Ravens seek redemption against Brady's Patriots
The Baltimore Ravens will be looking to avenge a heartbreaking loss that cost them a trip to the Super Bowl last season when they host the New England Patriots in primetime on Sunday for Week Three's marquee showdown.
A missed 32-yard field goal from then Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff that likely would have sent the AFC Championship into overtime is the lasting memory of the Patriots' 23-20 win but the pain was particularly acute for some Baltimore veterans.
Ed Reed, one of the finest free safeties of the past decade, considered retirement after the bitter disappointment of that January loss but decided to return for one more shot at a Super Bowl championship ring.
On Sunday he comes face to face with the Patriots again but insists the defeat is no longer on his mind.
"That was last year. They only crowned one champ last year, if I'm not mistaken. It's behind us," Reed, 34, told reporters.
"We're a totally different team this year. We don't even have some of the same guys on the team. It's always a new year the next year. I know I'm not worried about what happened last year. It was over and done with after that game."
The changes to the Ravens roster have been matched by some alterations in style with quarterback Joe Flacco making more use of the no-huddle offense but it remains the defense, with Reed and fellow veteran Ray Lewis, that is the defining aspect of the Baltimore team.
"They're very, very talented players, they play well within their scheme, and they complement each other well," said Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. "They're very physical, they're very tough, they're very smart and they really take advantage of bad offensive plays.
"I think more so than anything, they really capitalize on mistakes, so we've got to try to limit our mistakes."
The Patriots have managed to do that pretty well against Baltimore - their only loss in seven meetings came in the 2009 season's wild card round, with Reed one of three Ravens to intercept Brady.
"He's pretty much ingrained permanently in my mind," Brady said. "He's such a playmaker for them, and he shows up in a lot of different spots.
"He has such a great understanding of what offenses are doing. He obviously studies hard; he competes incredibly hard, and if you make a mistake, he really capitalises."
In other action, the Miami Dolphins host the rival New York Jets on Sunday in an AFC East divisional clash that will have some extra spice as it marks Jets' offensive coordinator Tony Sparano's return to Miami, where he was a head coach before being fired last year.
The New Orleans Saints, 2009 Super Bowl winners, look to avoid an 0-3 start when they host the Kansas City Chiefs who are also 0-2 this season.
"I'm optimistic that we're going to get this thing back on track very quickly," said Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
"Obviously we're disappointed by the 0-2 start, but there's nothing we can do about it now except learn from our mistakes."
In contrast, two of the league's six unbeaten teams will meet in San Diego where the Chargers host the Atlanta Falcons.
The 2-0 Houston Texans travel to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the 1-1 Broncos while Monday night's game sees the Green Bay Packers at the Seattle Seahawks. (Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue)