|Both Patriots and Ravens expecting different game this time around||01.14.13 at 7:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Like the divisional playoff clash with the Texans, the Patriots have a regular-season history with their next opponent, the Ravens. The two teams met each other in a memorable September showdown in Baltimore, one that included a fourth-quarter comeback by the Ravens, a questionable game-winning field goal and a terrific performance on both sides of the ball.
That evening, Baltimore ended up coming away with a memorable 31-30 win. But now, almost four months later, it certainly sounds like neither team will be taking too much from that matchup as they prepare for Sunday’s AFC title game.
“It was a completely different time of the season — really, it really means nothing right now,” said running back Shane Vereen. “The only thing that matters is what happens on Sunday.”
“That was a long time ago — I don’t remember too much about that,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich on Monday when asked about the first meeting of the year between the Patriots and Ravens. “I’m going to move on from the Ravens from earlier in the season. They are a completely different team, we are a completely different team.
“That is the way the NFL season works. You progress throughout the year. Both teams have improved throughout the season to get where we are at right now. Again, they have done a lot of great things. We are going to have a tough time preparing for all the things they do. They are a good football team.”
Ninkovich’s point is well taken in that there have been several changes. First, the real officials have returned. (The image of Patriots coach Bill Belichick chasing a replacement ref off the field at the end of the game has already been shown on a loop by ESPN.) In addition, the Patriots will go into this one without tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman — both of who played in the first game, but are now sidelined for the rest of the season because of injury.
Meanwhile, the Ravens have lost cornerback Lardarius Webb for the season and veteran linebacker Ray Lewis is continuing to battle back from injury. In addition, they have changed offensive coordinators in December, going from Cam Cameron to Jim Caldwell.
“I look at it completely different,” said Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. “It’s the playoffs, and they are playing well – dominating guys out there offensively and defensively. It’s a completely different team. And, the refs were just coming back as well. That was an adjustment for some guys, too.
“But New England is New England. We have a lot of respect for those guys, and they have been in this position so many times over the past few years. They have the history. They have been there, and we want to get to where they have been. They were there last year. They knocked us out, and for us, we want to get to that point, get this win and get to the Super Bowl.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who will be facing Belichick for the sixth time as a head coach since he took over in Baltimore prior to the start of the 2008 season, knows that no matter how many times you face the Patriots — whether it’s the regular season or the playoffs — they’ll always bring something unique to the table.
“Everybody evolves and grows as a team,” Harbaugh said Monday. “Players are hurt; players are back. Schemes change. This is a team that changes a lot. 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 [teams] 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.”
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