In 2009, the Ravens came to Foxboro and dominated from the first snap. That’s not an exaggeration: in the first play of the game, Ray Rice took the ball to the house. It was demoralizing, brutal, and a fitting way for a disappointing year to end.
And it has literally as much bearing on what will happen Sunday as what underwear I put on that day.
Here’s the reality. That 2009 Patriots team was critically flawed. They didn’t especially like each other and didn’t play well. This is the team that will be immortalized by that 4th and 3, the play that led a frustrated Belichick to tell Brady “I just can’t get this team to play the way I need them to.” This was the worst Patriots team since 2002, both in terms of talent and chemistry.
More importantly, the team that took the field that day was decimated by injuries. There was no Wes Welker; instead, the Patriots put forth rookie Julian Edelman and career special teams player Sam Aiken as the receivers, alongside perennial disappointment Ben Watson and the completely forgettable Chris Baker at tight end., driven by the backwards running game of Laurence Maroney. All the Ravens had to do was double team Randy Moss and there were no real offensive options for Brady. Meanwhile, the defense was being anchored by hall of famers like Darius Butler, Brandon Merriweather and Gary Guyton.
A couple of beat writers have mentioned this, but it’s worth noting. There are only 16 people left on the 2011 Patriots squad who played that game. On offense, you go from Watson/Baker to Gronk/Herndo, with Welker replacing Edelman and Branch/Ocho replacing Moss. There’s also a running game with Lawfirm/Ridley/Woodhead replacing Maroney. Oh, and Brady isn’t recovering from ACL surgery, a process which took the entire season in 2009. The defense, while inarguably porous, is a more veteran group that is not being torn apart by the sulking of Adelius Thomas and Derrick Burgess.
What happened in 2009 sucked. But these are two very different teams now. Whether the Ravens can win again in Foxboro is arguable, but won’t have anything to do with what occurred two years ago.
(You know what DOES scare me about the Ravens? The fact they have Bernard Pollard on their team. Dude took the ACL’s out of Brady in 2008 and Welker in 2009. We know Gronk is too dumb to get hurt but I feel like Belichick might want to wear protective gear this game. Just sayin’.)