Ravens vs. Patriots: New England's Defense Is Equipped to Stop Joe Flacco
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Flacco was fantastic last week against the Denver Broncos in the Ravens' Divisional Round win. He threw for 331 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-tying 70-yard bomb to Jacoby Jones.
You can bet Bill Belichick and his staff will have looked at that game very closely. More specifically, the Patriots will have seen how much the Broncos were beat over the top.
Champ Bailey was atrocious, and considering he doesn't usually need safety help, there wasn't the anybody deeper in the secondary who could provide the necessary cover.
New England was one of the worst teams in the league against the pass during the regular season. The Patriots gave up an average of 271 yards a game, good for 29th in the NFL.
With those numbers in mind, it's hard to argue that they will be able to completely shut down Flacco and the Ravens' receivers. What the Patriots will do, however, is cut the big play out of Baltimore's arsenal.
Matt Schaub threw for almost 600 yards against New England in the postseason and regular season combined. Yet the Houston Texans lost the two matchups by a combined 41 points.
When the Patriots needed to get a stop, they did. The Texans finished only 4-of-15 on third down and only got into the red zone three times during the Divisional Round loss.
Ray Rice will also play a key role. If New England can turn the Ravens into a one-dimensional team, the Patriots will be at a huge advantage.
Lost in Flacco's success against Denver is the fact that Rice ran for 131 yards and one touchdown. His performance came a week after he and Bernard Pierce combined for 171 against the Indianapolis Colts.
The more Rice is able to eat up the yards, the more comfortable Flacco will get.
New England has been very good against the run, ranking ninth during the regular season, so Rice might find his running lanes a little more clogged.
The goal will be to ensure he doesn't go off like he did against the Broncos. If that happens, New England will be going to its second Super Bowl in a row.
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