Former Ravens receiver Qadry Ismail, now a TV/radio host in Baltimore, joined Mut & Merloni on Tuesday to preview Sunday’s AFC championship matchup.
Ismail said the Ravens defense won’t be intimated by New England’s high-powered offense, especially considering the teams’ recent history of games against each other. And the key to the Ravens’ offensive success is how Baltimore handles Vince Wilfork .
“Offensively, Joe Flacco  and the offense, they’re churning, they’re doing things, they’re feeling pretty good,” Ismail said. “I think that’s something that you take into consideration. I know one thing, offensively, you’re going to have to find a way to stop Vince Wilfork. You stop Vince Wilfork, you give yourself a chance. You don’t stop Vince, it’s going to be a long day.”
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo took to Twitter on Sunday night to sound off on the Patriots’ hurry-up offense, accusing New England of borderline cheating. He apologized on Monday for embarrassing himself and the organization.
“I absolutely am shaking my head, like, ‘What are you thinking?’ He’s normally spot-on in regards to just his measure and understanding what’s the right thing to say and what’s the incorrect thing to say, and don’t say that incorrect thing,” Ismail said. “When you’re looking at the Patriots offense  ‘¦ you’re absolutely right, it’s about situational football. If you ain’t ready on defense and we are, and that referee says, ‘OK, the play clock is started,’ what am I supposed to do, wait for you?”
Added Ismail: “That’s what you look at when you’re talking about a veteran like Tom Brady . He’s figured out another way to enhance the probability of a play working. You as a defense, you have to be honed in and ready to perform or he will make you pay. It’s that simple.”
Retiring linebacker Ray Lewis  missed some action this season due to injury, but Ismail said any speculation of a drop-off in his play is overblown.
“Ray has fresh legs, that’s for sure,” Ismail said. “His mental awareness is spot-on, obviously. When you’re looking at just the flow of how he’s been able to play, yeah, sure, there’s a play here or there, but what the heck — you’re 17 years in, 37 years old. You’re going to have a play here or there. But I think the good plays far outweigh any of the bad plays you might be seeing.”
“Part of it is more of a commitment to the run,” Ismail said. “I think part of it is improved pocket presence of Joe Flacco. Remember, he was Joe’s quarterbacks coach. With him now being the offensive coordinator there’s some things that you can say and do that you couldn’t really necessarily say and do as a quarterbacks coach that you can say and do now as an offensive coordinator that accentuates Joe’s strengths.
And I think at the same time, you’re looking at the team from an offensive line standpoint playing a lot better now that they have Bryant McKinney at left tackle and Michael Oher back over to right tackle, which I think is his natural position to play. Then you add in Kelechi Osemele, who as a rookie did the right tackle spot, but he’s looking pretty impressive at that left guard spot. So, I think the re-shifting of the O-line, coupled in with some little details that Jim brought to the table and some tweaks to the offense, I think that’s where we’re seeing the improvement.”