Ravens Not Fazed by History

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If the Ravens were playing against history and venue this weekend, you could count them out before kickoff.

The New England Patriots are the NFL's best home team in the last decade, posting a 61-19 record (.763) at Gillette Stadium. They have won 11 consecutive home playoff games and have not lost in Foxborough, Mass., in the postseason since Dec. 31, 1978.

Three Super Bowl titles (2001, 2003, 2004) during the "Aughts" are representative of the Patriots' recent dominance.

What's more, the Ravens have never in franchise history beaten New England through five meetings.

But, the Ravens are also not playing against the history books. They don't have to deal with the immense entertainment complex that houses Gillette called Patriots Place.

The Ravens are simply taking on the Patriots of now, not old.

"I'm sure we've talked about it, but that's obvious," said head coach John Harbaugh. "I mean, you play a football team, so we'll be playing that collection of players as their assembled, and it will be our collection of players the way we're assembled. And everything that you become throughout the course of a season is what makes you who you are as a football team. So, it'll be us against them."

While the Patriots' past numbers are impressive, they don't faze anyone in Baltimore's locker room.

Even a 27-21 loss to the Patriots in Week 4 doesn't still sting, despite the fact that the Ravens were driving for a potential game-winning score until Mark Clayton dropped a pass on New England's 14-yard line with 28 seconds remaining.

"You can never be bothered," linebacker Ray Lewis noted. "If you go at the game, and you know me, I've been in the game kind of a long time, and if you go at the game with everything you've got – win, lose or draw – you can always hold your head up high.

"The bottom line is, all of those games don't matter right now. The only game that matters is this Sunday coming up, and me getting my team prepared, along with Joe [Flacco], just going in there and just trying to win the game in New England."

Both clubs have used the formula of beating teams where they were favored this season.

The Ravens (9-7) went 1-6 against playoff contenders, however, while the Patriots (10-6), who won the AFC East, topped out at 2-3.

Despite being the underdog, a role they've previously relished, the Ravens aren't buying into how they are handicapped.

"You can't play the underdog role," said wideout Derrick Mason. "They've won one more game than we have. So they can just as well say they're the underdog. But if you're in the playoffs, you deserve to be in the playoffs – especially this year – because there a lot of hard-fought games amongst everybody in the AFC. So, if you're in the playoffs you deserve to be in the playoffs. There are no underdogs.

"Obviously, they're probably favored because they're at home. But we played this team earlier in the season, and I don't think they're looking at us as being an underdog, and we're not looking at them as being an underdog. We're just going in there, and may the best team win, basically."

The Patriots have actually faced their share of troubles, but a 2-6 road record was counterbalanced by a perfect eight-game win streak at Gillette.

Lewis cautions against reading too much into a perceived drop-off by New England.

"The thing I keep talking to my team about, don't get caught up in all of that, who they're not, who they used to be. Bottom line, that's not what you're going to play. You're going to play the New England Patriots in a 60-minute ball game in New England coming up this Sunday. That's it. You're not going to play the legacy of them, none of that."

The Ravens have a recent history of their own playoff success in unfriendly environments.

Last season, an 11-5 Ravens squad barnstormed through the postseason with wins at Miami and Tennessee before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a hard-fought AFC Championship. The Steelers went on to win the Super Bowl, while the Ravens watched from afar.

The Ravens now have an opportunity to take advantage of a playoff appearance that wasn't certain until they defeated the Oakland Raiders, 21-13, in the finale.

And while the Ravens respect what Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady have accomplished over the years, they also believe those accomplishments have no bearing on Sunday, even if they are what the Ravens aspire to.

"When it's all said and done, if we can achieve what [New England] has achieved, or even beyond what they've achieved, that's something that you hope for and dream about," Harbaugh stated. "But that's something that we have to do before we can start talking about it too much."

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