Lack of style points means nothing

After yesterday's 20-13 win over the Texans, safety Ed Reed was asked how much better the Ravens would have to play against the Patriots next week if they hope to come away with another playoff win.

"A lot better than today," Reed said, matter-of-factly.

It's certainly the truth.

The Ravens can't score 20 points and expect to win in New England. They can't convert 25 percent of their third downs, average 2.8 yards per carry or go the entire game without sacking the quarterback and think that they'll pull off a road win against a Patriots team that is absolutely on fire.

But the reality of the situation is that none of those stats matter right now.

Yes, the Ravens won ugly yesterday. Their offense stunk up the joint for nearly three full quarters and their pass rush was nearly non-existent. Texans running back Arian Foster ran all over them to the tune of 132 yards and Baltimore's special teams unit allowed yet another big play. But that game is now in the past.

Ed_Reed-interception-sidebar.jpg"I always say that there's a right way to do things, there's a wrong way to do things, and then there's the Ravens' way to do things," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "It wasn't really pretty, but hey, we're not really a pretty team. We got the W, and on to the AFC championship."

Come this morning, the Ravens will begin preparations for the Patriots, a team that presents an entirely different set of issues - and has completely different weaknesses - than the Texans.

Instead of facing the NFL's No. 2 defense, as they did yesterday, the Ravens will face the league's second-worst defense in New England. Instead of having to gameplan for Foster and the league's second-ranked rushing attack, the Ravens will now scheme against the league's second-ranked passing offense. Instead of facing a rookie quarterback who had made six career starts, they'll face a seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback who just set an NFL record by throwing five touchdown passes on one half of a postseason game.

"You don't take anything from one week to next week," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "It's the 24-hour rule, win, lose or draw. You're going to see a totally different Ravens team next week because we are playing a totally different team next week in the New England Patriots. And that's the way the playoffs are."

You constantly hear players and coaches make statements like Lewis' following a subpar performance. Teams that didn't play their best say that they don't care about the stats or the style points - comments which often make reporters and fans roll their eyes. We like big wins, lofty numbers and dominating performances.

But in the postseason, the "a win is a win" mantra is especially accurate. Each week is essentially its own season, and once a victory is in the books, it's time to start fresh and move on to the next opponent.

The Ravens would have loved to have put up 45 points on Houston and stymied the Texans' powerful rushing attack. But a performance like that would mean exactly the same thing today that yesterday's result does: that the Ravens are in the AFC championship and they're one win away from a spot in the Super Bowl.

"I would anticipate, against the team we're about the play, (we) have to do a better job offensively, in terms of numbers and stats and points, of course, than we did (against Houston)," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We'll see how that plays out throughout the course of the game. ... But it's about looking forward. We're not looking behind us. We're not looking to either side. We're just looking forward to the next challenge, and that's the one we'll be going after."

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