Home sweet home. Sure works for the Patriots in the AFC title game.
New England gets a chance to extend its mastery in the final step to the Super Bowl on Sunday against Baltimore, the team the Patriots beat a year ago for the conference crown. That win made them 4-0 in home conference title games.
Although they were more vulnerable at home than usual during the 2012 regular season, losing to Arizona and San Francisco and having tight games with Buffalo and the Jets, the Patriots (13-4) are happy not to be heading to Baltimore (12-6) this weekend. Or anywhere else.
"Everything is on deck," Patriots Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said. "You have to put everything you have into this game. If you lose, you go home, plain and simple."
But the Patriots are at home, where they've been beaten in early-round games, including against the Ravens 33-14 three years ago.
GRONKOWSKI TO IR: New England placed tight end Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve with a broken left forearm.
Gronkowski broke his left arm on the Patriots' seventh offensive play of Sunday's 41-28 win over the Houston Texans.
Ravens PK Tucker sure he won't miss
If the Ravens need a field goal in the waning seconds of the AFC championship game, they'll call upon a rookie with little regard for history.
Justin Tucker knows all about the 32-yard kick that Billy Cundiff missed last January against the Patriots, costing the Ravens a chance to force overtime with a trip to the Super Bowl hanging in the balance.
None of that bothers Tucker.
"What's in the past is in the past," he said. "Anything that's happened in the past year, two years, five years, 10 years, or just the last several weeks, that's all null and void now because we just have a singular task at hand — to beat New England."
Cundiff's miss in the AFC title game was among the most agonizing plays in Ravens history. With Baltimore trailing 23-20 in the final minute, Lee Evans dropped a pass in the end zone before Cundiff's kick sailed left to end the Ravens' season.
Tucker went 30 of 33 on field goal tries during the regular season, including game-winners against New England and San Diego. Last week, he nailed a 47-yarder in the second overtime to give the Ravens a 38-35 win over top seed Denver.
Tucker's accuracy is exceeded only by his self-assuredness. If asked to win the game Sunday night, Tucker said he won't flinch.
"I will be confident because we have a routine we follow," he said. "We do what we know and do what we trust."
RAVENS AT PATRIOTS
RAVENS AT PATRIOTS
AFC championship game
Sunday: 6:30 p.m.
TV: CBS, Channel 10