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.