OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens’ defense intends to spend much of Sunday afternoon harassing New England quarterback Tom Brady and burying him in the pocket.
Until that time, the game plan evidently is to smother him with praise.
Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs got into a shouting match with Brady in 2009 after the quarterback appeared to be demanding a penalty flag for a late hit. More recently, Suggs suggested that Brady’s two Super Bowl wins were “questionable” and that he continues to receive preferential treatment from officials.
Suggs abandoned the grudge Wednesday.
“There is no beef,” he insisted. “I guess the genesis of that, it was the incident in ’09 where I almost hit him below the waist. I’ve gotten over it. There’s where it all started, but you grow and mature. As you all can clearly see, I am not the same guy I was back in ’09. I am definitely 20 pounds lighter, too.”
He’s smart enough to know a war of words isn’t necessary just four days before the AFC title game. So this is what Suggs decided to say about Brady this time around: “When it’s all said and done, they are going to speak about three quarterbacks: Johnny (Unitas), Peyton (Manning) and him.”
Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis narrowed the field, saying, “You’re talking about arguably one of the two best quarterbacks of all time.”
The Ravens have plenty of reasons to respect Brady. The cold facts are that he threw six touchdown passes last week in a 45-10 rout of Denver and is 4-1 lifetime against Baltimore — the lone loss coming in the 2008 playoffs.
Nothing is more important for the Ravens on Sunday than stopping Brady. The first step in getting that done is to make sure he has very little time to throw in the pocket.
“You have to pressure Brady,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “If you let him stand there, he is going to kill you.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh couldn’t find anything bad to say about the Patriots’ star.
“He may be one of the elite quarterbacks ever to play the game,” Harbaugh said. “He’s big, he’s accurate, he throws the ball hard and throws a catchable ball at the same time. He moves around fairly well in the pocket, all those things.”
In four regular-season games against Baltimore, Brady has helped the Patriots generate 24, 27, 27 and 23 points.
“We’ve got our hands full this week,” Lewis said. “You watched what they did last week against Denver. Just the way they came out and ran their offense — how efficient he was, how many different receivers he hit with the ball. I think that offense, period, is playing at a very high level.”
Let the compliments fly.
“We’ve played the Patriots several times, and the games always come down to being classic,” Lewis said. “Brady is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and there is no better mind in football than (New England coach) Bill Belichick. So with all of that being said, here is our opportunity.”
Brady, similarly, has decided it’s wiser to say nice things about the Ravens than to give them added incentive to come after him Sunday.
“I have a lot of respect for them and their ability to play and perform under pressure,” Brady said. “They’ve been in the playoffs the last four years and they’ve won playoff games in the last four years. They’re a tough team. What goes on off the field and the comments that guys make really has no bearing or impact on this game, nor will it. A lot of my focus and attention is on what I need to do to be at my best this week for my teammates. Hopefully we go out there and play our best game.”
The Ravens intend to make it very difficult for Brady to fulfill that wish. They do, however, respect his drive to win.
“I don’t know Tom personally. I don’t know what he thinks of us,” Johnson said. “What I do know is that he is super competitive. Competitive people like a challenge, and we’re a challenge. We play a certain way that I think he likes, and I think he looks forward to playing. He gets fired up and expresses that. That’s my opinion. I think he looks forward to playing us.”