Ravens bracing for Patriots' onslaught

SAN DIEGO -- There will be no reprieve for the reeling Baltimore Ravens because the merciless New England Patriots are knocking on their door wearing a scowl on their faces as ugly as coach Bill Belichick's trademark hooded sweatshirt. Following a 32-14 loss Sunday to the San Diego Chargers, the Ravens (4-7) are mired in an unprecedented five-game skid that marks their longest losing streak ever.

Now, the Ravens are bracing themselves for the arrival Monday night of an undefeated Patriots squad that's spitting mad after nearly squandering a potential perfect season during a narrow win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's nothing special," said linebacker Bart Scott said in reference to a nationally-televised contest where the Ravens have already been installed as 20-point underdogs. "We're not going anywhere. We might as well try to beat somebody good."

When the league office and ESPN scheduled this game, they obviously envisioned a high-profile matchup with potential supremacy in the AFC on the line. Instead, it's a matchup between the powerhouse Patriots and the utterly disappointing Ravens, who have collapsed one year removed from a franchise-record 13-3 campaign.

The Ravens have fallen into last place in the AFC North.

"We just have to go out and do what we need to do, regardless of whether they're the best team in football or not," wide receiver Derrick Mason said regarding the Patriots. "We can be the team that beats them. That's our goal: to go home, get a little rest and come out Monday and try to beat a very good New England team.

"Hey, any team is beatable. I think we can win, but we have to execute the game plan flawlessly, basically 100 percent."

Ravens coach Brian Billick had a sarcastic response when asked whether his team has set up New England to be overconfident.

"I do, and we've worked pretty hard to do it," Billick said.

The reality of the situation is that the Ravens' lost season has degenerated into trying to spoil the Patriots' perfect season.

"The sad part is Monday night is probably our Super Bowl, and it's the 12th game of the season," cornerback Samari Rolle said. "It is what it is."

Headlined by quarterback Tom Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss, the Patriots have already scored more than 50 points twice this season.

Brady has thrown a league-high 39 touchdown passes with 3,439 yards on 72.4 percent accuracy and just four interceptions for a 127.9 quarterback rating. Moss has caught 71 passes for 1,095 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Defensively, the Patriots were already loaded and then they raided the Ravens in the offseason by signing All-Pro linebacker Adalius Thomas to a $35 million contract.

"They're a good football team, there's no doubt about it," offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden said. "I'll never admit defeat, but we've got our hands full next week.

"The way we've been playing, we're going to be 20-something point underdogs. We've got to go out there and try to find a way."

They'll try to do so against an annoyed Patriots, who acknowledged an out-of-character showing against Philadelphia.

"We played terrible, but we still got it," cornerback Asante Samuel told Boston reporters.

Added safety Rodney Harrison: "We're not happy about it, but we won."

Conversely, the Ravens are on pace to set a club record with 41 turnovers after losing two fumbles against the Chargers.

The Ravens lead the NFL with 19 fumbles and are about to play a New England defense that ranks in the top 10 at forcing turnovers.

"If I knew, I could pinpoint it and we could get it fixed, but I don't know," Ogden said. "We never get into a rhythm. We're not a bad team, we just do bad things to ourselves."

Added Billick on the turnover epidemic: "I'm open to any suggestions. It gets more tiring when every week there's always a cycle we go through. It's the cycle we're in, and it's not easy going through it. Any suggestion that anybody might have would be speculative at best."

Meanwhile, the only thing that seems to satisfy Belichick and Co. is running up the score.

The perception around the league is that the Patriots are trying to prove that they don't need illegal video assistance to outpace the competition following a "Spygate" where an NFL investigation of a taping incident against the New York Jets led to Belichick being fined the league maximum of $500,000 and the Patriots were ordered to pay $250,000 for spying on defensive signals. The punishment included surrendering their first-round draft pick next year.

Brady recently admitted in a radio interview where the Patriots' intentions lie.

"We're not trying to win 42-28, we're trying to kill teams," Brady said. "We're trying to blow them out if we can. You want to build momentum for each week.

"You don't want to go into the next week realizing that for the last 18 minutes of the game your team didn't play well or didn't play up to its capabilities. You gave other teams momentum for the next time they play you or you gave another team a reason not to be intimidated."

Could the Ravens become the Patriots' latest victim?

And when are the Ravens going to win another game over the next five weeks?

"It can get worse or it can get better," running back Willis McGahee said. "We've got to find a win somehow. I don't care whether it's against New England or the Colts or Seattle or Pittsburgh or Miami; we're going to get a win."

Over the next two weeks, the Ravens have to face the meat of their schedule. First, it's the 11-0 Patriots and then the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts (9-2) coming to Baltimore.

"It's a great challenge," Billick said. "We've been presented a great opportunity to display to the world that we're better than we are."

Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.

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