It’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the AFC Sunday afternoon as the Baltimore Ravens travel to the New England Patriots for the AFC championship, the Lamar Hunt Trophy and the conference’s berth in Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
The eighth meeting between the clubs will also be the second time the Ravens and the Patriots have faced off in the postseason. New England has won all six regular-season meetings, but the Ravens won the only playoff game, 33-14 in the 2009 AFC Wild Card Game in Foxborough.
All of that is ancient history to the top two AFC seeds, each of which had to win just one game at home in the Divisional Playoff round to square off in the AFC Championship Game.
The Ravens beat Houston 20-13 in Baltimore last Sunday behind a pair of TD passes by quarterback Joe Flacco and three interceptions, including a pair of picks from cornerback Lardarius Webb and one from safety Ed Reed.
Flacco has a 49-23 record as a starter, including postseason games, and needs only one victory for 50 in his career. With No. 50, he would be the first quarterback to win 50 games as a starter in his first four NFL seasons.
Defensively, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs led the AFC with 14 sacks in 2011. With one sack on Sunday, he would become the sixth player in NFL history with 11 postseason sacks. Reed needs just one interception to tie Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, Bill Simpson and Charlie Waters for first all-time in career postseason picks with nine.
New England blasted upstart Denver 45-10 last Saturday, behind a NFL postseason-tying six touchdown passes by quarterback Tom Brady, three to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots had 509 yards of total offense, and the New England defense harassed Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.
Brady has thrown for 4,770 yards in his postseason career. With 195 yards against Baltimore, he would move to fourth place all-time past Pro Football Hall of Famer John Elway (4,964).
He also has a 15-5 postseason career record, and a victory Sunday would tie him with Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Montana (16 victories) for first all-time.
In the first of two looks “From the notes …” for Championship Sunday, here is a look inside the Ravens and Patriots game notes provided by each team’s PR staffs as well as NFL Communications (via Elias Sports Bureau).
No. 2 seed Baltimore Ravens (13-4):
FOUR IN A ROW: John Harbaugh is just the fourth head coach in NFL history (since 1970 merger) to guide his team to the playoffs in each of his first four seasons, and last Sunday against Houston, became the first to win a playoff game in each of those four years. Under Harbaugh, the Ravens are 5-3 in the postseason.
Joe Flacco and Harbaugh, whose NFL head coaching career began in 2008, are the first QB-HC duo to start their NFL careers at the same time and lead a team to the playoffs in each of their first four seasons.
“Harbs” (2008 & 2011), Bill Cowher (1994-95) and Chuck Knox (1974 & 1976) each reached two conference title games in their first four seasons.
BEHIND ENEMY LINES: The Ravens are 7-4 on the road in all-time postseason play, posting the second-best road win percentage (.636) since the 1970 merger. The Ravens are 4-3 on the road during the John Harbaugh Era, including 1-0 against the Patriots in Foxborough (1/10/10).
NFL POSTSEASON WINNING PCT./ROAD GAMES
Since 1970 AFL-NFL Merger
Rk. Team Record Pct.
1. Carolina Panthers 4-2 .667
2. Baltimore Ravens 7-4 .636
3. New York Giants 7-6 .538
4. San Diego Chargers 4-5 .444
DIVISIONAL NOTES VS. TEXANS:
NO PENALTIES A FRANCHISE FIRST: For the first time in franchise history (even including postseason play), the Ravens did not commit a penalty.
TURNOVER BATTLE KEY: Forcing 4 turnovers by the Texans (3 INTs and 1 FR), the Ravens did not surrender a give-away to finish +4. Baltimore is 10-1 all time in the playoffs when posting a positive turnover ratio.
GOOD TO BE HOME: Baltimore won its first playoff game at home since 12/31/00 vs. Denver when the Ravens kicked off their Super Bowl run. Sunday’s playoff victory marked the Ravens’ 11th-consecutive win at home and the 19th in their last 20 contests at M&T Bank Stadium.
WEBB TIES RECORD WITH 2 INTs: CB Lardarius Webb tied a Ravens’ postseason record with his 2 INTs. He joined S Ed Reed and CB Duane Starks as the only Ravens who have posted 2 picks in a playoff game.
BOLD AFTER THE BYE: Under head coach John Harbaugh (since 2008), the Ravens are now 5-0 when coming off a bye week. Following a Week 5 bye this season (10/16), Baltimore also beat the Texans, 29-14.
SUCCESS IN THE FIRST: During the 2011 regular season, the Texans allowed an NFL-low 39 total points in the first quarter. Last Sunday, Baltimore scored 17 points in the opening frame, posting the highest total against Houston in the first quarter all season.
RAVENS “100” STREAK ENDS: Baltimore entered last Sunday’s game having held opposing RBs under the century mark in 15 straight playoff contests. RB Arian Foster broke that streak, gaining 132 yards (27 carries). Baltimore’s streak had been the NFL’s third-longest active (Pit. – 18 & Was. – 17).
RECORD-SETTING ATTENDANCE: Sunday’s attendance of 71,547 is the largest crowd in Baltimore football history, topping the 71,502 mark set on 12/14/08 vs. Pittsburgh.
No. 1 seed New England Patriots (14-3):
KRAFT ERA: The Patriots won their 18th playoff game since Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 with a 45-10 win vs. Denver. New England‘s 18 playoff victories over that span are the most in the NFL (Pittsburgh, 17).
TEAM NOTES: The Patriots scored 45 points and gained 509 net yards against Denver in the Divisional round, with both numbers standing as single-game franchise playoff records. The Patriots previous bests were 41 points in an AFC Championship Game win at Pittsburgh (01/23/05) and 481 net yards in the Super Bowl XXXVIII win vs. Carolina (02/01/04).
BILL BELICHICK: Belichick improved his career playoff record to 16-6 (.727) with the win vs. Denver. Belichick‘s 16 career playoff wins tie Chuck Noll for the fourth highest total by any head coach in NFL history, trailing Tom Landry (20), Don Shula (19) and Joe Gibbs (17).
TOM BRADY: Brady tied an NFL single-game playoff record with six touchdown passes against Denver in the Divisional round. Daryle Lamonica of Oakland (1969 vs. Houston) and Steve Young of San Francisco (Super Bowl XXIX vs. San Diego) also had six touchdown passes in a playoff game
ROB GRONKOWSKI: Gronkowski tied an NFL record for most touchdown receptions in a postseason game with three vs. Denver. It is the 17th time in NFL history a player has had three touchdown receptions in a postseason game. Gronkowski and Dave Casper of Oakland (1977 vs. Baltimore) are the only tight ends of that group.
Against Denver, Gronkowski (10 rec. for 145 yards) registered the 15th postseason 100-yard receiving game by a Patriot. His 145 yards are the second-highest single-game total in Patriots history and his 10 receptions are tied for the third most in a single-game in team playoff annals.
AARON HERNANDEZ: Aaron Hernandez finished with five rushing attempts for 61 yards against Denver. It is the highest rushing output by a tight end in Patriots history, besting the 26 yards that Hernandez had rushing vs. Buffalo in the 2011 regular-season finale (01/01/12). It is tied for the ninth highest rushing total by a tight end in NFL history and the highest ever in a postseason game.
Hernandez had a 43-yard run in the first quarter. It is the third longest run in Patriots postseason history, trailing a 78-yard touchdown run by Curtis Martin and a 45-yard run by Robert Weathers. It is the longest run of Herandez‘s career. He had a 19-yard run in the 2011 finale vs. Buffalo.
WES WELKER: Wes Welker had six receptions for 55 yards vs. Denver, raising his career playoff total to 40 receptions in just five career playoff games. Welker is averaging 8.0 receptions per game in the playoffs.
PATRIOTS IN THE PLAYOFFS BY THE NUMBERS:
- .595: The Patriots postseason winning percentage. New England is 22-15 in the playoffs, the fourth-best winning percentage in playoff history. That figure trails only Green Bay (29-17, .630), Pittsburgh (33-21, .611), and San Francisco (26-17, .605).
- .800: The Patriots home playoff winning percentage. New England has won 12 of 15 home playoff games, making them the second winningest franchise at home in the playoffs behind Green Bay (14 of 17, .823).
- 3: The Patriots are one of three teams to make the playoffs in five of the past six seasons with appearances in 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Baltimore (2006, 2008-2011) and Indianapolis (2006-2010) are the other two teams.
- 6: The number of Championship Game berths for the Patriots since 2000, the most in the NFL since that year.
- 6: The number of Super Bowl appearances for the Patriots, tied for third with Denver in NFL history. Dallas and Pittsburgh have eight appearances, tied for first in NFL history.
- 8: The number of Divisional round berths for the Patriots since 2000, the most for any team in the NFL since that year.
- 9: The number of playoff appearances for the Patriots since 2000, tied with the Indianapolis Colts for most of any team in the NFL during that period.
- 11: The number of receptions WR Deion Branch (XXXIX) and WR Wes Welker (XLII) each have in a Super Bowl, tied with Jerry Rice (XXIII) and Dan Ross (XVI) for the most in Super Bowl history.
- 14: The number of playoff games the Patriots won from 2000-2009, tied for the most by any team in any 10-year period in NFL history.
- 27: In 20 playoff games since 2000, the Patriots have forced 27 interceptions, the most of any team coming into this postseason. Kyle Arrington was tied for the most interceptions in the NFL (7) with San Diego‘s Eric Weddle and Green Bay‘s Charles Woodson in the 2011 regular season. New England‘s 27 postseason interceptions since 2000 have resulted in five touchdowns.
- 50: The longest field goal in the playoffs made by Stephen Gostkowski on Jan. 14, 2007 at San Diego, which ranks first in Patriots playoff history, surpassing Adam Vinatieri‘s 48-yard kicks in 2002 and 2005.
The look at the Ravens-Patriots AFC Championship Game from NFL Communications:
TEAMS MEET for 2nd time in postseason. Ravens defeated Patriots 33-14 in Wild Card on 1/10/10.
RAVENS: Advanced to AFC Championship Game for 3rd time in franchise history & 2nd time in past 4 seasons … Seek to reach Super Bowl for 2nd time in club history (SB XXXV) … Ravens have 7-4 (.636) postseason road record … Club is 5-3 under head coach John Harbaugh in playoffs … Won AFC North title for 1st time since ’06 … Last week, Ravens posted 1st postseason win at home since 12/31/00 … QB Joe Flacco is 1st QB in Super Bowl era to start postseason game in each of 1st 4 seasons starting with rookie season. Incl. postseason, Flacco aims for 50th career win as starter (49-23, .681). In 3 career games vs. NE (incl. postseason), Flacco has completed 58 of 92 passes (63 pct.) for 583 yards with 4 TDs vs. 2 INTs & 86.5 passer rating. Incl. postseason, Ravens are 30-3 (.909) when Flacco has 95+ rating … In 3 career games vs. Patriots (incl. playoffs), RB Ray Rice averages 145.7 scrimmage yards per game (350 rushing, 87 receiving). Rice registered 83-yard TD run in Wild Card vs. NE on 1/10/10, 2nd-longest rush TD in NFL playoff history (Fred Taylor, 90-yard rush TD on 1/15/00). Posted NFL-best 2,068 scrimmage yards in ’11. Led AFC RBs with 76 receptions this season. Reached 1,200 rush yards for 3rd straight regular season (1,339 in ’09, 1,220 in ’10, 1,364 in ’11). In Week 17, RB Ricky Williams (10,009) became 26th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career rush yards … WR Anquan Boldin has 24 catches for 325 yards with 3 TDs in 6 career postseason games. Had 4 catches for 63 receiving yards with TD catch in only meeting vs. NE (10/17/10). Rookie WR Torrey Smith tied for 2nd among NFL rookies with 7 TD catches (JULIO JONES, 8) in ’11 … TE Ed Dickson had career-best in receptions (54), receiving yards (528) & TD catches (5) in ’11. TE Kris Wilson has 2 TD catches in past 2 playoff games … Defense led AFC w/ 48 sacks in ’11 … Ravens have registered 32 postseason INTs since 2000, most in NFL … Bal. has posted 12 sacks & 6 INTs in past 4 games against NE (incl. postseason) … Defense allowed 3rd-fewest yards per game (288.9) & points per game (16.6) this season … LB Ray Lewis will play in 17th career postseason game (10-6). LB Terrell Suggs (10) needs 1 sack to become 6th player in NFL history to reach 11 career postseason sacks. Led AFC with 14 sacks in ’11, 3rd-most in season in franchise history (Peter Boulware, 15 in ’01; Michael McCrary, 14.5 in ’98) … DT Haloti Ngata had 2 sacks in last meeting vs. Patriots … S Ed Reed (8) needs INT to tie Pro Football HOFer Ronnie Lott (9), Bill Simpson & Charlie Waters for most INTs in playoff history … CB Lardarius Webb tied franchise single-game postseason record with 2 INTs last week. Had career-best 5 INTs in ’11 … Club had 7 players selected to 2012 Pro Bowl (FB Vonta Leach, LB Lewis, DT Ngata, S Reed, RB Rice, LB Suggs, & G Marshal Yanda).
PATRIOTS: Have 3-0 record at home in AFC Championship Game … Seek to reach Super Bowl for 7th time in franchise history … Incl. postseason, Patriots have 4-1 record at home vs. Ravens … With win last week, head coach Bill Belichick & QB Tom Brady (15 wins) surpassed HOFers Chuck Noll & Terry Bradshaw (14) of Pit. for most wins by QB-head coach duo. Belichick tied Noll (16) for 4th-most playoff wins all-time last week … Brady (4,770) needs 195 passing yards to surpass HOFer John Elway (4,964) for 4th-most postseason passing yards in NFL history. Brady (6) tied HOFer Steve Young & Daryle Lamonica for most TD passes in game in NFL history last week. Brady (36) needs 4 TD passes to join HOFer Joe Montana (45) & Brett Favre (44) as only QBs to reach 40 postseason TD passes all-time. Has thrown TD pass in 18 consecutive postseason games, 2nd-longest streak in NFL history (Favre, 20). Has 15-5 (.750) playoff record, best postseason record as starting QB in NFL history (min. 15 starts). Has 9-2 record at home in playoffs. Brady had 5,235 passing yards in ’11, 2nd-most passing yards in season in NFL history, trailing only Drew Brees (5,476) in ’11 … RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis reached 10+ rush TDs in consecutive seasons (13 in ’10; 11 in ’11) … WR Wes Welker has 40 receptions in 5 career playoff games. Welker joined Cris Carter (122 in ’94 & ’95) as only players to have 120+ receptions twice in career (123 in ’09; 122 in ’11). Joined HOFer Jerry Rice & Marvin Harrison as only players to have 4 100-catch seasons. WR Deion Branch (773) posted 85 receiving yards last week & surpassed Troy Brown (694) for most career postseason receiving yards in Patriots history. Had 9 catches for 98 receiving yards with TD catch in last game vs. Ravens (10/17/10) … TE Rob Gronkowski had 3 TD catches last week, tied for most in postseason game in NFL history. Gronkowski set single-season record for TEs in receiving yards (1,327) & TD receptions (17) in ’11. Became 1st TE in NFL history to lead league in TD catches. TE Aaron Hernandez totaled 116 scrimmage yards (61 rushing, 55 receiving) with 1 TD reception last week. Had career-best in catches (79), receiving yards (910) & TDs (7) in ’11 … Defense has posted 52 postseason sacks since 2000, 2nd-most in NFL during span (Pit., 53) … LB Jerod Mayo led club with 95 tackles in ’11 … LB Rob Ninkovich & DT Vince Wilfork posted 1.5 sacks apiece last week. Ninkovich had career-best 6.5 sacks this season … CB Kyle Arrington tied for NFL-best with 7 INTs. Patriots tied for NFL-best with 8 Pro Bowl players (QB Brady, DE Andre Carter, TE Gronkowski, G Logan Mankins, ST Matthew Slater, G Brian Waters, WR Welker & DT Wilfork).