When the Patriots and Ravens face off Sunday night in the AFC Championship, it shouldn’t be considered a rematch of their regular-season game, let alone last year’s title tilt at Gillette Stadium.
Both teams are vastly different.
Not only don’t the Patriots have tight end Rob Gronkowski — whom the Ravens expended most of their energy covering since Aaron Hernandez was out with an ankle injury in the Sept. 23 matchup won by host Baltimore, 31-30 — it was the third-worst game played by the New England defense this season, behind only the abominations that were the first Jets game and the second matchup with the Bills.
It wasn’t just one group, it was all three levels. The normally reliable linemen got shoved out of their gaps. The linebackers had big trouble with their run fits. And the secondary was a horror show reminiscent of 2011 with blown coverages, missed tackles, and penalties.
And there wasn’t much of a pass rush. Not only was it the team’s only game without a sack of the season, the 19.1 pressure percentage was tied with the Broncos game for fourth-worst this season. The Patriots blitzed only twice, or 4.3 percent — the lowest rate since the start of the 2010 season.
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