Regardless of the Ravens knocking off the New England Patriots 31-30 early in season, coach John Harbaugh is throwing that out the window going into Sunday’s AFC championship game.
Both teams have gone through re-inventions. The Ravens have re-tooled defensively and now have Terrell Suggs, who was out with an Achilles injury, and re-inserted Bryant McKinnie at left tackle. Bernard Pierce, if healthy, gives them another option out of the backfield. He only had 4 carries for 17 yards.
While the Patriots remain the NFL’s best team at giveaway-takeaway margin, they’re just 25th in overall defense with 373.2 allowed per game in the regular season. They forced 41 turnovers on defense.
The Patriots also have added better coverage in the secondary with Aqib Talib who was acquired via trade after these teams met in Week 3.
Instead of relying heavily on Stevan Ridley in the running game to beat the Houston Texans 41-28 in a divisional playoff game (15 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD), the Patriots called on Shane Vereen. The second-year back, who had only 251 yards in spot duty during the regular season, had 41 yards rushing and 1 TD on 7 carries and 5 catches for 83 yards and 2 TDs.
Vereen didn't play in the Patriots’ Week 3 meeting with the Ravens. He’s behind Ridley and Danny Woodhead on coach Bill Belichick’s depth chart.
"Everybody evolves and grows as a team. Players are hurt; players are back. Schemes change. This is a team that changes a lot,” Harbaugh said. “They are like a chameleon. You never really know schematically what they are going to come out and do.
“That’s been a trademark of coach Belichick’s for as long as he’s been coaching. He does a great job of that, because he schemes the next game. That’s something that lends to their success.”