All week there was a common theme with the Baltimore Ravens. The team seemed calm.
Team leader and starting middle linebacker Ray Lewis said it was because the team knows the opponent and knows the task at hand. After all, Sunday will mark the second time in two seasons that the Ravens and Patriots have faced off in the AFC Championship.
It’s a rare occasion. In fact, it’s the first AFC Championship rematch since the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos played back-to-back conference title games in 1986 and 1987.
But for many in the Ravens organization, an understanding of the opponent wasn’t just something gained over two the course of two seasons. They have personal connections.
· Executive vice president and general manager Ozzie Newsome began his front office career as a scout with the Browns in 1991. Patriots coach Bill Belichick coached the browns that year.
· Defensive coordinator Dean Pees spent six seasons on the Patriots’ coaching staff.
· James Ihedigbo played with New England in 2011. He started in 12 games that season and played in 16.
· Defensive end Arthur Jones is the older brother of Patriots rookie defensive end Chandler Jones. Their middle brother, Jon “Bones” Jones is the UFC light heavyweight champion.
· Outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw and Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower played together at the University of Alabama and won two BCS National Championships.
· Cornerback Jimmy Smith and Nate Solder of the Patriots were 2011 draft picks from the University of Colorado.
· Ray Rice, Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty and Patriots defensive end Justin Francis played together at Rutgers.
· Ravens safety Ed Reed, offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie and Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork played on the 2001 Miami team that went undefeated (12-0) and won the BCS National Championship.
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