This Sunday will be the eighth time since 2007 that the Patriots and Ravens have met.
The Patriots lost the last two meetings -- 31-30 in Week 3 at Baltimore last September and 28-13 in the playoffs 11 months ago. Prior to that, the Patriots beat (survived) the Ravens in the AFC Championship in 2012, 23-20.
Before that, the Patriots won in overtime, 23-20 in October 2010 when Deion Branch rode in to save the day after the Patriots traded Randy Moss. And there was the 2009 playoff blowout, the 2010 win when the Ravens dropped a fourth-down pass at the Patriots 20 and the edge-of-the-seat drama in 2007 when the Pats were trying to stay undefeated.
Is this a rivalry, John Harbaugh was asked?
“I hope so,” he answered. “You like to think the thing that defines rivalries are great games played by great teams over an extended period of time with a lot at stake and I feel that’s been the case in our rivalry with the Patriots. We feel honored to be considered a rival with them. I’m not sure how they feel about it but we sure feel that way.
Harbaugh’s been the Ravens coach for each of the previous seven matchups. He and Belichick have developed a strong friendship over the years despite the fact the two preside over the most consistently dangerous teams in the conference.
“I actually talk to Coach Belichick periodically,” said Harbaugh. “He’s a guy that I have tremendous respect for, and have for many years. Saw him at the owners meetings, talked to him on the phone a few times, he gets down here with the lacrosse stuff in Baltimore, so we get a chance to visit, and he probably knows I’m asking him indirect questions directly, or direct questions indirectly, maybe that’s the way to say it. But going against him, I know it’s always giving context to that, the fact that we have to play each other.”
The Ravens are -- this year especially -- dealing with major attrition thanks to their success. It isn’t just the flight of Ed Reed and the retirement of Anquan Boldin that hurt. It’s been the losses of defensive players Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger and wide receiver Anquan Boldin that have made it a hard transition to life after a Super Bowl win. That’s another reason Harbaugh sees Belichick as a coaching icon.
“You lose players because your players are sought-after,” Harbaugh explained. “The Patriots have had to deal with that, we’ve had to deal with that, and the ability to keep winning through all that to any degree is tough enough, let alone getting back to the big show, which is incredibly difficult. So I think what they did a few years back when they won three out of four years was one of those historic accomplishments that needs to be seen in the light. It’s just a tremendous accomplishment.”