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QB Brady braces for team that often has his number

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QB Brady braces for team that often has his number

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) There's something about the Baltimore Ravens that brings out the worst in Tom Brady.

Against most teams, he plays like one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Against the Ravens, he gets outplayed by Joe Flacco.

So what's the problem?

Start with the Ravens' inspirational, hard-hitting leader, Ray Lewis. Add a talented secondary led by Ed Reed. And throw in a strong defensive line with Haloti Ngata leading the charge.

``They have a lot of playmakers at each level of the defense,'' Brady said Wednesday before the New England Patriots practiced. ``It's not like you beat this team, 50-0. It's always a tight game. There's tight coverage. There's tight throws, tough reads because schematically they do quite a few things. So it's never easy.''

He doesn't expect it to be in Sunday night's AFC championship game.

``You play against a team like this, that's able to adjust because of their personnel and because they do a lot of things schematically, there are a lot of `what ifs' in preparation throughout the course of the week,'' he said. ``That's really what we're trying to hone in on this week.''

Brady is 5-2 in his seven games against the Ravens, not a bad record. But his personal statistics are among the poorest against any of the 31 teams he's faced in his 13-year career.

His 58.6 completion percentage and 74.1 passer rating are the lowest against any opponent. The Ravens are the only team he's thrown more interceptions against (eight) than touchdowns (seven). They've sacked him 16 times, one of five teams averaging more than two a game against Brady.

In five games against the Patriots, Flacco is 2-3 but has completed 64.7 percent of his passes with a 95.7 passer rating. He's thrown for nine touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Brady's 49.1 rating in a 33-14 playoff loss to Baltimore on Jan. 10, 2010 is his lowest in his last 101 games and sixth lowest in his 198 career starts, including the postseason.

Why?

``For one, you've got a guy (Lewis) that's been playing ball for 17 years sitting in the middle, so that tells you right there that their leadership is one of the best things that they have,'' Patriots running back Stevan Ridley said. ``They're known for defense. They're known for Ray Lewis. They're known for Ed Reed.

``You're going to see some of the greats going at it (Sunday night). What else could you ask for. This is what you live for. This is playoff football.''

Some quarterbacks say they establish their legacy with their postseason play.

Brady, winner of two regular-season MVP awards and two more in Super Bowls, has no time to dwell on that now.

``I don't really think about any of that,'' he said. ``I'm just trying to win a football game this week. I think we're very short-term focused and playing against a great football team that obviously deserves the right to be here. We know how challenging of a team they are.''

The Ravens know how good Brady can be even though he's struggled at times against them.

``We've got to play smart. We're dealing with a brilliant quarterback,'' safety Bernard Pollard said. ``We have to understand ... the pieces he has around him. He can fire that ball to anybody, and they're going to play their tails off for him.''

The Patriots got off to a horrible start against the Ravens in their wild-card matchup three years ago and Brady was a major factor.

Ray Rice scored on an 83-yard run on the game's first offensive play. Then Brady turned the ball over on three of his first four possessions, leading to 17 points and a 24-0 Ravens lead after one quarter.

They started at the Patriots 17-yard line after Terrell Suggs recovered Brady's fumble, the 25 after Chris Carr intercepted a pass and the 9 after Reed picked off another one.

Six minutes into the game with the Patriots trailing 14-0, the fans booed their hometown team.

``I'd have been booing us, too, the way we played,'' Brady said after the game. ``Playing the way we played today, we weren't going to beat anybody.''

He next played against Baltimore in last year's AFC championship game. The Patriots won that 23-20, but Brady threw two interceptions and no touchdowns, had a 57.5 passer rating and helped keep the Ravens in the game.

The Patriots took that three-point lead when Brady capped a 63-yard drive with a 1-yard run on the first series of the fourth quarter. But their next two drives ended when he threw an interception then couldn't get a first down when the Patriots got the ball with 2:46 remaining.

They punted and Flacco led the Ravens from their 21 to a second-and-1 at the Patriots 14. But then he threw two incompletions, the first when Lee Evans was stripped of the ball in the end zone, and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal attempt on the next to last play.

In their most recent meeting, the Patriots led 30-21 on Sept. 23 in the fourth quarter but punted on their last two possessions. The Ravens then scored 10 points in the last 4:01 and won 31-30 on Justin Tucker's 27-yard field goal on the final play.

That was typical of Ravens-Patriots matchups - close with the outcome determined late in the game.

Five of Brady's seven games against them were won by six points or less. Two of the last three were won on last-play field goals. The third was decided when Cundiff missed his field goal attempt with 11 seconds remaining in last year's AFC title game.

``They're as good as any team we played this year, better than most,'' Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. ``We're playing a team that we had a great, great game with earlier in the season. It came down to the last play. We don't really expect much less than that this time around.''

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AP Sports Writer David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this report.

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Ravens not counting on having LB C.J. Mosley vs. Broncos on Sunday

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Ravens not counting on having LB C.J. Mosley vs. Broncos on Sunday

BALTIMORE -- Coming off a long weekend following their first loss of the season, the Baltimore Ravens have implemented a contingency plan for moving forward without three-time Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley.

Mosley bruised his left knee Thursday night in a 34-23 defeat at Cincinnati. Although the fifth-year standout receives a few extra days to recover, it's unlikely he will ready for Sunday's game against unbeaten Denver.

"It isn't a structural issue. That's good news," coach John Harbaugh said Monday. "We'll just see how that thing comes along and keep our fingers crossed."

Rookie linebacker Kenny Young and Patrick Onwuasor played the position after Mosley left in the first quarter. Though the Ravens tightened up defensively in the second half, they yielded touchdowns on four straight series after Mosley's departure.

"It definitely seemed like things were a little bit scrambled when you lose a guy like that," cornerback Marlon Humphrey said. "Just him being out there makes everything smoother."

To help fill the void, the Ravens on Monday signed Albert McClellan , who played six years for Baltimore before being cut on Sept. 1.

McClellan missed all of last year with a knee injury but has 90 games of NFL experience, all with the Ravens.

"Albert is a very good football player. He knows everything we do," Harbaugh said. "He gives us a lot on special teams and can play middle linebacker. I would say he kind of solidifies in there a little bit, having so many young players in the group."

To make room for McClellan, the Ravens placed cornerback Maurice Canady on injured reserve with a thigh injury. Harbaugh said it's not a season-ending injury, and it's possible that Canady could return later in the season.

Mosley led the Ravens last year with a career-high 132 tackles and is in charge of calling the plays on defense. That role has been handed to safety Eric Weddle.

Young appears in position to make his first NFL start. Selected out of UCLA in the fourth round of the NFL draft, the 23-year-old Young made a favorable impression before his making seven tackles last week in Cincinnati.

"He's going a great job. We're real happy with him," Harbaugh said. "He's very smart, very studious, very conscientious. I think his learning curb is steep."

After beating Buffalo 47-3 in the opener, the Ravens (1-1) took a huge step back last week. The Bengals led 28-7 in the second quarter and cruised to the finish.

Following a short week, the Ravens enjoyed a rare weekend that did not involve playing football.

"Yeah, that's valuable to have that, as far as recovery and things like that, and study," Harbaugh said.

It also provided the team some extra time to get over the Cincinnati game.

"You just can't beat yourself up too much because if you do, that just takes you in a downward path," Harbaugh said. "What it's going to boil down to in the end is, who's mentally tougher over the long haul? You've got to keep grinding."

There are plenty of unbeaten teams remaining, including the Broncos, but Harbaugh believes it's way too early to start identifying the best clubs in the league.

"Nobody in the NFL is a good football team yet," he said. "It remains to be seen who the good football teams are, and that's what we've got to try to become."

Harbaugh said tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Willie Henry (abdomen) won't practice this week.

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Ravens Week 2 Player of the Game: WR John Brown

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USA TODAY Sports

Ravens Week 2 Player of the Game: WR John Brown

Coming off a strong Week 1 performance, the Ravens marched into Cincinnati for Week 2 and put up a dud.

The defense struggled immediately without C.J. Mosley, and Joe Flacco and the offense saw their share of unfortunate turnovers. 

While there was much to be concerned about in their 34-23 loss, one Raven that brought a high to a mainly low night was offseason addition John Brown.

Brown's night was highlighted by an insane 21-yard touchdown that put the Ravens within five in the fourth quarter. Prior to that, Flacco connected with the wide receiver for a 45-yard completion on third down. 'Smoke' also drew a 30-yard penalty that helped set up a touchdown, finishing his night with four catches for 92 yards.

The connection between Flacco and Brown was apparent throughout training camp, and in two games, the 28-year-old has become a trusted target. He currently leads the Ravens with 136 yards and two touchdowns and his 19.43-yard average is well above his fellow receivers. The speed he possess makes it difficult for defenses to keep up, and if Brown can stay healthy, he could be the consistent deep-threat the team's been looking for for years. 

 “I’m satisfied, and I did pretty good," Brown said after the Ravens' Week 1 win. "But it doesn’t stop right here.”

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