- Associated Press - Sunday, January 15, 2012

FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) - Next up to try and stop the seemingly unstoppable Tom Brady and the New England Patriots‘ offense: the Baltimore Ravens.

Good luck.

How do you cover powerful Rob Gronkowski and versatile Aaron Hernandez and still have a defender left to deal with Wes Welker, the NFL’s leading receiver?

Can you generate enough of a pass rush to foil Brady’s quick release? If you don’t, the master of analyzing defenses and firing precise passes can stand comfortably in the pocket, calmly searching for his best option and the quickest route to the end zone.


And don’t forget the ground game while you’re focused on all those aerial stars.

Get ready, Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs. Your dominant defense is about to get its toughest test.

Baltimore’s reward for beating the Houston Texans 20-13 on Sunday is a date with the prolific Patriots, who got there with a 45-10 win Saturday night over the Denver Broncos that turned Tebowmania into a passing phenomenon while its central character, Tim Tebow, kept passing poorly.

The Ravens play at Foxborough on Sunday with a defense much better than the one the overwhelmed Broncos displayed. Baltimore’s unit is the third-stingiest in the NFL, but it has never seen anything like this. Not with Brady at the top of his game after his decade of greatness.

“The team revolves around him,” Hernandez said. “When he comes to play, which he mostly does every game, then we’re going to be on fire, and when he’s ready, we’re all ready.”

Brady’s performance rivals _and surpasses in some ways _ his 2007 MVP season when he set an NFL record with 50 touchdown passes and established a team mark of 4,806 yards passing. This season, he beat that by more than 400 with 5,235, second-most in NFL history to Drew Brees’ 5,476.

The Patriots went 18-0 in 2007, then lost the Super Bowl 17-14 to the New York Giants on a last-minute touchdown. Now they’re 14-3.

One more win gets them to the championship game thanks to Brady’s six scoring passes against Denver, tying the NFL record held by Daryle Lamonica and Steve Young. By halftime, Brady already had thrown for five touchdowns while Tebow had just three completions.

The victory helped ease the lingering pain of three straight playoffs losses _ 33-14 to Baltimore and 28-21 to the New York Jets after the Super Bowl disappointment.

“You lose a few playoff games and it’s a very bitter way to end the season and it sits on your mind for quite a long time,” Brady said. “For us to come out and play the way we did, have a very solid performance in the most important game of the year is very gratifying.

“From this point on, everyone will be focused on what we need to do to be better next week and, hopefully, come out and play for another championship.”

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