We all know the name: Tom Brady.
The last six match-ups between the Ravens and the Patriots in both the regular season and postseason have been split 3-3. The Ravens and Patriots rivalry is becoming an excellent event since Joe Flacco came to Baltimore.
However, Brady’s team is not the same as the last time the Ravens played them. The Ravens’ defense will not have to worry about Rob Gronkowski, who is arguably Brady’s best target. He does more than catch the ball, but also opens up the running game.
This Patriots team that has struggled against the Ravens in the past will have to try some new tricks.
Before the start of the season, I was sure Brady could make his team just as good as before, even without some of the key players they lost. However, he has not proven to be able to mature their young players very fast. They are certainly better, but they are not the same Patriots team of the past despite their 10-4 record.
There is one thing I am most concerned about with this game. The Patriots have been making comebacks lately (though failing to do so against the Miami Dolphins last week), and the Ravens’ defense has been faltering in the late-goings of games.
As previously mentioned, the offense needs to pick up the slack especially against the Patriots. The Patriots are ranked 11th in points allowed, 18th in passing defense, while 31st in rushing defense.
With the Ravens’ up and down offensive season, these stats really mean nothing. But there could be some openings in the defense for the Ravens to exploit.
On SportsCenter, Ray Rice was not given much chance to run well against the Patriots. The Patriots have allowed just below two yards average rushing after contact. Rice is barely averaging a single yard.
Here is where the Ravens’ questionable offensive line needs to step up. Michael Oher, Marshal Yanda, and A.Q. Shipley need to step up and make sure Rice gets clean looks through the Patriots’ defensive front.
This also means the offensive line needs to stop committing penalties that stall the offense. Oher has been guilty of many of these, but the entire offensive line needs to mature. They have had all season long to get their act together.
There is no more room for the Ravens to make excuses about losing players on the offensive line, but rather more acting upon what they have and making it work to finish this push to the playoffs.
The offensive line also needs to protect Flacco, as the Patriots have the fourth best mark in sacks in the league.
The Ravens have this momentum pushing them forward, but as a playoff team (let alone the defending Super Bowl champions) should be able to exploit the weaknesses in a team.
With that said, the Ravens’ defense needs to be at full strength to keep Bill Belichick’s offense at bay. Belichick has a way of preparing his team to exploit a defense’s weaknesses. Brady makes this all possible.
Terrell Suggs needs to reacquaint himself with Brady as soon as possible. Suggs has not been getting the sacks he did in the beginning of the season lately. Brady and Suggs know each other very well, and Suggs needs to make a big impact like in the past.
Not only does the defense need to wait for the offense to get on track, they can also help by causing turnovers. A short field will help the offense, but turnovers are not something the Ravens have been getting on a consistent basis.
Something I am surprised I have yet to mention in previous articles is the lack of Vonta Leach being used. He has not been a major part of anything, because Rice has not been running the ball well. I would like to see Leach put into a better role against the Patriots.
Something has to be done to better the running game, and maybe Leach is the vital part that’s been missing.
Besides the Patriots’ extensive injury report, the Ravens are not the healthiest either.
Flacco, Rice, and Elvis Dumervil were all limited in practice as of earlier today and are questionable for Sunday’s game.
Flacco actually has a minor knee sprain, but there are also some statements about a minor tear. The reports are inconsistent, but one consistent thing is John Harbaugh saying Flacco looked good all week in practice.
Even though Flacco is questionable, I doubt he will not play in such a crucial game. Rice may or may not play, as he is also questionable. If he were playing well, I would think he would be playing no matter what, but this season I am unsure.
If Dumervil is able to play, the defensive front will be much improved and provide additional pressure on Brady.
It’s a must-win game, and the Ravens will have yet another test against the Patriots. There are many factors, but I believe the Ravens’ winning spirit will push them forward.