AFC Championship Game 2013: What Ravens and Patriots Must Learn from Week 3 Bout

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AFC Championship Game 2013: What Ravens and Patriots Must Learn from Week 3 Bout
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Before the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens battle for the 2013 AFC Championship, they must look to the past to help them out.

Teams can learn a lot from previous matchups. Even though these two teams played back in Week 3, there is still a lot that can be taken away from Baltimore's 31-30 win.

The outcome will not necessarily be the same (see: Ravens vs. Denver Broncos), but seeing how these teams played earlier in the year can help predict what will happen next.

Here are the biggest lessons from the regular-season game between these two teams.

 

Patriots

Torrey Smith Must Be Stopped

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When these two teams met the first time, Torrey Smith was playing with a lot of emotion. His brother had died earlier in the day and he made a last-minute decision to suit up.

The result was one of the best games of his career. The receiver finished with six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

Of course, this was not a one-hit wonder. Smith continued to be one of the more dangerous deep threats in the NFL throughout the course of the season.

New England must be able to prevent Smith from getting open deep down the field. Whether that includes man coverage with Aqib Talib or increased safety help with Devin McCourty, the coaching staff cannot allow the receiver to have a big day.

 

Use Stevan Ridley More

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Despite the fact that the Patriots were winning for most of the game, Stevan Ridley only received 13 carries in the loss.

He was largely ineffective, only totaling 37 yards. Then again, Danny Woodhead was even worse with 34 yards on 15 carries.

Even though Tom Brady is one of the top quarterbacks in the game, New England's success has been largely tied to Ridley this season. The team is only 1-3 this year when the running back fails to reach 65 rushing yards.

When the team was unable to run the ball against Baltimore, it put too much pressure on the passing game and it made the entire offense easier to defend.

After producing all year long, the team has to make sure Ridley keeps getting the ball in the AFC Championship. He will help move the football and it will allow the Patriots to control the clock in this close battle.

 

Ravens

Do Not Be Afraid to Throw the Ball

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Ray Rice is still the focal point of the offense and the team must make sure that he gets his carries, but Joe Flacco proved this year that he can be effective throwing the ball.

Against the Patriots, the quarterback had 39 pass attempts and put together one of his best games of the season. He completed 71.8 percent of his passes and threw for 382 yards with three touchdowns.

New England has the No. 9 rushing defense in the NFL this year, but only the No. 29 passing defense. This squad is susceptible to deep throws, and that is an area where Flacco excels.

The Ravens do not want to completely change the offense, but they should have complete confidence in the quarterback throwing north of 40 times in the AFC Championship Game.

 

Keep Blitzing

Al Bello/Getty Images

One thing that makes the Ravens so dangerous on defense is the team's ability to blitz from anywhere on the field.

In Week 3, Baltimore was able to get only two sacks but put seven hits on Brady and it took the quarterback out of his rhythm.

However, the ability to get into the backfield helps in more than just the passing game. The Ravens totaled seven tackles for a loss against the Patriots, and that production came from three different linebackers and two different safeties.

The team's ability to get a variety of different players into the offensive backfield causes major disruptions in the game plan.

Baltimore must continue this strategy to slow down the dangerous Patriots offense that has carried the team all season.

 

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