Does the Ravens' defense own Brady?

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Does the Ravens' defense own Brady?

For all the back and forth on what it will take for the Patriots to beat the Ravens on Sunday, many including myself believe that it will come down to one thing:

Protecting Tom Brady.

If Brady consistently has time to work, the Patriots will win. If he spends more time bumping uglies with T-Sizzle than head butting Gronk in the end zone, it's going to be a long, painful winter.

But even if you don't entirely buy the simplicity of that break down, you have to admit that Brady needs a big game to send the Pats to the Big Game. Right?

Well, maybe not.

Looking back on Brady's career, his team has, for the most part, performed well against the Ravens. He's 4-0 in the regular season against Baltimore (the most wins he has against any team, without a loss). Of course, he's also 0-1 in the playoffs, but all things considered, you can do a lot worse than a 4-1.

But in consistent victory, it's interesting to note that Brady's never had much statistical success against Baltimore. Here's a look at his numbers in five career starts:

November 28, 2004: Pats win, 24-3

15-30 for 172 yards with 0 TD, 0 INT and a QB rating of 67.6

December 3, 2007: Pats win, 27-24

18-38 for 257 yards with 2 TD, 1 INT and a QB rating of 76.3

October 4, 2009: Pats win, 27-21

21-32 for 258 yards, 1 TD (one rushing), 0 INT and QB rating 100.8

January 10, 2010: Ravens win, 33-14

23-42 for 154 yards with 2 TD, 3 INT and QB rating of 49.1

October 17, 2010: Pats win, 23-20 (OT)
Brady 27-44 for 292 yards with 1 TD, 2 INT and a QB rating of 69.5

I don't need to expand on that awful playoff loss. But even if we just look at those four regular season wins, Brady's inconsistencies are obvious. (Albeit, understandable considering the quality of defense Baltimore throws out every year.)

His 56.3 career completion percentage against the Ravens is worse than it is against all but one other team (Carolina, 56.2), and the same goes for his 77.9 career QB rating. In the five total games, he's thrown only six touchdowns, but also six interceptions.

Yet again, the Pats are 4-1.

I believe it was the great Rod Rust who once said, "Stats are for losers," and that never appears to be more true than when looking at Tom Brady's history with the Baltimore Ravens. So maybe I should revise my statement from earlier in this post.

Maybe the Pats don't need a big game from Brady to make it to the Big Game. If they can find a way to hog tie Ray Rice, push Fu-Man Flacco into a few precarious positions, force a few turnovers, and hold onto the ball themselves, maybe the Pats can grind out an old fashioned, smash mouth win.

But I'll stand by this: If they do protect Brady, and he does have time to work. The Pats will win. And it's on to Indy.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

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Acciari nearing a return for Bruins after missing a month

BRIGHTON, Mass. – He hasn’t been cleared to play just yet, but fourth line energy guy Noel Acciari is closing in on a return to the Bruins lineup. 

Acciari joined in for a Bruins morning skate for the first time in 14 games at the end of last week, and practiced with the team again Monday for a morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena. The 25-year-old has missed almost exactly a month with a lower body injury, and said he can thankfully now see the light at the end of the injury tunnel for a healthy return to the B’s lineup. 

“It was getting lonely with all the guys on the road, and with me just skating with Frankie [Vatrano] and Zee [Chara],” said Acciari. “It’s great to be back out there with the guys, and it’s good to be back. Each skate I feel a lot better out there and just trying to get my conditioning back. Just being back with the guys is a great feeling, and it’s a big help.”

The fourth line has been okay in Acciari’s absence, but it seemed to be lacking the same kind of energy and hard edge the Providence College standout provided when he was healthy. That was part of what led the B’s to call up the similarly rugged Anton Blidh from Providence at the end of last week, and could provide some interesting energy line options when Acciari is ready to return. 

“I’ve played with [Blidh] before, I’m used to him and I know what he brings to the table just like he knows what I can do,” said Acciari. “So it would work out well [if we played together] I think.”

Acciari has two assists and a plus-1 rating along with four penalty minutes while averaging 10:01 of ice time in 12 games this season, and proved to be very good at unnerving opponents simply by playing all-out all the time.