Baltimore's defense is much different from the one the New England Patriots faced last year. The Ravens replaced seven of their defensive starters from last season's AFC championship game.
But when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks at the middle of the Ravens defense, he sees a striking similarity between linebacker Daryl Smith and the man he replaced.
"He looks really good," Brady said about Smith during his press conference Wednesday. "He looks a lot like Ray Lewis."
Much has been made about the defensive transition the Ravens underwent during the offseason and even into the regular season. Moving on from players like Lewis, Ed Reed, Bernard Pollard, Paul Kruger, Dannell Ellerbe and Cary Williams was a significant change for the unit.
But the Ravens replaced them with a mix of veterans like Smith and young players like safety Matt Elam.
"Friggin Baltimore, they've always got a good defense," Brady said.
The Ravens defense, and specifically Smith, garnered plenty of praise from Brady and Head Coach Bill Belichick.
Smith stepped into the starting lineup after getting signed by the Ravens this offseason, and has been one of the team's most consistent players. He leads the Ravens with 107 tackles, and he took over Lewis' job of relaying the calls from the sideline.
"He definitely is the communicator on defense, like Lewis was," Belichick said. "You can see him making adjustments and checks and controlling the front, moving the front over and getting them lined up and those kinds of things. It looks like he's got good command of what they're doing."
From a statistical standpoint, the Ravens actually have a better defense compared to last season. The group ranks seventh in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed, compared to 12th and 17th in the same categories last year.
As much as Lewis and Reed meant to the organization and locker room from a leadership perspective, Belichick said that last year they were no longer the Ravens' best players like earlier in their careers.
"Those guys were really good players a few years ago," Belichick said. "I would say more recently and I would say last year, they both missed time. I don't think they were the best players on that team. I think they were obviously good players, they had great leadership and certainly [their] personalities had a big impact on the team and so forth. But I wouldn't say they were their best players."
The Ravens have filled the void left by the departure of former stars, and the Patriots still see a defense that matches the standard expected in Baltimore.
"They're still a great defense without them, and I think they still carry over from what they've done," Brady said. "They obviously have a lot of leadership with Haloti and Suggs and [Jameel] McClain and Lardarius Webb. They've still got All-Pros at all these positions, so they're still a great team."