Why Haloti Ngata is the man the Patriots fear the most
|01.19.12 at 3:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots aren’t afraid of much. But in Haloti Ngata, there is a man that can strike fear into the even the most stout wearing the red, white, blue and silver. There has been plenty of talk this week so far about Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs. But the key to containing the Ravens defense likely starts in the middle with a 350-pound nose tackle who can outrun some tight ends in the NFL.
What is it about the Ravens perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle that makes him so dangerous?
“He’s 350 pounds and not many guys that size can move like he can,” said left guard Logan Mankins, who no doubt will have his hands full keeping an eye on him over center. “With him, he can swim you, he can run you over, he can do many different things to you that a lot of guys his size can’t do. That’s what makes him so tough. Just like [Terrell Suggs], they’re guys that are better athletes and stronger and faster than a lot of guys so it makes them hard to block.”
While the Patriots offensive line goes up against the powerful one-gap tackle Vince Wilfork every day in practice, Ngata is a different type of nose tackle, one who can rush the passer and will move side-to-side more than Wilfork.
Brian Waters played against Ngata in the 2010 playoffs, when Matt Cassel and the Chiefs could manage just seven points in a 30-7 loss to the Ravens in the AFC wild card round.
“He’s as good as there is in the game at that position,” Waters said. “His ability to play all over the defensive line, his ability to have power and athletic ability to go along with his size, it’s something that you really can’t account for until you’re out there. You really don’t know how strong he is and how athletic he is for a big man until you’re actually on the field with him. When he’s on the field he’s going full blast. That’s something that not only him, but a couple of those other guys when you start talking about [Pernell McPhee] and you add Cory Redding in there, these guys are big, strong guys but they’re also very athletic and very versatile because they’ll be all over the field.”
What was interesting to take from Waters Thursday was how much more confident he feels in the Patriots abilities – as an offensive group – to handle Ngata and the Ravens D-line.
“Honestly, I try not to really think back too much and try not to fall too much back on that because it was such a totally different team,” Waters added. “We were nowhere near the explosive football team that we are today. We’re a different football team. We depended almost completely on the run. We were just a different focus-type of football team. I try not to think of that too much.”
Waters made no bones about it Thursday – the Patriots must match the “physicality” of the Ravens defensive front if they’re to have a chance of giving Tom Brady a chance to do his thing – which is to say get the ball to Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Deion Branch.
“This will be the most physical front we’ve faced all year, by far,” Waters said. “That’s something that if you watch them, it doesn’t take long to figure out that’s what they drive and thrive upon – being physical, really trying to overwhelm you on defense, getting to the ball, going after the football and that’s the way they hit, the way they attack the quarterback, the way they shed blockers, that’s definitely an emphasis on their football team.
“It’s always our number one job up front. We obviously know that if we keep him clean, we have a better chance of winning by far. It’s going to be a great task for us but it’s the largest emphasis on our job as offensive linemen is that is the number one job for us is protect him. Secondly, I would say ‘1A’ and ‘1B’ is to give our running backs a chance to be explosive and getting through the line and being productive. Those two things, if we can do those well enough we have a better chance of winning.”
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