The Patriots and Ravens are ravenous rivals.
The teams have played four playoff battles in less than a decade, three times the winner going on to play in the Super Bowl.
The two AFC foes clearly have plenty of respect for each other, though there is certainly an underlying animosity in the rivalry as well.
Bill Belichick's big weekly Wednesday press conference opened with the New England boss expressing his clear respect for Baltimore, seemingly both on and off the field.
"It kind of feels like we're back in the division here this week. We've had a lot of games with the Ravens through the years, and after being in the NFC West this is definitely a team that has a lot of familiar faces. [They're] really playing well," Belichick said. "They obviously played great against Miami. They're really strong in all three phases of the game, outstanding on defense, very explosive on offense, well-balanced and always good in the kicking game. This will be a big challenge for us this week, a lot to prepare for. Good players, good scheme, well-coached, it's a good organization. It should be a good opportunity for us to really take the extra time to try to tighten up as many things as we can and be at our very best Monday night. That's what we'll need."
As the press conference unfolded, Belichick was asked plenty of questions about toughness – both in terms of what the Ravens bring to the game as well as how to target such a characteristic when putting together a football team.
Most notably, given his lifelong connection to the Naval Academy and the date, Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the 75th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor.
That answer is among the highlights of Belichick's morning press conference.
1. "The lesson on Pearl Harbor":Growing up as the son of a legendary coach/scout at the Naval Academy, Belichick has always had a special respect for the entire military and certainly the U.S. Navy. As such, Belichick was asked for his thoughts on the day's anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. His answer made it sound very much like it was a message that he has shared or will share with his team, as well.
"A pretty big day in our history, certainly in Naval history," Belichick began. "For me, the lesson on Pearl Harbor and for us as a team individually I would say is not what happened on December 7, although that was a lesson there, but the response and what the response was from our nation, from our military, from our civilians and from our population to battle the world on two fronts and win both of them. What this country did under [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt's leadership as well as the multiple military leaders to go fight in Europe and then go fight in Southeast Asia and Japan in response to what happened on December 7, 1941 is pretty impressive. I remember my dad talking a lot about that – when it happened and when he found out. Then when he went into the Navy and went to Great Lakes and then eventually went to Europe and eventually went to Okinawa, it was a tough time for this country but it was a great example of the patriotism of our citizens, men and women fighting together, pulling together and being victorious in a lot of different ways. It's a special, special day, one we hope we don't have to see again. A tough day for the Navy, though. But they responded, they bounced back, and then the Battle of Midway, that was really a huge turning point that had that not gone the way it did, then I don't know, it probably would have been a longer fight."
2. Raving about the Ravens defense: Belichick will spend the week preparing his Tom Brady-led offense for a Baltimore defense that's No. 1 in the NFL in both total yards allowed and rushing yards allowed. The Ravens are also tied with the Patriots for No. 2 in points allowed, while topping the league in third down defense. As has so often been the case over the years, including the recent history of the unit being led by former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Baltimore is one of the best defenses in the NFL yet again.
"They're very good against the run. They're very good on third-down. They don't give up a lot of points. They get you in a lot of long-yardage situations. They convert on third-down. It's hard to score. They don't give up many big plays, so it's pretty simple really," Belichick assessed. "You have to drive it and if you can't convert on third-down and you don't get big plays then it's hard to score, and that's what they've done a good job of."
3. "Tough, competitive" Ravens show up every week: Belichick made it clear he believes that the Ravens are a tough team – both mentally and physically – and that trait isn't just characteristic of the players on the field. The mental toughness is produced from the top down and throughout all aspects of the organizational building process.
"I imagine you probably wouldn't last very long there if you weren't [tough]," Belichick said. "Yeah, probably it's a combination of all of those things from the owner to the general manager to the head coach to their team leaders right on down the line. Tough, competitive group every week."
The coach also admitted that toughness is something that he and all teams consider when trying to put together a roster.
"Yeah, sure. Yeah, I mean look, if you want a tough team, you get tough players," Belichick declared. "If you want a fast team, you get fast players. If you want a big team, you get big players. If you want a quick team, you get quick players. It's hard to get all of those. Those guys go in the top five picks in the draft. After that, you decide what you want. If you want tall, long guys then you go get them. If you want tough guys, maybe they're not tall and long but they're tough. If you want fast guys, you go get fast guys. Maybe they're not tough but they're fast. Maybe they're not tall but you get what you want. Sure, there are guys that have those different qualities and if that's what you're looking for, that's what you want, then there's probably somebody out there that would have that quality and maybe not one of the other ones that you want. Maybe somebody else is looking for a different quality. They're all important but you've got to prioritize somewhere. If you can't get everything then you prioritize based on what you feel is most important to your team."