Originally written on The Victory Formation  |  Last updated 11/17/14

BALTIMORE - OCTOBER 11: Ray Lewis #52 of the Baltimore Ravens meditates on the bench before the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on October 11, 2009 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Bengals defeated the Ravens 17-14. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Ray Lewis won his first Super Bowl and only Super Bowl 11 years ago. The Ravens won their Super Bowl with one of the most dominant defenses of all-time. That 2000 Ravens squad is 1A with the 85 Bears. They hold the record for fewest points allowed in the regular season, and did not allow a 100 yard rusher. The Ravens would defeat the New York Giants, who had one of the better offenses in the NFL at the time, and was coming off a 41-0 win in the NFC Championship Game. Kerry Collins thew for 5 TDs against the Vikings, but would turn-it-over 5 times in the Super Bowl. The Ravens have not returned to the Super Bowl since then, though their defense has remained near the top ever since. Lewis is the only remaining member of that historic defensive team.

One year later, Tom Brady led the Patriots in one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history. But, like the Ravens, the Patriots relied heavily on a strong defense that managed to shutdown one of the most prolific offenses in NFL. The Rams averaged 31 ppg, but the hard hitting Patriots forced turnovers and slowed down the Rams, holding them to only 17 points. Kurt Warner threw for 365 yards, but Marshall Faulk was limited and kept out of the end zone. Warner was forced to throw the ball 44 times. The Pats would win on a last-second FG by Adam Vinateri. Brady’s numbers were quite pedestrian. Trent Dilfer, the Ravens QB that has become the benchmark for “managing the game”, actually had a better Super Bowl performance. It was the Patriots defense that was the real MVP of the game. But Brady would use that season and game to spring-board him into being one of the best quarterbacks ever. The Patriots would win 2 more Super Bowl’s since, and play in another. The Pats defense for their 2003 and 2004 title teams were 1st and 2nd in points allowed. The 2001 team was 6th.

Why the emphasis on defense? Because only 1 of these teams has a good defense. The Patriots can score points, a lot of them. They have created a unique offense that is led by Brady and is highlighted by two of their TE’s, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Since the 2008 Super Bowl losing season, the Patriots have relied heavily on their offense to win games from them, the complete opposite of 10 years ago. Their current defense ranked 15th in the league in points allowed and 31st in yards from scrimmage. If there is anything that the Pats have done well with on defense, it is takeaways. But, there positive turnover margin might have more to do with Brady not throwing it away, than the talent on the defense. The Patriots are missing their best pass rusher, and are not nearly as physical as they once were. Bill Belichick is known as one of the best defensive minds the game has ever had, but the talent lacks all throughout his roster on defense, and the performance shows. In games that the Patriots have lost, most of it had to do with his defense not being able to stop the opposition. They were terrible.

The Ravens are not completely terrible on offense. In fact, they are a better offensive team than they were 11 years ago. Joe Flacco doesn’t give his fans and others great confidence, but neither did Dilfer. Flacco needs to channel a little Dilfer and just not turn the ball over. Ray Rice is actually better than Jamal Lewis was at this point, and there are better receivers to help them move the ball. The Ravens should and will be able to move the ball on the Patriots, today. The Ravens do not fear the conditions at Foxboro, like other teams have in the past. The receivers are not going to be limited by the field (no word on whether or not the Patriots ran the sprinklers all week like they did for the Colts in 2003), and the cold is welcomed. If there is any team in the NFL that can slow down the Patriots offense, it is the Ravens defense. They have done it in matchups they have had before. The Ravens are also the best team against TEs. The Ravens have allowed the fewest TDs to TEs in the entire league. But the real key will be the Ravens putting pressure on Tom Brady. That is always the key element in slowing down and defeating the Patriots offense. The Ravens tied for the 3rd in the NFL in sacks, and will have to be that good today.

History has shown that teams with the better defense typically defeat the better offense. Especially when the team with a good offense has a terrible defense. Just last week, the Saints were limited just enough by the 49ers and turned the ball over 4 times and lost. The 9ers don’t have a good offense, but the Saints were so bad on defense that the SF scored 36 pts. This could be a similar game. Don’t expect the Patriots to be completely grounded, but they will be nowhere close to the efficiency they displayed against the over-matched Broncos a week before. The Ravens found a way to score 20 points last week against what could be argued as the best defense in football, and now get to take a shot at the tissue paper defense of the Patriots.

There have been a lot of score predictions that show the Patriots not only winning, but doing it convincingly. It won’t be easy for them. In fact, they won’t win at all, and we get the other Super Bowl rematch.

Ravens 31 Patriots 27

And yes, that is different from my original score.


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