Competition Too Easy?
--Leading up to this past
weekend's game, one reporter derisively called Saturday's playoff game
between the Broncos and Patriots the first "double-bye" in postseason
history, suggesting New England had a relatively easy path to the
conference title game.
You can't argue with the logic,
especially after the Patriots dismantled the Broncos, 45-10, behind six
touchdown passes from quarterback Tom Brady. For the time being, the
Patriots have exorcised their most recent playoff demons by winning
their first postseason game since 2007.
Now a much bigger
challenge looms on the horizon with the second-seeded Baltimore Ravens
coming to Foxboro on Sunday for the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens
eliminated the Patriots in the wild-card round three years ago, so the
Patriots understand the type of challenge they're about to face.
As Brady put it, this will undoubtedly be their
toughest opponent of the season.
"There's no one that's going to overlook a team like that. It would be
impossible to do," Brady said Monday. "They present a ton of challenges
in all three phases of the game. You watch them (Sunday), they're
physical, they're tough, they can cover.
They've got some of
the best players in the history of the NFL at their position, in
(Terrell) Suggs and Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Haloti Ngata. You've got
phenomenal players there."
What the Patriots faced Saturday
night against the overwhelmed Broncos seemed almost unrealistic at
times. Denver never took any shots down the field, nor did it put up
much of a fight defensively. The Ravens won't fold as easily; they're
still one of the league's elite defensive teams and, outside of the
49ers in the NFC, arguably the best defensive team remaining in the
"We've really got our work cut out for us," Brady
said. "We'll be excited about the challenge. We'll use the week to
prepare like we always do, and really try to be at our best --
hopefully be better than we were this past Saturday night."
Though it's hard to nitpick based off Saturday's performance, the
Patriots might need to look into their run defense, which struggled
early when the game was still somewhat competitive. Once the score got
out of hand, neither Willis McGahee or Lance Ball presented much of a
Three years ago in Foxboro, Baltimore's Ray Rice
opened the game with a touchdown run up the middle on the first play
from the scrimmage. That set the tone in a lopsided win for the Ravens.
The Patriots need to be better in that area Sunday, or else the Ravens
will keep the ball on the ground early and often.
nothing about '09 or '10. This is nothing about last week or last
season or last month or 10 years ago. It's about this week," Brady said.
"The clock's ticking. And every second that goes by, we're one second
closer to getting to that game. We've got to use our time wisely, to
repair, get our rest, and be ready to go out and face our biggest
challenge of the season."
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