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INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Spotlighting Tom Brady’s Interception Targets

Gronkowski may be the player who Brady has been picked off when targeting him in each of the team’s first two postseason contests, but he wasn’t the player with the highest total during the 2014 regular season. (USA TODAY Images)

After seeing Tom Brady throw an interception in each of New England’s postseason games, the fact that both came on targets to Rob Gronkowski prompted an internal discussion here that had us wondering how many times that’s happened during the regular season, and if it was, in fact, Gronkowski who was Tom Brady’s biggest vice in 2014.

As it turns out, Brandon LaFell edged him out during the regular season, with four of Brady’s nine interceptions coming when he targeted the veteran wide out.  Gronkowski accounted for three of them, while Danny Amendola and Brian Tyms each were on the other other end of one throw each.

Here’s a look as well as what week each happened in:

9/29 at Kansas City Chiefs – Brandon LaFell (2)
11/2 vs Denver Broncos – Danny Amendola
11/16 – at Indianapolis Colts – Brian Tyms
11/16 – at Indianapolis Colts – Rob Gronkowski
11/23 – vs Detroit Lions – Rob Gronkowski
12/7 – at San Diego Chargers – Rob Gronkowski
12/14 – vs Miami Dolphins – Brandon LaFell
12/21 – at NY Jets – Brandon LaFell

Gronkowski so far has been the receiver targeted over New England’s first two postseason games when Brady’s been picked off.  Interestingly enough, prior to the interception he threw to him just over a week ago against the Ravens, Brady hadn’t been picked off targeting Gronkowski since back on December 7th against the Chargers.

Notice one name that’s missing?  That would be Julian Edelman, who has been the guy that Brady had the most success targeting during the regular season. Edelman had the highest completion percentage from Brady at 69% of the team’s’ five leading receivers, with Brady targeting him 134 times with 92 completions.

Wilfork Helps Woman Trapped in Her Jeep After Championship Win


Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork has always been known as a compassionate person, and following Sunday night’s AFC Championship victory he showed even more why he’s one of New England’s most beloved players on and off the field.

According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, Wilfork spotted an accident on Rte. 1 near Gillette Stadium where a woman rolled her Jeep Wrangler onto its side.  The veteran defensive tackle reportedly pulled over and helped pull her out of the vehicle and stayed with her until Massachusetts State Police arrived shortly thereafter.

After Wilfork left, the woman was charged with driving under the influence and arrested by police.

Wilfork told the website that seeing the accident just after winning a Conference Championship made him reflect on what was important.  But in the end, he and his wife, Bianca, were just glad to have been there to help.

“You kind of reflect on life a little bit,” he said. “Here I am, we won the most important game of our season, and flashing right in front of your eyes is the life of someone who is in danger. … After I drove off, my wife and I kind of talked in the car and said there are things that are a lot more precious in life than games or anything you accomplish in life. There are things out there that are more important. It showed last night, even though we won the AFC championship, it was life and danger. We were just happy to help.

“I don’t want anything from it. If I saw it a million times, I’d do it a million times no matter what the situation would be.”

LeGarrette Blount Puts Himself in the Record Books

Blount had another big game against the Colts Sunday night. (USA TODAY Images)

Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount has to be shaking his head a little and counting his blessings knowing how differently things could have turned out.

Blount was a free agent this past offseason and signed a contract with the Steelers that seemingly ended his tenure in New England.  But following internal issues where Blount wasn’t “the guy” in Pittsburgh, it lead to a conflict between the two sides that eventually resulted in his release.  After it happened, it didn’t take long for the Patriots to jump at the opportunity to strengthen their backfield with a guy who had enough familiarity to immediately contribute.

Blount dominated the Colts in last year’s postseaoson as well. (USA TODAY Images)

Sunday night was a shining example of how sometimes things work out for the best, and the Patriots now have a player who can pound out tough yards heading into their match-up with Seattle one week from Sunday.

Blount didn’t miss a beat against Indianapolis, looking just as dominant as he was a year ago against them when he racked up 166 yards and four touchdowns in a huge 43-22 Divisional playoff win at home.  Sunday night it was more of the same, with Blount piling up 148 yards and 3 touchdowns while carrying the ball 30 times, including quite a few where he lowered his shoulder and pounded defenders backward.

“He ran good,” said Bill Belichick after the game.  “Really he made some great cuts in not good conditions. He found yards when there weren’t a lot there and he’s a tough guy to tackle. He’s really a quality back. He made some great runs tonight. There were several times when he took nothing and turned it into something. Then when we had something, he got it and usually a little bit more. I thought he showed a lot of determination on the goal line to get the ball in the end zone. That was really an outstanding performance.”

It was more than outstanding, and it ended up being historic.  Blount’s three touchdown performance moved him into first place time all-time in franchise history for postseason rushing touchdowns, with Blount now totaling seven for his career.  That moves him ahead of both Curtis Martin and Tom Brady, who had previously held the mark tied with five each.  Blount also set a franchise record for rushing attempts with 30.

Blount’s also the first player in NFL history with multiple postseason games with at least three rushing touchdowns.

“I thought he ran the ball strong, tough,” said Blount’s teammate, Shane Vereen.  “I wouldn’t want to tackle him. I think he ran the ball well.”

Vereen also said that Blount’s a player who is well liked, which considering the fact players in Pittsburgh pushed for his release, clearly this is a place that he feels more at home and his attitude and performance certainly reflects that.

“[Laughs] We love LG whether he has 250 yards or five yards,” said Vereen.  “He’s a great player, a great teammate. He’s accepted around here and everybody loves him.”

And they’ll love him even more if he keeps running the way he did Sunday night.

Brady Now the NFL’s Postseason All-Time Leading Passer

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been known for his playoff success since winning his first Super Bowl back in 2001, and on Sunday night he further cemented himself into the NFL record books during the Patriots 45-7 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts.

Brady became the league’s postseason all-time leading passer Sunday night, passing Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning early in the first quarter.  He entered the game needing just 10 yards to eclipse Manning for the top spot, which happened just three minutes into the game thanks to a 5-yard completion to Julian Edelman on their second possession after they recovered a muffed punt by the Colts.

Brady continued his assault on the NFL record books Sunday night against the Colts. (USA TODAY Images)

The best part was the Patriots eventually scored on that drive, with LeGarrette Blount taking it in just five plays later for his first rushing touchdown of the afternoon to put New England up 7-0.

But that wasn’t the only mark Brady set.  He moved into second place all-time behind Joe Montana after throwing his third touchdown pass of the night. It was the 7th time he’s done that in the postseason behind Joe Montana, who has done it nine times.

Sunday also marked Brady’s 28th career postseason start, which extends his NFL record over Brett Favre (24), and it was his 9th career Conference Championship Game start, which was a new NFL record.

However, more importantly the win gave Brady his 6th career Conference Championship victory which is a new NFL record, moving him ahead of John Elway, who had won five.  It was also Brady’s 20th career postseason victory, extending his own NFL record.

After the game Brady was pleased with the achievement but wasn’t ready to think about it yet.

“I haven’t had much time to reflect,” Brady told reporters after the game. “I think we’re right in the middle of it. It was a great team win. We needed it from all three phases and to make it to this point is a great accomplishment for our team. Hopefully our best is yet to come.”

Even Now, Tom Brady Still Gets Nervous, But Patriots Need Another Big Performance

Tom Brady is hoping to advance this weekend against the Colts. (USA TODAY Images)

Back in 2002 in his first playoff appearance, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady played with reckless abandon against the Oakland Raiders and didn’t appear to show much in terms of nerves.

He was confident, he was cocky, and he certainly didn’t look like a first year quarterback during their championship run that season.  That approach served him well, and the result was an upset of the ages after Brady beat the Raiders, the Steelers, and eventually took care of the St. Louis Rams to clinch the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

That’s the type of player he was in 2003 and 2004, which is a span that was certainly one of the more impressive runs we’ve ever seen a team have.  Fast forward 10-years later, and Brady is surrounded by a group that has the team in their 9th AFC Championship and with seemingly enough talent to complete the job. There’s a great mix of veteran players and youth on this football team, and Sunday will require the veterans to help keep the younger guys focused at the task at hand.

On the offensive side of the football, Brady is that guy. While he’s surrounded by veteran players like Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell, it’s still going to come down to the 15-year quarterback to help them move on. The Colts are playing relatively well offensively and are likely going to put up points, which means that Sunday’s battle against Indianapolis is going to again put Brady in the spotlight against a team that he’s dominated in past match-ups.

Obviously on paper, it’s easy to say that the Colts have no shot and to just punch the Patriots’ ticket to Arizona.  One big thing that could change all that would be for Andrew Luck to come into Foxboro and play the way that Brady did in Pittsburgh during their final Super Bowl run during the 2004/05 postseason when they went into Heinz Field and stomped the Steelers 41-27.  Brady played a pretty flawless game after going 14-of-21 (67%) for 207-yards and two touchdowns.  It wasn’t a great game by any means, but he didn’t make any mistakes.  Not to mention the fact Deion Branch had a big game while catching 4 passes for 116 yards including a 60-yard touchdown.

In that game New England’s defense played well, picking off Ben Roethlisberger three times, including one by Rodney Harrison that he returned for a touchdown.   At the time the Patriots were ranked 9th defensively in the NFL while Pittsburgh had the league’s top ranked defense.  The bad news for the Steelers was the fact New England turned the tables, forcing mistakes while not making any of their own against a team that many thought would knock out the Patriots.  Instead Bill Belichick’s team ended up in Jacksonville, where they went on to beat the Eagles to win Super Bowl XXXIX.

The Colts could be that team this weekend, and that’s what the Patriots need to avoid.  All eyes will be on Luck, who already did the unthinkable and knocked Peyton Manning out in Denver last weekend.  His confidence is likely pretty high heading into Foxboro, and as much as Indianapolis would love to see him help his team advance, he also has the benefit of being a player with nothing to lose since either way that team heads into the offseason with plenty of optimism and a bright outlook heading into 2015.

That’s a dangerous combination.  Brady doesn’t play defense, so the two won’t really be battling head-to-head.  But should Luck’s offense start putting up points, it will be up to Brady to answer.  This is going to be a critical time for Brady to play well and he’ll need to play with that same confidence and ability that endeared him to the fans here in New England.

Brady said the experience of being there in the past will help him, but it won’t matter unless he plays well.

Tom Brady admitted on Wednesday that the nerves are still there even now.
(USA TODAY Images)

“Well, I mean at some point you don’t have the experience and that’s certainly [like] when I was younger and it didn’t matter much to me when I was younger,” said Brady.  “As you get older, experience is definitely good as long as you play well. It’s a game like all the other games; I think it’s just, there’s a finality to this game and obviously only one team advances. It was the same as last week, so we’re very fortunate to be in this position; to have a chance to play in it.

“I think more so than anything, you’re just excited for the opportunity to be able to do it. It’s hard to do and our team found a way to get there this year, so hopefully we can take advantage of the opportunity.”

Brady’s now 37 years old with that opportunity sitting in front of him.  Win, and they’re heading to another Super Bowl with a group that certainly has enough talent to compete with anyone, which they’ve shown after a rocky beginning.  After starting the season 2-2 and being written off by many experts throughout the league, the Patriots went on to lose just one more meaningful game the rest of the season against Green Bay.  In that game they held their own against a team that could very well become Conference champions themselves this weekend should Aaron Rodgers upset Seattle, and it could set up an opportunity for redemption on a neutral field.

But that will only happen if Brady takes care of business against Indianapolis, and he admitted that like last week against Baltimore, it won’t be easy.  They won their first meeting in week 11 42-20, but Brady didn’t exactly have his best game.  He threw two first half interceptions and New England went into the locker room up just 14-10 at the half.

Jonas Gray came out and rushed for 101 yards in the second half and Brady missed just two passes over the final two quarters after finishing 9-of-11 for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns, and it was that performance that helped carry New England to a win.

This time around he’ll likely be hoping that he’ll play a more complete game.  Brady said on Wednesday that while familiarity helps, they’ll need to be at their best.

“Obviously, you want to play your best, you’ve got to be at your best physically and mentally, so whatever it takes for us to get there over the course of the next four or five days is what we have to do,” said Brady.  “I just try to stress that to everybody and hopefully we can go out and execute as well as we can on Sunday.”

Regardless of how Luck plays, the Patriots need Brady to put together a solid outing.  Aside from an interception toward the end of the first half last weekend against the Ravens, Brady put together a pretty good performance, and it was one of the better postseason games he’s played in a while against a tough defense.

Brady admitted there will be some nerves, but the preparation they put in this week will be the difference between starting the offseason next Monday, or boarding a plane to play one more game.

“I think that’s part of playing sports,” said Brady when asked if he still had that “nervous energy”.  ” Being in a competitive situation like we are, I don’t think that ever goes away. You never know what’s going to happen on game day, you work as hard as you can to kind of prepare for everything and like I said, to be physically and mentally right, but no one can predict what’s going to happen.

“You have your vision of the way you want things to turn out on a particular play or scheme or something like that and if it does, great; if it doesn’t happen the way you want it to, which is most of the time, you’ve got to figure out something to do. I think that’s where a lot of the nerves come into play, the anxiousness of just the anticipation of what’s going to happen versus what we’ve prepared for, so you just have to prepare for a lot of things.”

Hopefully it will equal another strong effort on Sunday.

Belichick Doesn’t Get the Fuss on a Formation ‘That happens all the time’

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said after his team’s loss to the Patriots that Bill Belichick’s bunch used formations that “nobody’s ever seen”.

According to Belichick, maybe he should start paying better attention.

The Patriots head coach held a conference call on Tuesday and he doesn’t seem to get what all the fuss is about regarding what the team did to catch the Ravens off balance Saturday night and get them back in the game when they had four offensive lineman and split Shane Vereen out as an ineligible receiver.

As a student of the game, Belichick coached a good game Saturday night against the Ravens to advance to the AFC Championship game. (USA TODAY Images)

According to MMQB’s Peter King, it’s a formation he’s seen Alabama’s Nick Saban use and he seems to believe that Belichick may have garnered the idea from him considering the two are good friends.  However, Belichick claims it’s a play that he got the idea from after seeing something from another NFL team.

“It’s a situation that I saw another team use, kind of,” said Belichick on Tuesday.  “Then we talked about it and thought about ways maybe to put some pressure on the defense with that concept of having more receivers on the field than were actually eligible. To make them ineligible instead of making an ineligible guys eligible, to go the other way around. We came up with a few ideas. I’d say the origin of that play was from the NFL. What they did wasn’t [what we did], but it sparked some ideas, so we did what we did.”

When asked whether or not he might hear from the league about being prevented from using those formations again, Belichick seemed annoyed and said that this happens frequently enough where it shouldn’t be that big of a deal and that “you’re allowed to do that.”

“Like what? I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Belichick. “That happens all the time. You come in on the punt team, ineligible guys report as eligible. They line up as guards and tackles on the punt team, the center up to the center’s numbers aren’t eligible players that report ineligible. Then they cover punts. We’ve seen it on offense. We’ve seen it – particularly you see it a lot on special teams in the punting team. Not so much on the field goals because you have your linemen protecting there.

“I would say it happens in every game on the punt team. You’re allowed to do that. We did it. I don’t really understand what the question is. If you have a question about the rules, you just talk to the NFL rules people and let them tell you about it.”

Belichick went on to say that as far as he knows, he can’t remember a week going by where another team hasn’t done it in some form.

“Yeah. I think you see it every week,” said Belichick. “I’d venture to say I couldn’t remember the last time that I haven’t seen that; haven’t seen an eligible receiver report as an ineligible player in the National Football League. I’d say that happens every week.”

So there you have it.  Harbaugh said it’s never been done, while Belichick insists it happens each week. Either way it’s a brilliant move that has the Patriots playing in the AFC Championship game next weekend.

Amendola Peaking at the Right Time With the Patriots

Danny Amendola came into New England with the expectations of being the play-maker in the Patriots offense, but it’s safe to say that things didn’t quite work out the way that he may have hoped.

His first season had their share of ups and downs. It started with the toughness he battled with in the Patriots week one win over the Bills where he caught 10 passes for 104 yards, but he also re-aggravated a groin injury that cost him the next three games and allowed more playing time for Julian Edelman. Edelman took advantage of the opportunity and from there Amendola never looked the same despite playing in 11 of the team’s final 12 games.

In the end it was Edelman who emerged as the Patriots top receiver, and it left Amendola in an odd situation where New England suddenly had two players with similar skillsets.  It also didn’t help Amendola that the chemistry between Tom Brady and Edelman became apparent, with the two putting together two straight thousand yard seasons (or close enough, as Edelman finished with 972 yards in 2014 and only missed it because he sat out the final game while recovering from a concussion) for the former Kent State quarterback.

Amendola scored two touchdowns Saturday night against the Ravens. (USA TODAY Images)

That left Amendola as the odd man out in an offense that this season also added Brandon LaFell, who has been a terrific possession receiver and actually accounts for three of the team’s 10 longest pass plays of the regular season.

On Saturday, LaFell had a touchdown against Baltimore, hauling in a critical 23-yard scoring strike from Brady in the fourth quarter that ended up being the game-winner, and was also the 46th postseason touchdown for Brady, which was the most in NFL history.

But before LaFell’s game-clinching catch, Amendola caught two of his own, including one from Edelman in the third quarter on a double-pass play that saw Brady throw a backwards pass to Edelman out wide on the left, who threw a beautiful pass to Amendola as he was streaking up the field and hit him in stride, which saw him easily scamper into the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown.

“It’s a play we’ve been working on all year,” Amendola told reporters after their win over the Ravens.  “Testament to Julian [Edelman]; has a great arm and [is] a great athlete. He put it on the money, that’s for sure. It was a good throw.”

One of the most enjoyable moments of the night was seeing Amendola make a play early in the game where he caught a 4-yard pass and then willed his way the remaining 11-yards before diving in for the score.  He’s worked hard since he started taking on added responsibilities returning kicks, and his value has grown over the past few weeks and it was great to finally see him have an opportunity to contribute.

“He played great today,” said Belichick following the win.  “He’s a guy that’s been a real good player for us all year; really competitive. Nobody works harder in practice. He’s made some huge plays for us.

“The touchdowns today, [he] made a great play there on third down to fight for the yardage and get the first down. He’s given us plays in the return game. Yeah, can’t say enough about Danny. [He] works hard, really works hard, tough. He’s had some big plays for us this year. He had some big ones today.”

It’s great to see in an offense that now has a healthy group that includes tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose presence on the field saw seven different receivers catch passes during Saturday’s game. But Amendola is a player with plenty of athleticism and a history of making explosive plays, and the playoffs are as good a time as any to remind fans why the Patriots saw so much in him to give him a five year, $31 million contract in March of 2013.

This is a team that needs everyone clicking offensively and if ever there was a time for guys to step up, this is the time of year you hope to see it. The Patriots are fortunate that Amendola has picked the playoffs to start peaking and hopefully that continues next week.

It’s been a long time since Rob Gronkowski entered the postseason completely healthy, and Saturday night’s win over the Ravens was a big example of just how much the veteran tight end means to the offense.

Gronkowski had a strong performance, finishing with 7 receptions for 108 yards along with a touchdown against Baltimore, and after the Patriots got down by 14 early in the first quarter it was Gronkowski who helped kick things into gear.  After catching a 16 yard reception to get New England out to the 40 yard line on their second possession, Brady hit Gronkowski on a perfectly thrown ball down the seam that went for 46-yards, setting New England up with a first and ten at the Ravens 14-yard line.

Rob Gronkowski had a strong performance against the Ravens on Saturday.
(USA TODAY Images)

Four plays later Tom Brady took the ball in on his own for the touchdown, and just like that, the Patriots were back in the game trailing by seven at 14-7.

Later in the second quarter Gronkowski came up for a second time, hauling in a 23-yard reception that, once again, got the Patriots into Ravens territory.  Five plays later Brady and Danny Amendola connected for a 15-yard touchdown, and suddenly the 14 point advantage was gone for the Ravens with the game knotted at 14-14.

The Ravens went up 14 again in the third quarter after the Patriots failed to get anything going on their opening drive, with Joe Flacco connecting with Justin Forsett for a 16-yard touchdown on the ensuing possession. However, it wouldn’t last long.  Brady immediately lead them on a 9 play, 80 yard drive that ended with a 5-yard touchdown to Gronkowski to pull New England within seven. That touchdown pass also put Gronkowski over 100 yards on the afternoon, the second time he had done that during the postseason in his career.  The last time was back on January 14th, 2012 during the team’s blowout win over the Broncos where Gronkowski caught 10 passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

Gronkowski’s been absent during the team’s previous two postseason runs, lasting just minutes into their Divisional match-up against Houston two years ago after re-breaking his forearm, followed by last season’s knee injury against the Browns that cost him his season.

This time around, he’s healthy and playing at what could arguably considered an MVP level, and Saturday’s Divisonal win over the Ravens was a big example of how much he means to this football team. Gronkowski’s presence on the field made a difference, and you could clearly see the Ravens trying to account for where he was. They took advantage of that in the second half, and the Patriots put together an effective plan to help open up opportunities for other players.  Julian Edelman (8 receptions, 74 yards), Danny Amendola (5 receptions, 81 yards, 2 touchdowns), Brandon LaFell (5 catches, 62 yards, 1 touchdown), Michael Hoomanawanui (4 catches, 43 yards) and Shane Vereen (4 catches, 39 yards) all had productive afternoons, largely in part thanks to having Gronkowski out there.

It ended up being a fight to the finish and it’s hard to imagine this game turning out the same way had they not had the veteran tight end on the field. Fortunately he’s back, and after the game Gronkowski told reporters he was just pleased the team stayed together despite being behind for most of the game.

“We just stuck together as a team and took it one play at a time,” said Gronkowski. “We knew we couldn’t put up two touchdowns in one play so we just stuck together, got first downs, and we came through. [Our] defense played well, stuck together, and executed, as well as on offense.”

And now they’re moving on.

Ravens Cry Foul in Loss to Patriots

In a game where they were down by two touchdowns on multiple occasions, Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels had to get creative to try and stop a Ravens pass rush that got to quarterback Tom Brady quite a bit in the first half, including two sacks during a second quarter drive that knocked them out of field goal range.

The result saw them employ a four man offensive line while adding an additional player up front as an eligible receiver.  To make matters worse, the Patriots didn’t report the eligible receiver until just before the snap, preventing the Ravens from being able to adjust.

Brady and the offense got creative in the second half to slow down the Ravens’ defense. (USA TODAY Images)

The result?  A second half that saw them outscore Baltimore 21-10 and now the Patriots will advance to yet another AFC Championship game next weekend at Gillette Stadium.

The move apparently caught Ravens head coach John Harbaugh by suprise and he wasn’t happy about it, further adding some future fire to a rivalry that already has enough bad blood between the two sides.

“It’s a substitution type of a trick type of a thing,” explained Harbaugh after the game.  “So they don’t give you the opportunity, they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substitutions and things like that. It’s not something that anybody’s ever done before. The league will look at that type of thing and I’m sure that they’ll make some adjustments and things like that.”

Harbaugh said he spoke to the officials to try and understand what was happening because he was trying to get a handle on the players that needed to be covered. However, what really frustrated him was the fact they were snapping the ball so quickly which made it difficult, and the Ravens coach said that there was “deception” in what the Patriots were doing.

“We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were, because what they were doing was they would announce the eligible player and then time was taken and they would go over and snap the ball before we even had the chance to figure out who was lined up where, and that was the deception part of it,” said Harbaugh. “And that was where it was clearly deception.

“The officials told me after that they’d give us the opportunity to do that, which they probably should have done during that series but they didn’t really understand what was happening. That’s why I had to go and take the penalty, to get their attention so that they would understand what was going on because they didn’t understand what was going on. And they said that that was the right thing, that they’d give us the chance to ID the eligible receivers so we could actually get them covered. That’s why guys were open, because we didn’t ID where the eligible receivers were at. So, that’s the nature of that particular thing they were doing, that’s what made it so difficult.”

Harbaugh said that he hadn’t seen it before, and also went on to say that, “Nobody’s ever seen that before.”  When asked if he considered it cheap or a dirty tactic, he said he wasn’t willing to comment on that.

Brady was pretty blunt during his press conference when asked to react to Harbaugh’s comments, and surprisingly candid.

“Who knows. Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,” said Brady. “We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us. Maybe we’ll have something in store next week.”

After being told that Harbaugh called it clear deception and that the league was going to look at it, Brady reacted saying, well, let them.

“They’ll look at it then,” said Brady. “I don’t know what’s deceiving about that. [They] should figure it out.”

For now, the Patriots were able to overcome the game plan the Ravens had put together to stop them, and whether Harbaugh likes it or not, New England has advanced to battle the winner of the Colts and Broncos next Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Ravens Heading To Foxboro For Divisional Match-Up

Bill Belichick now knows who he needs to get his team ready for this week. (USA TODAY Images)

Now we know who the Patriots will be facing.

The Baltimore Ravens went into Pittsburgh and took care of the Steelers Saturday night, winning 30-17 and now will come into Gillette Stadium for yet another showdown against the Patriots in next weekend’s AFC Divisional Game. Kickoff is slated for 4:35pm ET on Saturday.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco finished Saturday night’s game 18-of-29 (62%) for 259 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the Ravens’ defense that eventually ended up being the difference in the game against a Steelers team that just couldn’t get anything going despite being at home.

Baltimore kept Roethlisberger under pressure for most of the game, sacking him five times and it was their play in the fourth quarter that ended up eventually closing the game out. They put a big hit that left the Steelers’ signal caller dazed after his head struck the ground hard, knocking him out of the game for three plays to under go concussion testing before later being cleared to return. The bad news is, the cobwebs were still thick and after he re-entered he threw what was essentially a game-ending interception in the endzone on his first play.

There were a lot of hits like that by the Ravens in the final quarter, with Baltimore’s defenders drilling Steelers receivers, including one play where tight end Heath Evans took a big shot, while Markus Wheaton also got lambasted on another play.

Needless to say this sets up what will likely be quite a physical match-up. Fans likely remember a previous AFC Championship game where the Patriots defeated the Ravens back on January 22, 2012, but it came at a cost as they lost Rob Gronkowski to a significant ankle injury after a tackle by Bernard Pollard that drastically limited his effectiveness against the Giants in a disappointing 21-17 Super Bowl loss. Pollard is long gone, but the Ravens defense was hitting hard in Pittsburgh and got the job done well enough to advance.

The Ravens last visited Foxboro in the postseason during another AFC Championship Game, where they beat the Patriots back on January 20, 2013 to win the Conference before eventually defeating the 49ers to win the Super Bowl.

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