For all the flashy numbers being posted by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the Patriots’ electric tight end duo and the rest of the New England offense–the supposed core of this team–is a defense that ranks historically bad as far as playoff teams go.
There has never been a team in NFL history that has allowed more than 360 total yards per game in the regular season that has ever reached the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Also, no team has ever reached the Super Bowl with a defense that ranked 25th or worse in the league.
The Patriots will challenge to become the first, as they allowed 411 yards per game this season, which ranked 31st in the league.
Despite a defense that has allowed opposing offenses to move the ball up and down the field at will, New England has made up for their suspect defensive play with opportunistic plays. The Patriots led the AFC in interceptions with 23 and also led the conference in turnover margin at +17.
Meanwhile, for the Ravens, no other stat has proved to be a greater indicator of postseason success than turnover margin. The Ravens have played 16 postseason games in their franchise-history, and the team with the fewest turnovers is 15-1.
There have been two constants for the Patriots this season: Number one, they have played with the lead more often than not, forcing opposing team’s offenses into passing situations. As a result, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington tied the NFL lead this season with seven interceptions.
Number two, New England doesn’t turn the ball over. Their 17 turnovers were good for fewest in the AFC. In fact, Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis has never fumbled in his four-year career. Green-Ellis had 181 carries this season and has 562 touches in his career, and he has yet to put the ball on the turf, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. That’s the longest streak of of not coughing up the ball since the league began keeping track of fumbles, which started in 1945.
Baltimore, who ranked fourth in the league this year with a margin of +2, had 26 takeaways and 24 giveaways. The Ravens knack for creating turnovers on the defensive side of the ball has been a staple of their prolonged success.
If the Ravens want their season to continue, they will need to win the turnover battle Sunday in New England.
It’s that simple.