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There have been close games, comebacks and controversy.
There’s been a blowout, Brady bashing and bad blood.
It hasn’t reached Steelers status, but the rivalry built between the Ravens and Patriots has become one of the most intense in the league.
“As far as out-of-division, it has to be right up there,” Ravens center Matt Birk said.
“We’ve been in a lot of wars up there, and we’ve only won one,” linebacker Jarret Johnson added. “We’re looking to go in and win another one.”
The recipe for a good rivalry starts with two good teams.
Over the past four years, the Patriots have an NFL-best 48-16 regular-season record. The Ravens’ 44-20 record under Head Coach John Harbaugh is the fourth-best.
The teams also have to be evenly matched.
The Patriots are an undefeated 6-0 in the all-time regular-season history between the two teams. But since 2007, their three non-playoff meetings have been won by New England by an average of just three points. Even the Ravens-Patriots preseason game in 2008 was decided by one point, 16-15.
The games have been dramatic too.
In 2007, slumping Baltimore thought it had knocked off the then-undefeated Patriots at M&T Bank Stadium. After seemingly stopping the Patriots on fourth down, officials ruled that Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan had called timeout (even though only head coaches are permitted to do so) and gave New England one more chance.
Quarterback Tom Brady threw the go-ahead touchdown pass on the next play with 44 seconds left. The Ravens’ frustrating night (13 penalties for a loss of 100 yards) was capped by two unsportsmanlike penalties on linebacker Bart Scott for throwing a referee’s flag into the stands.
In 2009, the Ravens rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit and were driving down the field with a chance at a game-winning touchdown. That’s when a fourth-down pass with 28 seconds left, which would have given Baltimore a firstdown at the 8-yard line, bounced off wide receiver Mark Clayton’s hands. The Patriots won, 27-21.
The Ravens were livid after the game about two roughing the passer penalties against Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata that extended two drives. The Patriots ended up scoring touchdowns on both drives. “It is embarrassing to the game,” linebacker Ray Lewis said at the time.
The Ravens’ one victory came in the playoffs later that year – the only previous time the two teams have met in the postseason.
Baltimore traveled to New England in the 2009 wild-card round and trounced the Patriots, 33-14. It snapped the Patriots’ home-playoff winning streak at 11 games.
“The Ravens have only won one time against them, so I guess you could argue that the score is in their favor,” Birk said. “The one we got was a big one.”
Last year, the Patriots rallied from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and won, 23-20, in overtime. Wide receiver Deion Branch, who New England traded for only six days before the Week 6 game, had nine catches for 98 yards.
After the game, Suggs said of Brady, “He just better hope he don’t see us again.” The usually cool Brady (at least off the field) retorted, “They talk a lot for beating us once in nine years.’’
The stir that mixes the drink may be the teams’ competitiveness.
The Ravens have long been known as blue-collar, tough players. The Patriots are similar in the eyes of Johnson, including the linemen he battles and the wide receivers that come across the middle. But it starts, Johnson said, with the quarterback he rushes.
Johnson said he doesn’t know Brady personally, but he does know he’s “super competitive.”
“Competitive people like a challenge and we’re a challenge. We play a certain way that I think he likes, and I think he looks forward to playing us. He gets fired up and expresses that,” Johnson said.
“[They] are some of the most competitive dudes in the NFL. And when things aren’t going good on their side, they are even more competitive. So, it’s a lot of fun. If you slack off one bit, they are going to hurt you. It’s a good game to be a part of.”