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Tom Brady on Ravens being upset: ‘Maybe those guys [should] study the rule book and figure it out’ 01.10.15 at 10:34 pm ET
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John Harbaugh and the Ravens didn't like the Patriots going to a four offensive linemen set. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

John Harbaugh and the Ravens didn’t like the Patriots going to a four offensive linemen set in the third quarter. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — No one in the 68,000-plus at Gillette Stadium saw it coming.

With the Patriots trailing 28-14 with 10:22 left in the third quarter, New England started on their own 20-yard line and drove 80 yards in nine plays, finishing with a Tom Brady 5-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski, which cut the deficit to 28-21.

But, it was a few plays on that drive that were still being talked about after the game.

The Patriots played with four offensive linemen on a few plays, thus making another player ineligible — with Shane Vereen and Michael Hoomanawanui serving in that role. Since they weren’t eligible, they could not go past the line of scrimmage, as they were considered offensive linemen on those plays. The two players simply lined up as receivers and just took two steps back, not participating at all.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh didn’t like what the were Patriots doing, and the Ravens bench was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the drive, as they were yelling at officials and even across the field towards Josh McDaniels on the Patriots sideline.

“It’€™s a substitution type of a trick type of a thing,” Harbaugh said after the game. “So they don’€™t give you the opportunity, they don’€™t give you the chance to make the proper substitutions and things like that. It’€™s not something that anybody’€™s ever done before. The league will look at that type of thing and I’€™m sure that they’€™ll make some adjustments and things like that.”

Harbaugh said he’s never seen anything like it before.

“No. Nobody’€™s ever seen that before,” he said.

He was then asked if it is cheap or dirty.

“I’€™m not going to comment on that,” Harbaugh said.

In his postgame press conference, Brady was told of what Harbaugh said of the plays, and the quarterback had some words for the Ravens coach.

“I don’€™t know. Who knows. Maybe those guys [should] study the rule book and figure it out,” Brady said. “We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us. Maybe we’€™ll have something in store next week.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, joe flacco, John Harbaugh, Tom Brady
Chandler Jones thinks Joe Flacco has been ‘pretty perfect’ of late 01.08.15 at 4:35 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Chandler Jones doesn’t need to be reminded of the recent past of the quarterback Joe Flacco.

Last week, Flacco won his fifth straight playoff game, dating back to the beginning of the 2012 playoff run that ended with a Super Bowl win over the 49ers and included an AFC championship win over the Patriots at Gillette Stadium.

Jones was asked what he sees on film that makes Flacco “Joe Cool” under the pressure of the playoffs.

Joe Flacco is a great quarterback,” Jones said. “A lot of people underestimate his speed; he can run the ball and he can throw the ball as well. It’€™s my job as a pass rusher to try to contain him.”

Jones has played against Flacco three times, twice in the regular season and once in the 2012 AFC championship of Jan. 2013. He has four assisted tackles, no solos and no sacks in those three games.

“I feel like every player, when it’€™s the postseason and now when it’€™s this late in the season, I feel like a lot of players have more sense of urgency,” Jones added. “Mistakes can’€™t be limited, but they have to be eliminated. At this point in the season you want to be perfect, and Joe Flacco has been pretty perfect late in the season.”

Flacco has been plain perfect in the playoffs since opening the 2012 playoffs with a win over the Colts in the last home game for Ray Lewis. That was followed by the double-overtime win in Denver over Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Next up, Flacco came into Foxboro and beat Tom Brady, 28-13, at Gillette. Then, Flacco overcame Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers in the Super Bowl, earning a $120 million contract.

The Ravens didn’t make the playoffs in 2013 but returned this season and went to Pittsburgh last week and beat the Steelers. That’s five playoff wins, one Super Bowl and just one win at home.

Why has Flacco been so successful? Well, one reason is Flacco’s ability to feel comfortable in the pocket, led by the likes of All-Pro right guard Marshal Yanda.

“They do a good job of protecting Joe,” Jones said. “They have a lot of guys in protection and they’€™ll send a few guys out on routes and they are pretty effective on it. They’€™ve got both Smiths, Torrey and Steve, and they do a good job of being efficient with that whole concept of the play-action pass.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2015 playoffs, Baltimore Ravens, chandler jones, joe flacco
Rodney Harrison on MFB: ‘I don’t think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback’ 01.06.15 at 12:33 pm ET
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NBC Sports NFL analyst Rodney Harrison made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Tuesday to preview this Saturday’s Patriots-Ravens divisional round game. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has excelled in the postseason, as in his last seven postseason games he has thrown 17 touchdowns and just one interception. Even with those numbers, Harrison doesn’t think Flacco is an elite quarterback.

“I think it is a special circumstance for Joe Flacco,” said Harrison. “This is a team, in my estimation, they got into the playoffs — they got lucky. They don’t view it that way. They feel like they won 10 games and felt like they earned the opportunity to be in the playoffs and feel like they can beat anyone, especially going up to Pittsburgh and beating them.

“Joe Flacco is a very confident guy, this whole argument of is this guy elite, is he not elite? I don’t think Joe Flacco is an elite quarterback. It’s nothing that I would be afraid of, but Joe Flacco, he’s perfect for that system. He plays extremely well in that system. He’s very smart. He throws the best deep ball that I’ve seen the National Football League and he is very confident guy.”

Even though Harrison doesn’t think Flacco is elite, he still thinks the Ravens have a shot of upsetting the Patriots Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

“You top [Flacco] with their ability to run and their front-seven, and this team has the potential of knocking off the Patriots, no question about it,” said Harrison. “They have that veteran coaching staff. This is a very confident bunch coming into Foxboro. They’ve had success in the past. They feel like yes, we don’t have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, but we still have some of those core guys that went in there and beat them and we feel very confident.”

Harrison noted how much of an advantage the Patriots have with Rob Gronkowski, as Baltimore doesn’t have anyone that can cover the powerful New England tight end, who will be playing in his first postseason game since Jan. 13, 2012.

“They can’t cover him, they can’t,” said Harrison. “They flat out can’t over him. I don’t care if they put Lardarius Webb on him, he’s too small — cornerback, their best cover guy. They just don’t have the guys. They might try Will Hill. I think he had a couple of big hits last week, but there is no one on that team that can cover Rob Gronkowski, so I expect him to get a lot of work.”

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, joe flacco, Rob Gronkowski, Rodney Harrison
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
Bill Belichick on ‘physically and mentally tough’ Ravens: ‘They keep coming at you’ 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,
5 things you have to know about Ravens 01.04.15 at 9:54 am ET
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Terrell Suggs figures to play a sizable role for the Ravens on Saturday. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Terrell Suggs figures to play a sizable role for the Ravens on Saturday. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Here are five things you have to know about the sixth-seeded Ravens, who will face the Patriots in the divisional playoffs next Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

They have struggled to stop the pass.

The Ravens do have a fearsome pass rush — Elvis Dumervil had 17 sacks this year, and Terrell Suggs had 12 — but many teams have been able to beat them because of their issues in the secondary. Over the course of the regular season, the Ravens were 23rd in the league with 249 passing yards per game allowed, 22nd in completion percentage allowed (64.2) and 19th in opposing passer rating (90.6). In all, the Ravens yielded 300 or more passing yards on five occasions. As we saw Saturday night, Baltimore does have the sort of pass rush that can make life difficult on an opposing quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times by the Ravens, including twice by Dumervil), but a secondary that’€™s struggled with health and other personnel losses could have some issues with New England’s passing attack. The Patriots will likely try and utilize several different options in hopes of slowing the Baltimore pass rush, including an extra offensive lineman (possibly Cameron Fleming), more sets with multiple tight ends and putting a priority on quarterback Tom Brady getting the ball out as fast as possible to intermediate targets like tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers Julian Edelman and Brandon LaFell. Look for the quarterback to have a quick trigger this week.

Conversely, the Ravens’€™ defense does a pretty good job against the run.

Baltimore has been pretty stout against the run over the course of the regular season — the Ravens yielded more than 100 yards on the ground five times, and two of those came in the final two weeks of the season as they were trying to survive without vaunted defensive lineman Haloti Ngata, who was suspended for failing a PED test for what he said was Adderall. Suggs is underrated as a run stopper, and C.J. Mosley has also proven himself to be valuable when it comes to slowing down opposing backs. The Patriots are likely to run the ball just enough to keep the Ravens honest on Saturday.

Justin Forsett is underrated as a feature back.

Forsett won the starting job after Ray Rice was released, and he had a very impressive season. The Cal product, who ended the season with 235 carries for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns, basically came out of nowhere to become the only running back in the NFL to finish with at least 1,200 rushing yards and average at least five yards per carry (5.4). The 5-foot-8. 197-pounder struggled at times down the stretch and had just 16 carries for 36 yards on Saturday against the Steelers, but will get the bulk of the work if the Ravens try and beat the Patriots on the ground next Saturday in Foxboro. In terms of the rest of their offense, we know that quarterback Joe Flacco is the sort of signal-caller capable of getting on a postseason run, especially when the Ravens hit the road. (His seven road playoff wins are the most by a quarterback since the 1970 merger.) Flacco set career-highs for regular-season passing yards (3,986) and touchdowns (27) this year. When he does throw, he’€™ll look for veteran receiver Steve Smith Sr. (79 catches, 134 targets, 1,065 yards, 6 TDs), Torrey Smith (49 catches, 92 targets, 767 yards, 11 TDs) and tight end Owen Daniels (48 catches, 78 targets, 527 yards, 4 TDs).

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Read More: 2015 playoffs, Elvis Dumervil, joe flacco, Ravens
Tedy Bruschi on D&H: Patriots defense ‘will have to’ pick up offense in playoffs 12.30.14 at 8:21 am ET
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ESPN analyst and former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi joined Dale & Holley Monday for his weekly appearance and discussed the postseason for the Patriots, touching on a few things — what team the Patriots don’t want to play in the first-round, how good their defense is — among other topics. To hear the interview, go to the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

The Patriots offense isn’t going into the playoffs playing their best — scoring 23 points or less in four of their last five games. When it comes to the postseason, there will be games where the offense is going to struggle and it will be up to the defense to bail them out. Bruschi feels this defense is capable, and will need to do that if the Patriots want to ultimately get and win the Super Bowl.

“I don’t delay, yes it is. They will have to,” said Bruschi. “I do see moments where this offense will struggle in the playoffs because every run to every Super Bowl, win or loss that the Patriots have had in the five I’ve been on, eventually there are games that one unit is going to have to pick up the other. If you think this offense is going to score 30 points a game, for three games in a row for the playoffs — the divisional game, the AFC Championship game, the Super Bowl — you’re mistaken. There is going to be a Matthew Slater, a Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, those types of players that have to make big plays. It’s really only the final step. Even with Darrelle Revis, it is really the only final step. They made all the plays.

“They won the division. They’ve got their first-round bye. The only thing left for them to do is to make the plays when it is third-and-9 and you have to make a stop and the game is on the line, or the offense is going to have to convert by running the ball on a short-yardage situation in close games. [Stephen Gostkowski] is going to have to make a field goal … Divisional games, those types of moments from players that you don’t expect them from not named [Tom] Brady that will make this team a championship caliber team.”

With the Patriots earning a first-round bye, they don’t know who their first opponent will be. It will be either the Ravens, Colts, or Bengals — whatever the highest remaining seed is following this weekend’s Wild Card games. Bruschi feels the Ravens are the team the Patriots should least want to play because quarterback Joe Flacco and the rest of the team don’t fear the Patriots and playing in Gillette Stadium.

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Read More: Jamie Collins, joe flacco, Tedy Bruschi,
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