Ravens versus Patriots for the AFC Championship. A year later and Baltimore’s team has a chance to prove themselves worthy of representing the AFC in the Super Bowl by knocking out the same New England team that crushed their dreams a year previously.
Just a few weeks ago, many fans would have laughed at the thought that this years Ravens team could win two postseason games. The Ravens offense was struggling and the defense couldn’t close out a game. Fast forward to now and the Ravens offense is creating big plays every time you turn around and the defense is forcing turnovers in crucial situations.
When examining this week’s game I think there is a clear match up that the Ravens should look to expose.
The Ravens need to get the ball deep. Boldin, Smith and Jones could have huge games against the Patriots new look secondary.
Baltimore must keep the Pats D honest with a steady diet of Rice but the New England front seven is the most talented area of their team. Wilfork is a monster. Mayo and Spikes are big thumping linebackers that will make running room scarce.
It would be wise to put the game in Flacco’s hands considering that. In the week 3 match up the Patriots tried to match up their corners on the outside while the safeties sat on the slot receivers looking to crowd the middle of the field. The Ravens will need to take advantage of this on Sunday.
On First Down, the Pats play Quarters coverage where the corners are basically manned up on the split out receivers.
The Ravens have a play action pass called. They are trying to get the linebackers to bite down so that Dennis Pitta will be open over the middle of the field.
The linebackers do not get great depth and Pitta appears to be open. However, Patriots safety Steven Gregory refuses to back pedal to get over top of Boldin on the outside. He breaks towards Pitta. Flacco throws to ball inaccurately and Pitta should have broken his route inside a bit more.
The ball is intercepted by Gregory and the Ravens put themselves down early.
Later in the game, you can see the offense in the exact same situation.
On the 25 yard line the Ravens have called an identical play action pass and the Patriots play the exact same coverage.
This time Flacco recognizes the safeties’ failure to provide outside help and gives his receiver a chance to beat man coverage.
Torrey Smith burns the corner and makes a great touchdown catch.
In a crucial situation, the Ravens offense again comes up with a huge play on 3rd and 9 from the 34-yard line at the end of the game.
The Pats play man free and ask their corners to handle the Ravens wideouts with almost no help. Flacco sees one high and knows he has already won.
For some reason the Pats corners intentionally let the Ravens receivers have inside position. I suppose the idea was to force them closer to the deep safety but Gregory was in no position to help against Jacoby Jones at the top of the screen. The Patriots corner was forced to interfere and the Ravens kicked the game winning field goal.
The Patriots corners are now named Talib and Dennard but they are still no match for Torrey Smith, Anquan Boldin, and Jacoby Jones. If the Patriots choose to put their corners on an island in this game I expect Flacco to expose their weakness.