“They are irrelevant,” he said. “None of you all thought we were going to be right here this week anyway.”
For one year now, the Ravens have been striving to be in this position — back in the AFC title game. Ever since Lee Evans had the potential game-winning catch poked from his grasp and Billy Cundiff followed by hooking a 32-yard field goal attempt, Baltimore has been eager for another chance to play for a shot at a Super Bowl berth.
“The feeling we had in the locker room, I think we all wanted to get back to the AFC championship,” Ngata said. “Hopefully we can get it done this time.”
Underdogs or not, the Ravens are playing the Patriots for the conference crown. Again.
“It’s been a long road getting back to this point, and the way we left it last year didn’t sit well with us,” tight end Dennis Pitta said. “So we’re excited to be in this position against and give it another shot.”
Because the Patriots and Ravens are usually among the top teams in the AFC, they have met quite often in recent years. Baltimore’s 31-30 win in September was the fifth matchup between the teams since the start of the 2009 season. New England is 3-2, including 1-1 in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely grown into quite a rivalry, we would like to say. I don’t know how they feel about that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “But we have tremendous respect for the New England Patriots. … They just have a tremendous staff, tremendous players, tremendous tradition. It’s always a huge challenge for us, but it’s one we’re excited about and look forward to.”