|Baltimore’s new look is just so Raven||10.14.10 at 5:38 pm ET|
Joe Flacco isn’t about to look at film of last year’s playoff domination of the Patriots and conclude that Sunday will be just as easy.
After all, it’s not every game that begins with an 83-yard touchdown run from your lead back, a strip-sack under a minute later and another touchdown run moments after that to put you up 14-0 within the first two minutes.
“So far I’ve just concentrated on the games that they’ve played this year,” Flacco said this week. “I’ll look at last year’s playoff game and I’ll look at the first time we played them [last year]. Last year’s playoff game, that game was just such a different game and I don’t know how much you’re going to be able to get out of that just because the type of game it was and how quickly it developed in what we did, so the rest of the game was a little bit different than a normal game plan.”
Flacco, who was severly hobbled by a leg injury, had one of the most understated statistical lines ever by a playoff-winning quarterback. He attempted only 10 passes, completed just four and threw for just 34 yards and an interception. In other words, he didn’t need to exactly light it up to turn out the lights on the Pats.
“We’ll see how much we can get from that film, but the first time we played them there it was a pretty good match up and I’m sure we can grab some things from that tape,” added Flacco.
By the end of the first quarter, the Ravens were up, 24-0, before a stunned Gillette Stadium crowd that didn’t leave by the fourth quarter since they didn’t know what hit them.
“That’s going to be part of our study,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “And also the last year’s loss up there will be in our breakdown also.”
Yes, the two teams did play on Oct. 4, 2009 in Foxboro, with the Patriots coming out on top, 27-21. But it’s the 33-14 loss ended the Patriots season that left many wondering if the two teams were headed in different directions.
The Ravens answered quickly by acquiring receiver Anquan Boldin from Arizona on March 5, along with a 2010 fifth-round draft pick for Baltimore’s 2010 third-and fourth-round picks.
Boldin then agreed to a three-year deal worth $25 million plus the one year he had left on his current deal which comes to four years worth $28 million, $10 million guaranteed.
The Ravens then signed T.J. Houshmanzadeh to a one-year deal on Sept. 6 for the veteran league minimum of $855,000 when the Seahawks released him. Not a bad deal since his $7 million salary with Seattle was guaranteed in his previous contract, and Seattle is paying him the remaining $6.15 million for this season.
“I think it’s expanded us a little bit,” Harbaugh said of the increased options on the perimeter for Flacco. “Obviously, it gives us a couple more guys that can get open, especially against one-on-one [coverage]. They can make plays when they’re in one-on-one situations.”
This year, the Ravens can beat you on the ground with Rice, through the air with Bolden and Houshmandzadeh or by using their trademark physical defense, spearheaded by ageless linebacker Ray Lewis.
The Ravens are 4-1, tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North Division, a spot they figured to hold coming into the season.
“I think Joe continues to gain confidence in those guys in critical situations,” Harbaugh said. “Until you develop some history together, I think it’s hard to know exactly what that is. You’ve seen obviously T.J. make some plays, has made a lot of critical plays for us. Third down conversions, the touchdown catch in the two-minute drive against Pittsburgh. Anquan has actually dominated a couple of games in terms of numbers with multiple catches. That really helps us.”
The Patriots re-worked their roster by adding two stud tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez and a surprisingly ready cornerback out of Rutgers by the name of Devin McCourty, in addition to a talented rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes.
With all the new faces, especially on defense, Flacco sounds like a man who expects a different type of battle this time around.
“I think they’re a little different than last year,” Flacco said. “They’ve got some different personnel. They’ve got some younger guys out there, and a handful of fresh starters, I think that’s the first thing you notice. They tend to play more two high safeties and their initial goes up and down on the cover three when they play deep high. Their cover structure is definitely a little different from last year, so just pay attention to that kind of thing.”
Part of that, of course, has to do with rookie McCourty, who when not impressing Bill Belichick in the film room, is impressing opposing defenses with his poise as a starting cornerback.
“They’re playing some zone, again that’d be their top coverage, some zone coverages,” Flacco said. “I don’t think they’re putting a lot of man responsibility [on their corners]. Then when you get down on the goal line I think they’re down there, they’re pressed and you get some singles [coverage] down towards the end zone, but other than that I don’t think they’re playing a lot of single coverage.
“When we get our opportunity out there with singles we’ll take advantage of it, but I think they’re going to be guys that are ready to play. They’re going to be good players, and they’re young right now, but they have a lot of fire and they’re going to be ready to play against us.”
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