There’s more than one way to beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, and the best chance for the Ravens actually comes with their defense against the running game.
The Patriots are vulnerable when they can’t get the running game in gear.
Stevan Ridley led them with 1,263 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. That’s the most yards for a Patriots player since Corey Dillon’s 1,635 rushing yards in 2004.
The Ravens, who beat the Patriots 31-30 in Week 3, held Ridley to 37 yards rushing on 13 carries. His backup, Danny Woodhead, only compiled 34 yards on 15 carries.
In the Patriots’ 4 losses this season, moving the ball on the ground has been problematic. They average less than 4 yards per carry, and that was especially true in a 41-31 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 15.
“The run game was shut down and the pass game, they were getting after him. They were hitting him,” Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said of Brady being made uncomfortable in the pocket vs. the 49ers. “When you hit him you make him uncomfortable and he becomes like the rest of the quarterbacks -- just another quarterback. If the offensive line blocks and he sits there and gets to do his thing, then he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.”
Ayanbadejo is onto something when it comes to hitting Brady:
-- In a 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals: Brady was sacked 4 times and hit 6
-- In the loss to the Ravens, Brady was sacked twice and hit 6
-- In the loss to the 49ers, Brady was sacked 3 times and hit 7
-- In a loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Brady was sacked once and hit on 5 occasions.
Brady threw for 4,827 yards and only had 8 interceptions for the season. Five of his picks came in the Patriots’ losses and he only threw for 5 TDs in those games. He attempted an average of 53 passes.
Forcing Brady to throw more and the offense to run less is the best formula for victory for Baltimore.