Ravens vs. Patriots: Bill Belichick praises the Ravens and Ray Lewis

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised the Ravens and future hall of fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis in Wednesday's press conference, as the Patriots prepare to face Baltimore at home in the AFC Championship game.

As the Patriots prepare to face the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game for the second season in a row in Foxborough, head coach Bill Belichick met with members of the press to answer questions. He praised the Ravens for the job they've done, not only this season, but over the past few seasons, and also expressed how close this weekend's game could be.

We know it will be a big challenge this week, to compete against this organization. We've had some close games against them recently. Four of the last five games have come down to the final play and to overtime in one case. They're very good at really everything they do. They're tough, they're well coached, they're explosive, they make big plays and they show that they can handle difficult situations, whether playing on the road or the double overtime game in Denver last week. Whatever the challenges are, they stand up to them. Hopefully we can have a good week here in preparation and practice and be ready to play our best on Sunday, I think that's what it's going to take. They're as good as any team we played this year, better than most, and that's the way it should be. We're playing a team that we had a great game earlier in the season, it came down to the very last play, and we don't expect anything less than that.

The Ravens and Patriots met in Week 3 in Baltimore, where the Ravens won by a score of 31-30 after the Ravens drove down the field to kick a last-second field goal. The Patriots have won three of the last five games, but all three of those games were won by less than a touchdown.

The Patriots are looking to get to their second-straight Super Bowl and there isn't a much better quarterback than Tom Brady to help move their top-ranked offense down the field and into the end zone. However, standing in their way is the stout Ravens defense, led by future hall of fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who has already announced his retirement following the season. Belichick has faced Lewis before and praised him for the way he's played over the last 17 seasons.

His consistency, his production and he's won a lot of games. He's very productive, has good instincts, great in the running game, is instinctive in the passing game, play action and recognizing different route combinations. He's a good blitzer, he times his blitzes really well. He has a good command of the defense in terms of making adjustments, controlling the front. We're talking about a hall of fame player that has had tremendous production over a long period of time, I wouldn't say there are many weaknesses in his game.

The Patriots and Ravens are set for kickoff at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday in Gillette Stadium, and the game will be broadcast nationally on CBS.

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