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John Harbaugh: ‘Honor’ to face Patriots in divisional round

01.05.15 at 7:38 pm ET
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Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh have met several times in the past. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick and John Harbaugh have met several times in the past. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

There were nothing but nice words coming out of Baltimore Monday as the Ravens got to work preparing for the Patriots and the divisional playoff contest Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called Bill Belichick and New England a “really great football team” and added it was an “honor” to face the Patriots.

“They’re tremendously well-coached, very well-balanced,” Harbaugh said. “They play complementary football as well or better than anybody in football year-in and year-out, and especially this year.

“All three phases are Top 10-, Top 5-type units. They’re good up front on both sides. They have playmakers, skill guys everywhere [and a] great quarterback. They can run the ball; they can throw the ball. You never know what you’re going to get from coach Belichick scheme-wise. So, it is just a huge challenge for anybody going in there in the playoffs.”

For two teams not in the same division, the Patriots and Ravens are frequent dance partners. Prior to this year, the two teams met five times between 2009 and 2013 — this game will mark the fourth postseason contest in six seasons between Baltimore and New England.

For Harbaugh, the fact that the Ravens have an extensive history against the Patriots in Foxboro is a positive.

“It’s always a plus to have played in a building before,” Harbaugh said of New England. “It seems like we play there a lot. It’s always nice to know your surroundings, and that helps us. Beyond that, the guys who had experience playing against the Patriots will be able to lead the way a little bit. They are the same coaching staff, the same principles that they are built on in all three phases, so that helps to some extent.”

Harbaugh said Monday he’s been impressed by just about every aspect of the Patriots this season.

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, John Harbaugh, Ravens,

Bill Belichick on D&H: Josh McDaniels’ interviews last weekend were a ‘pretty clean situation’

01.05.15 at 7:15 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick joined Dale & Holley on Monday to look ahead to this Saturday’s divisional round game against the Ravens and also to look back on the bye week and some of the things that took place, including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels interviewing for a few head coaching positions. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

It was reported McDaniels interviewed with the Falcons and 49ers in New England for their head coaching jobs, as the Patriots were on their bye and the interviews were conducted within the league structured window during the bye week. McDaniels said Monday he is now focused on the Ravens, and Belichick said there weren’t any issues.

“We dealt with it as recently as last year, so it is what it is,” Belichick said. “We have a job to do. I think Josh did a great job last year in terms of staying focused and doing his part in preparing for the postseason games and I think he’s done that again this year. There is no issues there.”

“Each one is a little bit different, but based on our schedule and the way the rules are, and what the format is, I think it was a pretty clean situation this time,” he added. “It was all over by Saturday, and Sunday we were onto the Ravens, so full speed ahead.”

Following the Patriots’ practice on New Year’s Eve, the team went to Patriot Place and saw the movie, “American Sniper” directed by Clint Eastwood. It was not the first time Belichick has gathered the team to see a movie, and Belichick thought it was a good experience for the team, as well as a good teaching tool.

“That wasn’t a spontaneous thing at all because that movie hasn’t been released — it’s not out,” Belichick said. “To be honest with you, it wasn’t that easy to have the opportunity to see, so we certainly are appreciative to Clint Eastwood for making this possible and a couple of other people along the way. There’s some things that are options and other things you have to set up a bit. There seemed to be a lot of talk and interest in that around the locker room, around the building, so we were able to do it. I think the guys enjoyed it — I did. It’s a great movie. It has some good messages in it and really focuses on skill and will.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Bill Belichick, Dean Pees, joe flacco

Matt Patricia raves about Steve Smith Sr.: ‘An extremely good player, a very smart, savvy vet’

01.05.15 at 2:21 pm ET
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Even at 35 years old, Ravens wide out Steve Smith Sr. hasn't stopped producing. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Even at 35 years old, Ravens wide out Steve Smith Sr. hasn’t stopped producing. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Even though Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. is 35 years old and in his first season in Baltimore, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t stopped producing at a high level and playing his with usual tenacity causing fits for opposing defenses.

Smith finished the regular season with 79 catches for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns. The 79 catches were tied for the most he’s had in a season since 2007 when he caught 87.

The 5-foot-9 receiver signed with Baltimore this past offseason after he didn’t re-sign with Carolina — the team that drafted him in the third-round of the 2001 draft and the team he spent the next 13 seasons with.

He’s fit in nicely with the Ravens offense as a good complement to wide out Torrey Smith and tight end Dennis Pitta.

“Well I think obviously you are talking about an extremely good player, a very smart, savvy vet,” Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said on a conference call Monday. “[He’€™s] a guy that brings in a huge element of toughness out on to the field, a strong competitor. [He’€™s] a guy that really does a great job of finding the open zone, or seeing the man-to-man coverage. [He] really does a great job of getting open for the quarterback, whether it’€™s the intermediate routes, the tough catch-and-run plays, also the vertical plays downfield. The guy really has the ability to kind of hit all three levels.

“I think being as dependent as a receiver and a reliable target for the quarterback in the passing game, obviously then for Torrey Smith a lot of the vertical element is then really opened up for him when your attention really goes towards Steve Smith. I think the guy is just a tremendously tough competitor, very energetic, brings a lot of life to the offense — will go out and block. He’€™ll do the tough duty — blocking and the route running and coming through the middle and catch-and-run type plays. I think he’€™s just added a whole other element to their offense in the passing game and the run game.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, matt patricia, Steve Smith Sr., Torrey Smith

Patriots-Ravens hot ticket on secondary market

01.05.15 at 1:38 pm ET
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If you haven’t already got a ticket to Saturday’s divisional round game Patriots-Ravens game and are planning on going, be prepared to dish out a good amount of money.

Our pals at TiqIQ, say the current average price on the secondary market for the game is $388.40, with the get in price being $170.

Compared to previous divisional round home games at Gillette Stadium it is right up there with the most expensive ticket, as in the last five years the only game to have a higher average price was in 2012 when the Broncos and Tim Tebow came to Gillette Stadium. The average ticket price that game was $392.14.

The game also has the highest average priced ticket among any of the four divisional games this weekend.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots,

Bill Belichick on ‘physically and mentally tough’ Ravens: ‘They keep coming at you’

01.05.15 at 12:06 pm ET
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Bill Belichick and the Patriots know the Ravens, and the John Harbaugh and the Ravens know the Patriots.

Saturday’s divisional round game at Gillette Stadium will be the fourth time in the last six postseasons the two teams will matchup, with the Ravens winning two of the last three. Belichick knows exactly what the Patriots will get when the two teams step onto the field Saturday afternoon — a very tough team.

“As usual the Ravens are a solid football team in all three phases of the game,” Belichick said on a conference call Monday. “They are well coached. They are physical on the line of scrimmage, on both sides of the ball. They have explosive skill players on offense, in the return game and on defense. So, I think Coach Harbaugh has always put those types of teams out there with [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and their respective staffs. I think that is what we have again. That is what they are.

“They are tough. They are physically and mentally tough. They can play in tough situations and they are talented. They keep coming at you.”

The Ravens defeated the Steelers, 30-17, in Saturday’s wild card matchup and although as a team the Ravens rushed for 49 yards on 25 carries, Belichick noted Baltimore is still a good rushing team — Justin Forsett rushed for 1,266 yards in the regular season.

They are also a threat in the passing game with plays down the field, as per Pro Football Focus on passes traveling 20 yards or more down the field in the regular-season, quarterback Joe Flacco was 21-for-56 with 663 yards and 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

“At the core, they are still a very good running team,” Belichick said. “They are a very good play-action team. They hit a lot of big plays. They are a very good vertical passing team. They make a lot of big plays down the field. They make a lot of big plays in the running game, too. So, it’s not just all passes. A lot of their passes that are big plays come off of play-action — it draws the defense’s attention in the running game and that opens up other areas. They are well-balanced offense that attacks the edge of the defense, it attacks vertically on the defense and it attacks all the intermediate areas as well. They do a good job.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Gary Kubiak, joe flacco,

Josh McDaniels on weekend head coaching interviews: ‘I am back to focusing on the next task at hand for us’

01.05.15 at 11:09 am ET
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Over the weekend Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reportedly interviewed for the open head coaching jobs with the Falcons and 49ers in New England. On a conference call Monday morning, McDaniels said he has already moved on from those and is entirely focused on the Ravens and this upcoming Saturday’s divisional round game at Gillette Stadium.

“They were fine,” said McDaniels. “This part of the process always — obviously privileged that anyone wants to speak to you about anything like that. At this point I have moved on and hopefully I can help us put together a great plan for our guys heading into this week.”

The offensive coordinator was later asked a follow up question to his comments and whether or not he removed his name from consideration like he did with the Browns last season. McDaniels said the meetings were just “initial meetings” and nothing went any further than that as of now.

“Honestly, it was just an initial meeting with them and it hasn’t really gone any further in either direction, so again, I am back to focusing on the next task at hand for us, which is the Ravens, and I am sure they’ll do what they need to do on their end,” said McDaniels. “I am sure those things will take care of themselves in the future.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Josh McDaniels,

Tom Brady on D&C dismisses talk of past struggles vs. Ravens: ‘Everything’s different at this point’

01.05.15 at 7:54 am ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady checked in with Dennis & Callahan for his weekly Monday morning chat and talked about the team’s preparations for the upcoming playoff matchup with the Ravens. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

The Patriots will meet a familiar foe after Baltimore went into Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers on Saturday. The Ravens beat the Patriots in the postseason two years ago en route to a Super Bowl title, and Baltimore also beat New England in Foxboro in the 2009 postseason. However, Brady dismisses talk about the Patriots’ recent playoff struggles against this franchise.

“Everything’s different at this point,” Brady said. “We can never change anything that’s happened in the past, nor can they. You can’t bring players out of retirement, they can’t either. It’s the guys we’ve got vs. the guys they’ve got, which that’s an entirely new team that we have and an entirely new team that they have. There’s some carryover, there’s some characteristics that are the same, but these teams have established their own identities. It’s going to be the Patriots’ 2014 version vs. the Ravens’ 2014 version and we go from there.

“We’ll be able to evaluate some stuff scheme-wise that they could possibly do vs. us, that’s always helpful. But it will be determined by what happens on the field Saturday night, not anything that’s happened in the past.”

The Ravens are led by a defensive front that is sure to present issues for a Patriots offensive line that has had some problems this season.

“They’ve got a good front,” Brady said. “We’ve faced quite a few teams that have good fronts this year. Obviously [Elvis] Dumervil‘s had a phenomenal year. He’s been a great player since he’s been in the league, that’s why Baltimore signed him [as a free agent before the 2013 season]. [Terrell] Suggs is as good as they get. [Haloti] Ngata’s as good as they get. [Pernell] McPhee’s had a good year. And then they rotate some other guys in there, Brandon Williams is a really good player. So they’ve got a good front.

“They’ve got good linebackers, probably one of the defensive rookies of the year at linebacker [C.J. Mosley]. And Lardarius Webb in the secondary. They’ve had a few injuries in the secondary but they’ve been pretty settled there for a while now. It’s a hard-hitting secondary, it’s a hard-hitting defense. Like I said, they don’t give you anything. We’ve got to go out and try to earn it.”

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Read More: Dean Pees, Josh McDaniels, Terrell Suggs, Tom Brady

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