Ravens to re­new ri­valry with Pa­tri­ots in prime­time

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By JORDAN SCHATZ

jschatz@ce­cil­whig.com

— A ri­valry that has pro­vided NFL au­di­ences with nu­mer­ous big games over the past decade will be re-kin­dled on na­tional tele­vi­sion on Mon­day night when the Bal­ti­more Ravens travel to face the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots in a late-sea­son show­down be­tween a pair of AFC play­off con­tenders.

The ri­valry, which reached its peak in 2011-12, when both teams clashed in back-to-back AFC cham­pi­onships, has been dor­mant for the past two sea­sons. The two or­ga­ni­za­tions last bat­tled in the 2014 di­vi­sional round, when the Pa­tri­ots over­came a pair of twotouch­down deficits to beat the Ra-

OWINGS MILLS

vens en route to an even­tual Su­per Bowl ti­tle.

“That’s some­thing that we’ve been hon­ored enough to be in some big games against them over the years,” nine-year Ravens head coach John Har­baugh said Mon­day. “We feel like that’s a place we want to be, and we’re ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity.”

New Eng­land head coach Bill Belichick, whose team owns a 5-3 edge over Bal­ti­more since the Ravens hired Har­baugh in 2008, shared a sim­i­lar opin­ion dur­ing a Wed­nes­day con­fer­ence call with Bal­ti­more me­dia.

“It’s a great, com­pet­i­tive sit­u­a­tion. Both teams have a solid tra­di­tion, we’ve played very com­pet­i­tive games against each other. We’ve won some, they’ve won some, it’s gone back and forth a lit­tle bit,” Belichick said. “I have great re­spect for the peo­ple, for the or­ga­ni­za­tion, for [Ravens owner] Steve [Bis­ciotti] and for the com­pe­ti­tion that our two or­ga­ni­za­tions have.”

The Ravens (7-5), cur­rently .5 games back of the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers for first place atop the AFC North, will take the field hav­ing won four of their last five games, in­clud­ing a re­cent 38-6 vic­tory over the Mi­ami Dol­phins on Sunday. Mean­while, the Pa­tri­ots (10-2) can clinch an eighth­straight play­off berth with a win.

“We like the fact that we’re in [the play­off hunt]. We like the fact that we’re in a fight for the divi­sion cham­pi­onship. That’s our first goal—the start­ing point of ev­ery­thing we try do to ac­com­plish one week at at a time,” Har­baugh said. “Now we have our tough­est chal­lenge. We’re go­ing to need to play our best foot­ball on Mon­day night up in New Eng­land to win that foot­ball game. We do be­lieve we have a chance to do that based on where we’re at right now. That’s what we’re shoot­ing for.”

Two of Bal­ti­more’s three vic­to­ries over the Pa­tri­ots dur­ing the Har­baugh era have come at Gil­lette Sta­dium in Foxbor­ough, Mass., in­clud­ing a 33-14 win in the 2010 Wild Card round and a 2813 tri­umph in the 2012 AFC ti­tle game that pro­pelled the Ravens to Su­per Bowl XLVII.

While Mon­day’s con­test won’t have a Su­per Bowl berth on the line, the stakes re­main high as both teams po­si­tion them­selves for a post­sea­son run.

“The Ravens are a re­ally good foot­ball team, they’re play­ing very well in all three phases of the game and they have a lot of great play­ers, very well coached and they’re a very dis­ci­plined team that’s phys­i­cally and men­tally tough. They do a lot of things well and they’re very hard to beat,” Belichick said. “It looks like they’re play­ing their best foot­ball at this time of year at the right time.”

DOUG KAPUSTIN/MCT

New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots wide re­ceiver Ju­lian Edel­man is pushed out of bounds by Bal­ti­more Ravens cor­ner­back Jimmy Smith fol­low­ing a first down re­cep­tion dur­ing the sec­ond half of their game in Bal­ti­more on Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013.

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