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John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens set for 'toughest challenge' in New England Patriots

By
Todd Karpovich, The Sports Xchange
The Baltimore Ravens seems to be peaking at the perfect time, but coach John Harbaugh doesn't want to derail that momentum, stating Now we have our toughest challenge...We're going to need to play our best football on Monday night up in New England to win that football game. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
The Baltimore Ravens seems to be peaking at the perfect time, but coach John Harbaugh doesn't want to derail that momentum, stating "Now we have our toughest challenge...We're going to need to play our best football on Monday night up in New England to win that football game." File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

On paper, there doesn't appear to be much of a rivalry between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots.

In fact, the regular-season series has been completely lopsided with Baltimore managing just one win in eight games. But it's been a different story in the playoffs where the Ravens have beaten the Patriots twice in Foxborough, Mass.

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The meetings between the teams have been generally close and almost always contentious. The stakes will be high on Monday night with the Ravens clinging to a spot in the playoffs and New England trying secure the top overall seed.

Baltimore seems to be peaking at the perfect time, and coach John Harbaugh doesn't want to derail that momentum.

"Now we have our toughest challenge," Harbaugh said. "We're going to need to play our best football on Monday night up in New England to win that football game. We do believe we have a chance to do that based on where we're at right now. That's what we're shooting for."

The Ravens had their most complete game of the season last week against Miami. Quarterback Joe Flacco completed a franchise-record 36 passes for 381 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.

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While Flacco would like to stay aggressive against New England (10-2), Baltimore (7-5) will need more balance between throwing and running the ball to keep Tom Brady and company off the field.

Flacco, however, has shown he can go head-to-head with Brady and win at Gillette Stadium. Two of Brady's three home losses in the playoffs have come against Flacco.

"We have to go up into a hostile place in New England that we really enjoy playing," Flacco said. "It's going to be another important game in December up there on a Monday night, and it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it, big time."

Flacco completed passes to 10 different receivers against the Dolphins, including a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Breshad Perriman. The Ravens hope that impressive performance can carry over to this game.

"For the most part, it's great confidence and momentum for us," Perriman said. "Everybody's playing great in all three phases, so we want to do that again in New England."

The Ravens enter the game with the NFL's overall defense in the NFL, allowing 296.1 yards per game. Brady is the league's top-rated quarterback (113.1).

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While Brady has dominated the rest of the league, he's had some struggles against Baltimore.

In six career games against the Ravens, Brady has six touchdowns and three interceptions with quarterback rating of 83.6. He has also been sacked 14 times.

The Baltimore players are not going to be intimidated by the hostile environment or back down from the challenge of containing a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer in Brady.

"We're always excited to play," defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. "It doesn't matter where we play. Wherever we are as a team, we're going to get it done."

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