Tom Brady has been sharpening up for another test against the Baltimore Ravens, knowing that finding the right answers to their defensive schemes on Sunday will be key to the New England Patriots reaching another Super Bowl.
"I think it's important to put stress on their whole defense," the New England quarterback told a Foxborough news conference on Wednesday. "I think whatever they're not covering, that's what we have to be able to focus our play calling on and certainly our execution.
"If they're covering us deep, we'll throw it short. If they cover us short, we'll throw it deep. If they're playing the pass, we'll run it.
"I think that's part of the chess game."
Brady, who last week against the Houston Texans passed his boyhood idol Joe Montana into the top spot for NFL playoff wins by a quarterback at 17, runs the league's top-ranked offense for both yards gained and points scored.
But Brady, who has played in five of the last 11 Super Bowls and won three rings, figures it will not come easily against the Ravens, who have reached the playoffs the last five seasons.
Last year the Patriots were fortunate to claim a 23-20 AFC title victory over the visiting Ravens, who squandered a chance to win or tie the game in the final seconds.
In Week Three of the regular season, Baltimore hung on for a 31-30 victory over the Patriots in Foxborough, where the teams will clash once again for the conference championship and a berth in the Super Bowl on February 3 in New Orleans.
Brady said the Ravens' defensive statistics this season did not reflect the talent on the team, which was hit by a rash of injuries to important players but has gotten healthy in the post season.
"They have a lot of playmakers at each level of the defense," said Brady about a defense that features safety Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, the inspirational leader of the Ravens who has announced he will end his 17-year career after these playoffs.
"It's always a tough read because schematically they do quite a few things. It's never easy.
"They're great in the red area, they're great on third down, they really make you earn it. That's what we have to have as our mindset and that's what we're going to need to be able to do."
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; editing by Steve Keating.)