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Sports

January 18, 2013

Home sure is sweet to Patriots

FOXBOROUGH — 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. At this stage, though, no way.

That success rate for the AFC championship doesn’t fool Wilfork into feeling complacent. Just the opposite.

“This team always plays us tough,” Wilfork added. “This team has been in the playoffs on the road and won a lot of games. They won here in the playoffs. We have to be able to prepare well and execute very well at a high level. I don’t think we can (leave) no stone unturned in this game, because if we do it could cost us.”

The Patriots are one of the NFL’s best home teams, going 73-15 since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002, including 10-2 in the postseason. Many of those games have been routs.

But the Ravens are 8-5 in road playoffs, including their upset of the Broncos in double overtime last Saturday in an equally tough venue.

And there’s no reason to fear a trip to Foxborough, where no one has fared better in the playoffs.

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