Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the Patriots in their 2009 playoff loss to the Ravens have Ben Watson and Chris Baker at tight end, Randy "I give up" Moss, Sam Aiken, and rookie Julian Edelman at wide receiver (and don't forget converted quarterback Isaiah Stanback at wide receiver, because I know I did!) and last and certainly least Laurence Maroney and Fred Taylor at running back? This is not the same Patriots team other than a few key players. This was a completely different team altogether.
PATRIOTS 2009 DEFENSIVE STARTERS VERSUS BALTIMORE:
DE: Ty Warren NT: Vince Wilfork DE: Jarvis Green OLB: Adalius Thomas ILB: Jerod Mayo ILB: Gary Guyton OLB: Tully Banta-Cain CB: Shawn Springs CB: Leigh Bodden S: James Sanders S: Brandon Meriweather
The defense that got shredded returns all of Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo as contributors. Showing up in the 2009 Playoff game included Brandon Meriweather watching Ray Rice run past him on the opening play 83 yard touchdown run, James Sanders at the other safety a step slow as usual. With Leigh Bodden at one corner and Darius Butler splitting time with malcontent Shawn Springs, this secondary makes Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty seem like the belles of the ball.
With Mayo at linebacker was Gary Guyton (still on the team, not seen on the field in a while), Tully Banta-Cain, Adalius Thomas, and the corpse of Junior Seau. Yikes. Defensive line alongside Wilfork had rookie Myron Pryor (on injured reserve presently), Ty Warren, and Jarvis Green. Any wonder this defense was shredded? Now the Patriots have a good run defense and have locked down opposing offenses in the red zone.
Remember as well, this 2009 Patriots team was the first team since 2002 that got away from Bill Belichick in the clubhouse and spilled over into sloppy, undisciplined and poor play on the field. There was Randy Moss showing up late, Adalius Thomas and Shawn Springs undermining the coaching staff. Hardly a team that was prepared to make a run through the playoffs.
PATRIOTS 2009 OFFENSIVE STARTERS VERSUS BALTIMORE:
LT: Matt Light LG: Logan Mankins C: Dan Koppen RG: Stephen Neal RT: Sebastian Vollmer TE: Chris Baker QB: Tom Brady WR: Randy Moss WR: Julian Edelman WR: Sam Aiken RB: Laurence Maroney
On offense the Patriots return Tom Brady and a few offensive linemen. Seriously. Matt Light and Logan Mankins return. No Dan Koppen at center is a bit of a loss, but they have survived without Koppen all year and can do no worse than Koppen did in that playoff game against Haloti Ngata who tossed him around all game. Marcus Cannon is looking like a 5th round steal filling in at tackle and guard like Seabass (Sebastian Vollmer)did in 2009. Rookie Nate Solder is a beast at right tackle and a definite upgrade over Nick Kaczur who manned right tackle in 2009, and Brian Waters is doing so well at right guard that one wonders if Scott Pioli released Waters because he owed Bill Belichick a favor. Waters is a huge upgrade over Stephen Neal who was struggling to stay healthy in 2009.
Add in Wes Welker blowing out his knee the week before in their last regular season game in 2009 against Houston (how does everyone forget that?), and that Patriots team was a beaten-down group who had already given-up on their season and had graduated to a status of being classified as no more than Tom Brady and the walking dead. This team could not win on the road. This team got beat by the freaking Dolphins. This was the year of the melt-down against the Saints where everyone shut off the TV and said "Are the Saints that good or the Pats so bad?" (the answer was Yes and Yes). Do you remember these two incidents from 2009?
Randy Moss' effort called into question: A firestorm ensued when two Carolina Panthersdefenders said that Moss shut it down during the Patriots’ 20-10 win on Dec. 13 (2009). Owner Robert Kraft, Belichick and Brady threw their support behind Moss.
Players showing up late for a team meeting: On a snowy, icy Wednesday morning, Derrick Burgess, Gary Guyton, Moss and Adalius Thomas were sent home by Belichick for being late to an 8 a.m. meeting. (from: Mike Reiss, ESPNBOSTON.com 1/10/2010)
So if the Ravens can hold Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to 2 receptions for 5 yards like the dynamic duo of Ben Watson and Chris Baker had in 2009, I like the Ravens chances to win. If the Patriots have to give Kevin Faulk over 20 touches because there is no other offensive weapon for Brady, then these Baltimore Ravens have a real chance tomorrow. But, please, the 2011 Patriots are so very, very different from the 2009 Patriots. It is hardly a valid comparison. Call it apples to oranges. With no disrespect to a defense with Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs, and Ed Reed, but I like the Patriots chances in the AFC Championship game much more than in the 2009 playoff mess.