The last time the Ravens and the Patriots shared a football field, things did not go so well for the boys from New England.
The Ravens rolled into Gillette Stadium Jan. 10 of this year, and with a spot in the Divisional Round of the playoffs on the line, Baltimore smoked the Pats.
Ray Rice's 83-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage gave the Ravens a 7-0 lead, a lead which ballooned to 24-0 by the end of the first quarter. Rice, Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain ran over the Patriots for 234 yards, the Ravens' defense forced four turnovers, and the end result was a 33-14 win for the road team.
Interestingly enough, when asked whether the memory of that game would lead the Pats to have revenge on their minds this Sunday when the Ravens and Patriots meet again, players and coaches from both teams have had mixed responses.
Some, like Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and linebacker Ray Lewis, believe the Wild Card game last year is in the past, and it won't do anything to inspire the Pats this week.
"I don't think it means too much," Harbaugh said, "other than they studied the game probably."
"If you get into revenge... Every year is a new year, every game is a new game," said Lewis. "[It] is a different game, and I don't think they're going back that far to think about it that much. I just think the bottom line for them is to try to get a win, just like for us this week is to try to get a win."
Others, like Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, admit that the blowout loss the Ravens delivered might play a bit of a factor entering this Sunday's matchup.
"The game sticks with all of us," Belichick said in a conference call with the Baltimore media yesterday. "We split with them last year, but they won the one that mattered the most. It was a great performance by them in the playoffs and not a very good one by us. They were clearly the better team that day, and they deserved to win. There's no question about that. It's a new season, a new game, and we'll see how this one comes out."
Personally, I'm of the mindset that if you get beat down at home in the playoffs, and have your fans leaving the stadium in packs before the third quarter has ended (I distinctly remember seeing a throng of Pats supporters heading for the exits early that day), you might be a little fired up the next time you see the opponent who gave you the beating.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs is with me on that.
"Any time you play a playoff game at home and you lose a playoff game at home, that's going to leave a sour taste in their mouth," Suggs said. "I'm sure when they saw they had us on the schedule, they saw red. They're going to come at us, but we expect nothing less, especially from the New England Patriots. We definitely look forward to the opportunity, and if it's going to be a fight at [one o'clock], we'll see them there."
After previously going 0-5 against the Patriots, the 33-14 win was the Ravens' first victory against New England in team history. The five Patriots wins all came in the regular season, however, while the lone Baltimore W was in the playoffs.
Belichick, Tom Brady and the Pats are as proud a bunch as any in the NFL. While some might say that these two teams' last meeting was in the past and it's a brand new season, I find it hard to believe that the team in New England has put the embarrassing loss completely behind them.
"I think it has to be in the back of their head," said Rice, one of the main contributors to the Foxboro Massacre. "Obviously, because what we did last year was uncommon for that kind of team. We went up there; we dominated them.
"They have a lot of experience, but I'm sure it's in the back of their mind."