, the 25 after Chris Carr intercepted a pass and the 9 after Reed picked off another one.

Six minutes into the game with the Patriots trailing 14-0, the fans booed their hometown team.

"I'd have been booing us, too, the way we played," Brady said after the game. "Playing the way we played today, we weren't going to beat anybody."

He next played against Baltimore in last year's AFC championship game. The Patriots won that 23-20, but Brady threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, had a 57.5 passer rating and helped keep the Ravens in the game.

The Patriots took that three-point lead when Brady capped a 63-yard drive with a 1-yard run on the first series of the fourth quarter. But their next two drives ended when he threw an interception then couldn't get a first down when the Patriots got the ball with 2:46 remaining.

They punted and Flacco led the Ravens from their 21 to a second-and-1 at the Patriots 14. But then he threw two incompletions, the first when Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone, and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt on the next to last play.

In their most recent meeting, the Patriots led 30-21 on Sept. 23 in the fourth quarter but punted on their last two possessions. The Ravens then scored 10 points in the last 4:01 and won 31-30 on Justin Tucker's 27-yard field goal on the final play.

That was typical of Ravens-Patriots matchups — close with the outcome determined late in the game.

Five of Brady's seven games against them were won by six points or less. Two of the last three were won on last-play field goals. The third was decided when Cundiff missed his field goal attempt with 11 seconds remaining in last year's AFC title game.

"They're as good as any team we played this year, better than most," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "We're playing a team that we had a great, great game with earlier in the season. It came down to the last play. We don't really expect much less than that this time around."

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