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Bill Belichick on the Ravens: ‘They look like the championship team that they are’

12.18.13 at 12:28 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Bill Belichick gave due props to the defending Super Bowl champions Wednesday as his Patriots prepare to take on the team that is getting hot again at the right time.

After Justin Tucker connected from 61 yards Monday night, the Ravens are suddenly an 8-6 team that is just one game behind the Bengals in the AFC North and riding a four-game winning streak.

“We have a little bit of a chance to catch up on the Ravens,” Belichick said. “Obviously, an impressive football team, like they usually are. [They are] a real solid organization. They do a great job, from all the way at the top with Steve and Ozzie. They put together a good football team. They’re well-coached.”

Doing the coaching is John Harbaugh, who appears to have his Ravens playing its best football at the most critical time of the season.

“John and his staff have done a great job,” Belichick said. “They play very well in all three phases of the game. Excellent on special teams. Obviously, their kicker is having a big year. Good returner, good specialists, good coverage people and made a lot of good plays on defense; one of the best situational teams in the league ‘€“ red area, third down.

“Big, physical team that’€™s tough to move the ball against. Offensively, they’€™re an explosive group: outstanding quarterback, running backs, tight ends have been solid ‘€“ [Dennis] Pitta’€™s back ‘€“ big receivers, physical receivers, good offensive line. They look like the championship team that they are. It will be a big challenge for us down there in Baltimore. [They’€™re] playing well, they’€™ve made a lot of key plays at the end of the games when they needed to made them, on offense, defense, special teams, whether it be kicks returned, stops, scores, moving the ball into field goal range, whatever it happens to be. They’€™ve made a lot of consistent big plays and they’€™re playing real well right now. It’€™s a good football team. It will be a good test for us down there.”

Patriots practice Wednesday: Nate Solder, Josh Boyce absent

12.18.13 at 11:11 am ET
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FOXBORO — Starting left tackle Nate Solder was not at the start of Patriots practice on Wednesday as the Patriots began on-field preparations for the Ravens this Sunday in Baltimore.

Also missing from sweats and shells practice was wide receiver Josh Boyce, who limped off the field following a 15-yard fourth-quarter kickoff return against the Dolphins.

Solder suffered a head injury and was given concussion testing after leaving the game in the second half, forcing Logan Mankins to move from left guard to left tackle, the position he played at Fresno State.

On the positive front, rookie receivers Kenbrell Thompkins (hip) and Aaron Dobson (left foot) were both in attendance and could be returning to game action this Sunday. Dobson has missed the last three games but returned to practice last Friday.

Thompkins injured his hip against the Texans on Dec. 1 and has missed the last two games.

The team practiced on the main Gillette Stadium field, which was cleared by snow plows after another heavy snow storm Tuesday night. While the temperature hovered around freezing with snow on the ground, the game late Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium is expected to be played in much different conditions. Temperatures in the low 70s with a 50 percent chance of rain is in the forecast.

Read More: Baltimore Ravens, Josh Boyce, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder

Odin Lloyd’s family files wrongful-death lawsuit against Aaron Hernandez

12.18.13 at 10:22 am ET
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The family of shooting victim Odin Lloyd filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with Lloyd’s murder.

The suit, reported by the Fall River Herald-News, was filed in Bristol County Superior Court on Monday. It alleges Hernandez “maliciously, willfully, wantonly, recklessly or by gross negligence caused Odin Lloyd to suffer personal injuries that directly resulted in his death.”

The family is seeking a court order to prevent the Patriots from paying more than $3 million that Hernandez claims the team owes him as part of his contract in a bid to keep the money available to the family should it win the suit.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 2 p.m. in New Bedford, where the plaintiff’s attorney will argue for a restraining order to keep Hernandez from using legal maneuvering to protect his North Attleboro home.

The suit was filed the same day a woman with ties to Hernandez died under mysterious circumstances. Tabitha Perry, who survived a car accident that killed Hernandez associate Thaddeus Singleton III in June, was found unconscious and not breathing by police responding to a 911 call to a home in Southington, Conn.

Connecticut authorities said they are waiting for the results of toxicology tests.

Read More: Aaron Hernandez,

Five things you have to know about the Ravens

12.17.13 at 7:15 pm ET
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The Patriots will try to close out the AFC East and put a major dent in the playoff hopes of the Ravens when they travel to Baltimore for a Sunday afternoon contest. Here are five things you have to know about the Ravens.

1. They almost always do a really good job at defending Tom Brady.

Old warhorses like Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are no longer around, but the Ravens remain are as stout as they come defensively. There are some questions about their ability to close defensively — they’€™ve allowed 96 points in the fourth quarter this season, the most of any AFC team still in the playoff chase — but there’€™s still a lot to like about what they’€™re doing. They’€™re in the top 10 when it comes to total defense (334 yards per game allowed, ninth-best in the league), run defense (102.4 rush yards per game allowed, seventh-best in the league) and points per game allowed (19.8 per game, seventh-best in the league). They are one team that consistently makes things difficult for Brady, who is 2-3 against them in his last five games. Over the course of his career, the quarterback averages 57 percent when it comes to his completion rate, and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 8-10 in his career against Baltimore. (According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, the Ravens have held Brady under 6.8 YPA in six of eight career meetings.) With New England facing a dicey situation when it comes to offensive line depth, particular at tackle, the pressure off the edges will be a concern — old friend Terrell Suggs (9 sacks) figures to have something to say about this one before the week is done, and Elvis Dumervil (9.5 sacks) should also be a handful for the Patriots offensive line.

2. They have almost as much experience playing close games this season as the Patriots.

When the Patriots and Ravens meet Sunday, chances are good that it’€™ll be a close game. Eleven of the 14 games New England has played this year have been decided by seven points or less, while Baltimore has played in 10 games decided by seven points or less. The Ravens have gone 5-5 in their games decided by a touchdown or less, while the Patriots are 7-4. Baltimore has won their last three games by a total of seven points, which includes Monday’€™s win over the Lions, a contest that wasn’€™t decided until Justin Tucker connected on his sixth field goal of the night, a 61-yarder than lifted the Ravens to an 18-16 win. All that comes against a backdrop of almost nothing but close games between these two teams — since 2004, five of the eight games between Patriots and Ravens have been decided by six points or less. Expect another close one come Sunday afternoon.

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Read More: Ed Reed, Jacoby Jones, joe flacco, Justin Tucker

Rob Gronkowski makes rounds, helps hand out toys dressed as elf

12.17.13 at 3:40 pm ET
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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is scheduled for surgery with Dr. James Andrews in a couple of weeks, but that’s not slowing him down. He was spotted the other day at a Whole Foods in Rhode Island doing some grocery shopping, and in this video posted to the Instagram account of teammate Stevan Ridley Tuesday, he’s seen helping hand out Christmas presents to kids at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Read More: Rob Gronkowski, Stevan Ridley,

Following the flags: Tracking Patriots penalties for 2013 season

12.17.13 at 3:01 pm ET
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Through 14 games, the Patriots have been flagged for 58 penalties (lowest in the league) for a total of 536 yards (30th in the league). Here’€™s a breakdown of the calls that have gone against the Patriots, not including penalties that were declined or offset:’€¨’€¨Most penalized players, listed by total flags and with total yardage lost:

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Bill Belichick: Executing in key situations is ‘absolutely the difference’ in finding success

12.17.13 at 2:45 pm ET
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When the Patriots and Ravens meet Sunday, chances are good that it’ll be a close game.

Eleven of the 14 games New England has played this year have been decided by seven points or less, while Baltimore has played in 10 games decided by seven points or less. On Tuesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about the traits needed to succeed in close games.

“Make the plays in the critical situations at the end of the game they need to make to win. That’€™s what it comes down to. That’€™s what this league is,” he said on a conference call with reporters. “You play for 57, 58, 59 minutes, and the game’€™s still not decided, and it hinges on the plays from there on out. It could be one play, it could be a series. It could be a kick or a return, fumbled punt, a pass, an interception, a sack, a short-yardage or goal line play, a stop ‘€“ it could be any one of a million situations.

“Being able to execute those plays in those critical situations is going to determine the result of the game. Being able to do those things as a team, along with some other things ‘€“ substitution, clock management, and all those other things as well, getting out of bounds, staying in bounds and making good decisions ‘€“ in the end, it comes down to execution in those critical situations [which] is absolutely the difference. That’€™s the NFL.”

The Ravens have gone 5-5 in their games decided by a touchdown or less, while the Patriots are 7-4. However, Baltimore has won their last three games by a total of seven points, which includes Monday’s win over the Lions, a contest that wasn’t decided until Justin Tucker connected on his sixth field goal of the night, a 61-yarder than lifted the Ravens to an 18-16 win.

Belichick is impressed with Tucker, who has an ability to extend the range for the Ravens on a regular basis.

“I think they’€™ve always been a team that wants the points and has a lot of confidence in their defense [that] they’€™re not going to give up many,” Belichick said. “The running the ball there at the end of the game to protect the field goal was something that they’€™ve done in the past. They did that against us in the AFC Championship Game a couple years ago, when they tried to run a trap up the middle, I think Vince [Wilfork] tackled him for a loss, knocked them out of field goal range and then they went for it on fourth down. I think that’€™s a style of play that they have and a strategy they’€™ve used in the past quite a bit, if that’€™s kind of what you’€™re referring to there.”

Here are some more highlights of his Q&A with the media Tuesday afternoon:

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Read More: Bill Belichick,



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