NFL Network analyst and former Patriot Heath Evans  spoke with Mut & Merloni on Friday about Sunday’s Pats-Ravens matchup.
Evans noted that while Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco  clearly is capable of the high caliber of play he showed in the last two weekends, he’s also capable of struggling.
“Look at last week alone,” Evans said. “The guy throws two interceptions, basically, in overtime that were just dropped. If you’re going go talk with Bill [Belichick] in a private room, everyone knows what Joe’s capable of, but we also know what he does every single week. Every single week there’s two or three plays that change the course of the game. Sometimes they’re made, sometimes they’re dropped.
“Last week against Denver, which never should have been in overtime, if you ask me, he throws two easy interceptions that the plays just weren’t made by that Denver defense.”
In light of that, Evans said the Patriots defense  can and should pressure Flacco into making a crucial mistake.
“My thought is, give Vince [Wilfork] a shot of adrenaline and tell him to ‘Go win this game all by yourself,’ like he’s done in years past against half the teams they play,” Evans said. “I would just kind of sit back, put the weight of the world on the DBs and say, ‘Between you and Vince, you guys are going to win this game. Flacco’s going to give you guys the opportunity to win the game, and you’ve got to make at least one of them.’ Give Tom Brady  one extra opportunity and he’s going to win this game.”
Evans said the Patriots secondary, with a different look than it had when New England lost to the Ravens in the regular season, will be a determining factor in the game.
“That’s what gives me hope that we see them in New Orleans here in two weeks,” Evans said. “You cannot compare the back end, and honestly ‘¦ I can point out so many areas where [Brandon] Spikes is playing better, [Jerod] Mayo we know, but this defense is not the same defense. Obviously Chandler [Jones], his health is going to be key, kind of like they’re waiting for John Abraham  there in Atlanta. But the defense that Joe Flacco was getting ready to play was totally completely different than the Week 3 one that he had some nice success against.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. To hear the audio, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page .
On how to defend Wes Welker : “Well, you can’t. You can’t do it for a whole game, you just can’t. Unless Wes is having a day where he has a few drops or Tom’s having a day where he’s not completely on — you look at most of that Niners game and he was off, he’d be the first to tell you that. He was off, and then he catches fire for a few minutes and makes the Niners look like a little bunch of babies.
“You can maintain some balance with Wes, where maybe he’s not going to catch the 14 balls he would every week, but i have not seen a consistent play yet where you can hold him to two or three catches.”
On Ray Lewis ‘ instincts making him effective despite any speed he’s lost: “Your first step is huge. It can cost you a whole second in what you’re diagnosing. The angle you take in a pass drop, the angle you take on a blitz, there’s just so many things that certain players naturally have and others aren’t even close. Any time we see Ray have to open up, people say, ‘Look how slow he is.’ And yeah, he has definitely lost a step when it comes to straight line speed, but everything else — the mental monster that Brady is, that’s exactly what Ray Lewis is on defense.”
On the Patriots-Ravens rivalry and what characteristics a visiting team needs to succeed in Foxboro: “I think you have to have the two intangibles. The first two words I heard out of Bill’s mouth when I got there in 2005 were physically and mentally tough. People love to think that every NFL team is full of those type of guys, and truth be told, it’s just not. I think players take on the personality and mentality of their head coaches in a sense, and so there’s just very few. The Mike Tomlin s of the world, there’s not too many. The Tom Coughlin s of the world, there’s not too many, and Baltimore, they have it. You go back to 2007 when we’re trying to maintain perfection, Bart Scott  throwing his helmet off and flipping out, we barely win that one, and this has been, like you said, it’s been the best rivalry in football.”
On his opposition to Chip Kelly being hired as Eagles coach: “History tells us one thing. Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, let’s look around, look what Pete Carroll  did,’ and he was an NFL coach first. And there’s a few other examples, and I’m like, ‘No, they all have NFL experience.’
“Listen, the Bill Belichicks of the world are few and far between. We know Bill didn’t have pro experience in the sense of playing, but you look at the way he runs this team and the disciplined mental toughness approach — that’s what wins in this business. Bill is the one that taught me the team is going to take on the demeanor of their coach. The guy they’re around, the guy that’s leading and instructing, that’s who they’re going to end up being like, and they’ll probably take on the good, the bad and the ugly.
“Bottom line is, every time Oregon stepped up against the true big boys — not the SEC, just physically dominant teams — they got whupped. They didn’t get beat, they got whupped. I’m not talking about score, just physically manhandled. Go no further than the Stanford game this year. Stanford was out-athleted at probably every position, and yet they go to Eugene — 17-14 the score, but by the physical butt-kicking Oregon got, you would have thought the score would have been a 30-point spread.”