For Patriots, AFC Championship game is business as usual
The New England Patriots led the NFL scoring with 557 points, third-highest all-time and almost 100 more than the next highest total this season.
So going into Sunday’s AFC title game vs. the Ravens, who are 16th with a franchise-high 398 points, the Patriots are more likely to make the big plays, right?
When these teams play head-to-head, the Ravens, coming off quarterback Joe Flacco’s four-quarter, 70-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Jones in a divisional playoff win vs. the Denver Broncos last week, actually have the edge.
“They’re a team that can put up a lot of points,” receiver Anquan Boldin said of the Patriots. “They’re a team that gives you a lot of different looks. So, we know going into a game like that we have to play well.”
In the Ravens’ 31-30 win vs. the Patriots in Week 3 of the regular season, they had 9 plays of 20 yards or more. The Patriots had only 4.
Jones had the longest reception for Baltimore, hauling in the ball from 41 yards, as well as 24 and 21.
Torrey Smith, who led with 6 catches for a team-high 127 yards and 2 TDs, had catches of 38, 32 and 25 yards.
In a 24-9 win vs. the Indianapolis Colts to open the playoffs, the Ravens had 8 plays of 20 yards or more with Boldin’s 50-yarder to top the list. They had 6 vs. Denver last week. They surpassed both opponents in the category.
Rewinding to the 2012 AFC title game between these same teams, won 23-20 by the Patriots, the Ravens dominated the big plays again.
Brady generated only 3 plays of 20 yards or more in that game. All were to tight end Rob Gronkowski of 23, 21 and 20 yards. He has a broken forearm that will require surgery and won’t play Sunday.
Flacco had 5 plays of 20 yards or more with the longest being for 42 yards to Smith. Smith also had a 29-yard TD catch.
The Patriots averaged 35 points per game this season in large part because Brady protects the ball and his defense creates turnovers that lead to easy scoring opportunities.
They were No. 2 in the NFL in takeaways with 41. They only had 16 turnovers, which equals a giveaway-takeaway margin of plus-25 which is best in the league.
For his part, Flacco dismisses the suggestion that his performance rises with the stakes.
“The fact that you’re playing one way in the regular season and a completely different way in the playoffs, I think that’s a bunch of crap,” he said. “We go out there and lay it on the line every week and … I’d be doing myself a disservice and everybody else in the league a disservice if I were to say I thought the playoffs were different.
“I really don’t. There’s obviously a little bit more on the line, because if you don’t win, you go home. But you've put yourself into that position and every one of those games was just as important as the others, so I don’t really buy into that.”