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Double Coverage Ravens@Patriots

Double Coverage Ravens@Patriots
S/R Staff
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AFC Divisional Round

Double Coverage Ravens@Patriots

by nossorcSlickVinny & peatwo-DOOOMMEEEEDD

All Time Records: Patriots 7-1
Postseason: Ravens 2-1 

Lets get down to business:

Ravens-Patspeatwo

The talk of cyber world post Steelers/Ravens trended to “The Ravens are the last team the Patriots wanted to face out of their three choices”. Of course much is knee-jerk, but what is your opinion, and why has this been such a competitive match up in the playoffs, and in reality since the Pats 16-0 2007 season?

nossorc

The Ravens are well coached, I see that as the first and foremost important piece of the puzzle. Secondly, they are well managed and supported by the front office. Despite what seems to be a bitter hate between the Ravens and Patriots, they are very similarly run organizations. In addition, there are eerie similarities between Flacco’s and Brady’s careers to this point, both don’t miss games, both tend to often elevate their game when it matters most and both are benefactors of solid defensive minded coaching staffs. From my view, the Ravens games feel just like divisional matchups, which are always well contested, no matter the rosters produced at kickoff.

SlickVinny

I think this is true.  I mean look at the other two options that could have come here to play.  I think the combined scores of their meetings this year was somewhere in the range of 100-25 (I’m not looking it up).  That’s not saying that we NE fans actually fear this years version of the Ravens, frankly they’re not very good (although now that I’ve typed this I fully expect the Pats to lose).  As to this being a great rivalry?  I think it’s been great because the Ravens have had a bunch of guys that have their own “mystique” and don;t need to fear the Pats.  Although these days I’m not sure the Bleach King can muster enough to make up for the loss Ray and Ed.

Ravens-Pats

nossorc

There will be a lot of talk this week about the 2012 AFC Championship Game matchup, but really both teams have completely changed outside of QB, what are the biggest losses and gains from the 2012 Ravens?

peatwo

The toughest part about that question is Ray Rice. Although the 2012 version of Rice was good, and he did have a 2 yard TD in the AFCG, the Ravens really can’t do worse than his 19 carries for 48 yards he had that day. The Ravens biggest losses on offense from 2012 were the size and toughness of not only Anquan Boldin, but also Dennis Pita who can’t shake the hip issue, and FB Vonta Leach. They did keep 3 quality players on offense other than Flacco from 2012: their all-world guard Marshal Yanda (you may hear Chuck Norris-like legends about him), guard Kelechi Osemele, and WR Torrey Smith, who had a solid 2012 and a decent playoff game. Although Torrey has not had the contract year everyone was expecting, he does stretch the field and leads the team in drawing DPIs and holding penalties. The gains since 2012 include adding Boldin-like toughness in Steve Smith, Sr., and 3 rookie or 2nd year WRs with 2 solid TEs and a versatile FB to give them much more quality receiving depth than in 2012. But the biggest gain was the hiring of Gary Kubiak and a few other coaches who led the Ravens to their best offensive production in their brief year history (although with inconsistent offensive success).

In short, the Ravens 2014 are stronger overall than the 2012 version at receiver and guard, but weaker at tackle due to current injuries. On defense, they are stronger and more athletic up front, faster and more athletic at linebacker giving them a MUCH better run defense than 2012, but weaker in their defensive backfield. I think the CB opposite Webb was bagging groceries a few weeks ago. The DBs do seem to be gelling as a unit recently (although that may be a result of the recent success of their 4-man pass rush), and Will Hill has shed the suspension rust and is showing his potential that was lost in nightclub activities before coming to Baltimore.

DOOOMMEEEEDD

The biggest loss would be talent in the secondary. Jimmy Smith rounded into form that postseason, Corey Graham was a solid nickel back. While not the most talented, the tandem of Reed and Pollard worked well enough to make safety play respectable. Will Hill is the only talented safety in the backfield currently.

The biggest gains come in the front seven,particularly depth on the D line (Williams, Jernigan, McPhee’s surge). Add in Dumervil to pair with Suggs and CJ Mosley replacing Ray Lewis in the middle, and you get one of the most talented fronts in the league.

Ravens-Pats

DOOOMMEEEEDD

With the Ravens’ front 7 accounting for 50 sacks this season, 23 from the Suggs/Dumervil duo, the rest coming from multiple players along the line and LB crew, how do the Patriots plan to counter the pressure? Screens and the run game haven’t exploited the unit.

nossorc

WR screens with LaFell and Edelman have been popular plays for the Pats this year to get both games and drives going. I suspect we see a few of those, this opens up the middle of the field for Mr. Gronkowski as it leads to linebackers and safeties cheating toward stacked WR sets. It will definitely be important for the Patriots to keep Brady clean, so in addition to quick passing, the power run game needs to get going early as well. To your point that screens and the run game don’t slow down the pass rush, it could be a long Saturday afternoon for Pats fans if that holds true!

SlickVinny

Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower have been nothing short of very good this year.  When Mayo went down again this year many of us feared what was to come.  Hightower has shown that he has what it takes to lead a defense and Collins is an athlete the likes of which has not been seen on Foxboro for some time so since we’re talking about guys like Justin Ease-it and Ed Dickson, I think they should be able to handle it.

Ravens-Pats

SlickVinny

The Ravens certainly don’t fear going to Foxboro to play a playoff game, but with only Terrell Suggs and his bleach pouring ways, do the Ravens have enough of the criminal element to instill fear in the Pats?

DOOOMMEEEEDD

As one of the most respected veteran leaders, Ngata took it upon himself to increase the team’s street cred by getting suspended. Don’t sleep on Rashaan Melvin, who has become known for his Sherman-esque tirades during team practices. Practice. We’re talking about practice. Imagine what he’ll do in a real game.

peatwo

If you followed the Ravens off-season, you know there is no shortage of criminal element. Will they instill fear in the Pats? I think the game they played last week where Steelers players were staggering off the field should be enough to have Tom Brady thinking “If I feel threatened, do I slide and try the groin up-kick again, or should I surprise them with a face scratch?” If the Ravens continue to collapse the pocket with a healthy Ngata, Williams, and McPhee, with Suggs and Dumervil working the edge, Brady could be in for a long day. The key to the game will be whether or not the Ravens can make Brady uncomfortable by rushing just four. If they can get pressure without blitzing, I would expect a Ravens win, potentially setting up a rematch between the Ravens and Anna Burns Welker’s trolling twitter account.

Ravens-Pats

peatwo

What has been the biggest difference with Tom Brady from his struggles during the first 1/4 of the season to his success over the last 3/4?

SlickVinny

Bryan Stork (and the fact that they no longer needed the Tuba player).  Inserting The Majestic Stork into the middle of the line and allowing Dan Connolly to go back to guard and cover Nate Soldier’s rear end was a huge help (I will spell his name correctly when he learns to not suck).  Keeping Brady on his feet has been the biggest difference (that and his sweet new running moves)  Fun fact:  The 2013 FSU offensive line was widely regarded as the best in the country.  Stork was the only player to not return in 2014 and they ranked somewhere around #110.

nossorc

There are three answers to this question and I’ll discuss them based on importance in my eyes. First, Rob Gronkowski, right around week four, the training wheels were taken off and the Gronk of old was back. A healthy, football shape Gronk changes this offense, it did last year and it did this year, he dominates in every part of the game he takes part in. Next, but not far behind, is the offensive line, the line the first few weeks of the season was running on the guess and check system, with a multitude of combinations that never seemed to work. Once the middle of the offensive line of Connolly, Wendell and Stork got together, the sailing became a little smoother. From this point on, Brady began playing with more confidence in the pocket. Lastly, I think an underrated part of Brady’s elevated play was Brandon LaFell’s intergration in the offense. After week three, LaFell averaged about 5 catches 70 yards, and a TD every other game, and 50 of his 74 catches on the season went for first downs

Ravens-Pats

nossorc

Age old question, how do you stop (slow) Rob Gronkowski, now that Pollard is no longer around to break him?

peatwo

Introduce him to Johnny Manziel Friday night? Gronk is of course healthy now and will be THE focus. Will Hill would be my guess as Pollard’s replacement with a help from LBs Mosley and Smith. The Ravens safety plays much taller than his 6’1″ frame because of his extremely long arms. He shadowed the leagues other super TE in 6’7″ Jimmy Graham this year and was impressive. Now Hill isn’t as intimidating as Pollard, and Gronk adds more of a challenge than Graham with the way he plays on the edge of insanity, and is stronger on his feet. It will be one of the key matchups for sure.

DOOOMMEEEEDD

Will Hill has the size to counter Gronkowski, which may mean he’ll have to cheat up a bit and leave the secondary exposed. CJ Mosley is the best answer to slow Gronk down, but if the Ravens can get interior pressure and limit Brady’s time to throw, it’ll help tremendously.

Ravens-Pats

DOOOMMEEEEDD

What is the grieving process like for Pats fans after being held short of SB titles by two QBs who are average during the regular season, but elite during the postseason?

SlickVinny

Duh.  We drink.

nossorc

For me personally, the solace in a season ending this way is that Brady will be back for another run the next year. We’re coming up on the twilight years of Brady’s career but the organization has finally gotten him a defensive unit that is no longer a liability. The excuses of the last 5 or so years will not be present this year, not having success this year could hurt more than in 2011 or 2012 where there were obvious gaping holes in the squads.

Ravens-Pats

SlickVinny

Joe Flacco has been pretty darn good over his last few playoff games, while he’s nothing more than average in the regular season.  How do Raven fans explain this strange phenomenon.

DOOOMMEEEEDD

Flacco bought a copy of Eli Manning’s “Crushing Patriots Fans’ Hopes While Making It Look Easy, For Dummies.”

peatwo

Absolute frustration, followed by a head shake and a semi-confident nod in the playoffs. My only guess is its mental. He is so calm and boring, that it takes a huge game to get his blood flowing. He has had some great regular season games, but adds many duds that annually hold the Ravens back from a higher playoff seed- like the bye they missed in 2011 (with 3 of their 4 losses to subpar teams), or barely hanging on to a berth like 2012 and 2014. The most frustrating part about those losses has been the complete offensive breakdown in those contests. Most included a bad game by Flacco and a sub 50 yard running back effort. If defenses are stacking the box to stop the run, Flacco should be able to make plays. For whatever reason in the regular season, he often struggles to get it done. He certainly has had success in the post season from 2011-2014 with 7 great playoff performances in a row and 8 of 9 since 2010.

Ravens-Pats

peatwo

As usual, (in general) the Patriots offense seems to be more about impressive offensive efficiency rather than the big play, as they led the AFC in turnover margin, were a +14 in sack differential, and led the NFL in scoring per yards gained. Their defense is also much improved. What do you think will be the key to a Pats victory over the Ravens on Saturday, and how does this team attack its opponents differently from 2012?

SlickVinny

You are correct.  The Pats don’t rely on Brady closing his eyes and heaving the ball as far as he can like Flacco and the Ravens do, they rely on timing and precision in their offense.  The key to ensuring the precision of the offense is in the running game.  If the Pats can establish the run just enough to bring a safety up into the box, Gronk goes deep and the Ravens are toast.  As for the defense, the key is going to be in the front 7.  Chandler Jones can make a play or two on 1st and 2nd downs and hopefully he gets pulled in lieu of Akeem Ayers who can get to the QB on his own leaving the safeties back and allowing Revis to eliminate one of Flacco’s two receiving options.  In all likelihood though this won’t go as planned and the Pats will have to make adjustments, this is where the Pats have a real advantage over the Ravens, Dean Pees wasn’t exactly the most flexible play caller when he was here and I think Kubiak is still using the same four play playbook that he had in Denver all those years ago.

nossorc

The keys will be efficient in the red zone on offense and keeping Brady clean, it’s well documented that if you get to Brady early and often, his rhythm is thrown off and often isn’t fully regained. On defense, limiting the big plays on Flacco deep balls will be paramount. For me, it is hard to compare this game to the 2012 matchup. Almost nothing outside of Flacco, Brady and the coaching staffs seems the same to me. Ravens defensive stalwarts Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are no longer around, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker were the Patriots go-to option on offense, the list of changes goes on and on. It’s a new chapter in the rivalry and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Ravens-Pats

nossorc

Patriots have shored up their defense greatly this year. What type of offense do you think Kubiak will dial up for Saturday? Run heavy or pass heavy? Where do you expect the most success?

DOOOMMEEEEDD

Kubiak will try to establish the run, but New England has a top 10 rush defense. With Revis and Browner likely taking Torrey and Steve Smith Sr. out of the game, expect a heavy dose of mid range passes to the TEs (Daniels, “Chocolate” Crockett Gilmore, and Juszczk). Marlon Brown and Kamar Aiken will be household names by halftime. Kubiak will have to stay aggressive.

peatwo

Good question. Kubiak became predictable and conservative down the stretch, but was much more aggressive this past Saturday. They will still take shots down the field if the Pats stack the box against the run. My guess would be that the Pats won’t do that early and Kubiak may counter by running his stretch play, setting up the play-action with a mid range passing game, leveraging their solid tight ends and versatile FB to set up both the deep pass and running attack as the game wears on. He went run heavy during most of the season even when the box was stacked, but then went pass heavy against the Steelers last week to attack their run focused defense.

Ravens-Pats

DOOOMMEEEEDD

The Patriots cornerback duo of Revis and Browner are one of the better in the NFL, and are obviously going to factor into whatever offensive game plan the Ravens choose to employ.  The Ravens often rely on their tight ends and running backs to shoulder the load when their receivers are unable to get open, which will put additional pressure on the Patriots linebackers and safeties.  How have they fared in coverage this season?

nossorc

Covering tight ends has been a weakness of the Patriots this entire season. I would expect Daniels will have a pretty big day on Saturday between the 20s. Hightower and Collins are both adequate in coverage, but they are utilized creatively in the pass rush pretty often which can expose the middle of the field. McCourty is often used as a centerfielder to use his film study to identify plays so you also won’t see him in coverage very often. Chung, who has seen the majority of snaps next to McCourty, is horrific in coverage. If you see Chung 1 on 1 with a TE, Flacco should know to look that way.

SlickVinny

Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower have been nothing short of very good this year.  When Mayo went down again this year many of us feared what was to come.  Hightower has shown that he has what it takes to lead a defense and Collins is an athlete the likes of which has not been seen on Foxboro for some time so since we’re talking about guys like Justin Ease-it and Ed Dickson, I think they should be able to handle it.

Ravens-Pats

SlickVinny

If the Pats are able to stop the run with the front six or seven and leave two safeties over the top to prevent Joe from chucking the ball deep, can Kubiak and the Ravens adjust and do something different?

DOOOMMEEEEDD

Kubiak’s offense makes heavy use of the TEs. With the talent the Patriots have at CB, Kubiak should be planning to get plenty of others involved. The run game hasn’t been particularly effective lately, but a ball control, methodical game plan from the Ravens won’t get them the win.

peatwo

They will most likely continue to try a variety of runs, and maybe move Marshal Yanda around and add a full back to fill penetration gaps. Their other option would probably be to use play action bootlegs to give Flacco three receiving options on one side of the field- FB short, TE or WR medium, and one of the Smith’s deep. If the Pats front 6 or 7 are that aggressive and stopping the run, they probably will bite on the fake and those plays will be open. But one thing is for sure. Flacco will throw deep eventually. Its in his blood, good or bad, and they have receivers who can make plays. They have had success against some of the AFCs top corners, but the Pats do have the best tandem in the AFC.

Ravens-Pats

DOOOMMEEEEDD

The Ravens’ front seven has been among the best at stopping the run in the NFL.  How heavily do you expect the Patriots to rely on their running game, if only to keep the Ravens honest?

nossorc

The best defensive lines the Patriots faced this year, in my opinion, were the Bills, Jets, Broncos and Lions. In the 5 games that the Patriots played these teams where Brady played the whole game, they averaged 19.6 rushes per game and 43 passes per game. So knowing this, I expect the passing game to be an extension of the passing game. The Patriots will still run, but Blount and Gray aren’t necessarily superstars, I don’t expect the run game to be a big part of the game plan.

SlickVinny

The Pats’ running game is merely a tool to set up the play action so all they’ll need is a couple of four to eight yard runs early to keep the Ravens honest (although that team of criminals is rarely honesst)

Ravens-PatsThanks guys, I am now fluent in “copy/paste JWalking”, Who wins this game?

SlickVinny       Prediction:  Pats 27, Ravens 13

ps. Additionally, Pat Chung is about as good as any of us in coverage, so there’s that…

DOOOMMEEEEDD    Ravens @ Patriots    ——— Patriots 24-20

nossorc   28-17 good guys (Patriots)

peatwo     Ravens @ Patriots ——  Patriots 23-20

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