Unlike many other teams the Patriots regularly face, the Baltimore Ravens have always appeared seemingly immune to the “New England mystique.”
For whatever reason, the Baltimore Ravens are a team that consistently gives New England Patriots fans the Halloween heebie-jeebies, no matter what time of year it is.
It’s interesting, too, because the Ravens historically haven’t had all that much success against the Patriots, and yet there’s just this prevailing sense that Baltimore has what it takes year-in and year-out to potentially cause some major problems for New England.
Perhaps it all starts with the postseason.
While the Ravens are just 3-10 all-time in the regular season versus the Patriots, they’re an even 2-2 against New England in the playoffs. Taking this notion one step further, all four postseason meetings took place at Gillette Stadium… and the Ravens won two of them: a 2009 Wild Card matchup and the 2012 AFC Championship Game.
What’s more, Baltimore very nearly won the other two postseason matchups as well.
Ravens placekicker Billy Cundiff infamously missed an easy 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the 2011 AFC Championship Game that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. While we’ll never know what might have happened in OT, the facts remain that prior to Cundiff’s kick, Baltimore had scored the last 10 points of the game and had all the momentum on their side.
In the teams’ most recent postseason meeting, the Patriots were down 28-14 in the third quarter of the 2014 Divisional Round before they decided it was time to get desperate and get creative all at once. This game will forever be remembered for two subsequent New England maneuvers that helped the team eke out the victory: the double-pass involving Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola, and the “ineligible receivers” rulebook manipulation strategy that Bill Belichick exploited – much to John Harbaugh’s fury, we might add.
Maybe it’s because of these four playoff games (two nail-biting wins and two bitter losses) that New England fans get nervous every time their team goes up against the Ravens. Fans admittedly aren’t accustomed to seeing their team lose with Belichick on the sideline and Brady under center. They’re certainly not accustomed to those losses occurring in the postseason either… and especially not at home.
The Patriots have traveled to Baltimore to face the Ravens on the road four times now, with the fifth coming up this Sunday night. While New England is 3-1 overall in those four previous away games, three of the four have been extremely close contests.
The Pats won the first-ever meeting by eight points at the old Memorial Stadium in 1996, they won at M&T Bank Stadium by a field goal during the undefeated regular season in 2007, and they lost by one point on a questionably-called Justin Tucker field goal in 2012 (the Belichick “inappropriate contact” with a referee game).
From a New England Patriots perspective, the Baltimore Ravens are sort of like the antithesis of their divisional arch-rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Whereas the Patriots always seem to find themselves fighting tooth-and-nail to emerge with a win against the Ravens, the Steelers have seldom presented much of a challenge for New England. Belichick and Brady historically have owned Steel City, going 12-4 against Pittsburgh (with one of those losses coming during Brady’s missed campaign in 2008).
Looking around the league, you’d be hard-pressed to find another team amongst the 30 other franchises in the NFL that instills the same sense of unease and apprehension in Patriots fans as the Ravens do.
Under Peyton Manning, maybe that team was the Indianapolis Colts… but those days are long gone now. The Denver Broncos also presented their fair share of challenges for a time (especially at Mile High), but that team is nowhere near a threat to the Patriots in their current incarnation.
Obviously there are some formidable foes in the NFC these days, including the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, etc. But New England simply doesn’t play any of those out-of-conference teams routinely enough to warrant consideration here. Any one of them might give the Patriots a serious run for their money down in Miami come February, but that’s not what we’re discussing here and now.
No, this column is appropriately coming out on Halloween and is focusing on the one team that should make fans’ skin crawl and their heartbeats quicken just a bit more than they would against any other opponent this calendar year… and that team is the Baltimore Ravens.
Here’s hoping that Brady, Belichick, and the Boogeymen are the ones doing all the scaring come Sunday night. It sure sounds more appealing as a Pats fan to have the treat of being 9-0 entering the bye week than it does being tricked and falling to 8-1 before the break, doesn’t it?
Happy Halloween, readers!