FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tom Brady and the New England Patriots made it to the AFC championship game with a high-powered offense that piled up points and yards.
Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens got there with a hard-hitting defense that made it a major challenge for opponents to move the ball.
Today one of those teams will advance to the Super Bowl because, most likely, of what they do best.
“We’ve got our hands full this week,” Lewis said. “You watched what they did last week against Denver, just the way they came out and ran their offense, how efficient (Brady) was, how many different receivers he hit with the ball. I think their offense, period, is playing at a very high level.”
From start to finish, Brady picked apart the Denver defense in a 45-10 divisional playoff win.
The Patriots (14-3) needed five plays to score on their first series on Brady’s 7-yard pass to Wes Welker. It took them seven plays to reach the end zone on their second series on Brady’s 10-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski. By halftime, Brady had thrown five of his six touchdown passes.
He had plenty of time to survey the field as the Broncos put little pressure on him. The Ravens don’t plan to let that happen.
“You don’t want him back there just like, ‘Oh, we’re just going to play catch today,’ ” Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You don’t want him to zone in, get in his zone, so to say. So I think pressure is going to be crucial, but it’s always crucial. But, particularly when you are playing these type of quarterbacks, it’s pivotal.”
Brady’s regular season was exceptional, even by his lofty standards. He threw for 5,235 yards, second most in NFL history, with 39 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions and the league’s third-best quarterback rating of 105.6, behind only Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
The Patriots, with Welker and Gronkowski doing most of the damage, were second in the NFL with 428 yards per game and third with an average of 32.1 points.
“It’s a very clever offense,” Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s well put together.”
Just like the Ravens defense.
Baltimore (13-4) allowed the third-fewest average yards, 288.9, and points, 16.6, this season. It had four takeaways in last Sunday’s 20-13 divisional playoff win over the Houston Texans, the last by Ed Reed with 1:51 left. Lewis had a team-high seven tackles.
And don’t forget Suggs. He led the AFC with 14 sacks, and, with Lewis and Reed were picked as Pro Bowl starters this season.
The Ravens have a “very attacking type defense,” Welker said. “They’re very physical. They run to the football really well. They rush well, cover well, tackle well across the board. They have a lot of great players.”