Patriots coach Bill Belichick, like many coaches, to make sure no game becomes more important than the others.
But for his players, tonight’s game at the Ravens (which you can see on NBC) will take on a greater importance, for what the opponent represents.
Asked when the Ravens game took on that kind of weight for the Patriots, and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork pointed back to the 2009 playoffs, when Baltimore walked into Gillette Stadium and walked out with an easy 33-14 win.
“When they kicked our tails — when they embarrassed us,” Wilfork said, via Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald. “And they did a pretty good job of embarrassing us that year. From that day on, it’s been, like, you know what, we have to mark them on the calendar, just like I’m sure they mark us on the calendar.
“Over years, you develop that. It’s like a division game. It’s like the Steelers. [They] are like a division game because we’re always playing them. We know each other so well, and when you play a team a lot, and they’re a good team, that’s when it starts.”
Last year’s AFC Championship Game was the latest evidence, which will doubtless spark the other side. But Wilfork knows they’re taking the Ravens’ best shot.
“We’re going to have to play almost a perfect game to walk away, on the road, Sunday night, to get a victory,” Wilfork said. “This team, right now, stacks as one of the best Baltimore ever had.
“I’m pretty sure they’re gonna be riding high. They’re going to be very excited. To finally get us at their place, on Sunday night football, early . . . that whole stadium will be revved up.”
And so will a national televised audience.