The Ravens performance last night in Gillette Stadium left much to be desired for Baltimore fans. If not for so costly special teams gaffes by the usually reliable Patriots special teams, we likely would be looking at a more lopsided final tally. With the exception of the first 20 or so minutes of the second half, the Ravens top ranked defense had trouble slowing the explosive New England offense. The Ravens offense also struggled, and although they converted their two short fields into touchdowns, was unable to maintain drives. Even special teams had its share of issues, with returner Devin Hester letting punts go too often, resulting in horrible field position and the blocking units allowing an early blocked field goal.
While the Ravens still have work to do in order to lock up a playoff berth, they still control their own destiny with a Christmas day matchup against primary rival Pittsburgh looming. They also likely will have to prevail week 17 in Cincinnati, against a team which although they have under-performed, has had the Ravens number of late. The Ravens last win in Cincinnati was week 16 of 2011, a 24-16 victory. The 2011 season is also the last time the Ravens swept the Bengals.
If the Ravens can come through and secure a playoff berth, their previous history has demonstrated that teams led by John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco step up their game in the playoffs against New England, despite lack of regular season success.
Regular season: 27-21 road loss
Playoffs: 33-14 victory, Ravens crushed their spirit with early 21-0 lead
Regular season: 31-30 win at home on a last second field goal
Playoffs: 28-13 road victory, dominating 2nd half
So while the Ravens may have disappointed for now, there is reason to expect the Ravens to be ready next time. Maybe seeing what the Patriots throw at them in the regular season has helped in the past, and hopefully it will help again this year. One thing is for sure, the Ravens have always been prepared for the Patriots when it matters most. Every playoff game between these 2 teams has been a battle, and while the Ravens wish the results were different in 2011 and 2014, the Ravens nearly won both those games.
So now is the time for the Ravens to buckle down and win the next three weeks. With a playoff berth within our grasps, lets hope the Ravens come ready to play. We will worry about the Patriots when the time comes. But make no mistake, they know who is their biggest obstacle to another Super Bowl appearance. That was clear from all the trickery they resorted to on Monday night.