By Samuel Njoku
After a tough Week 2 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Ravens must quickly rebound against a familiar opponent. Baltimore will host the New England Patriots in what will be a rematch of the AFC Championship game. And while many of the players and coaches will remember that day for years to come, the team made it clear that this is game is not about revenge.
“That game [has] past,” said Haloti Ngata on Wednesday. “We’re a totally different team this year, and they’re a totally different team this year. So, it’s us against them right now.”
Haloti Ngata has a point. Right now, neither team looks like the dominant forces that met in the AFC Championship game. New England lost a close game to the lowly Cardinals in Week 2. And Baltimore statistically ranks 27th in total defense in the NFL. While the vulnerability of the Ravens defense may concern some, Ray Lewis doesn’t appear to be worried.
“I think if you look at anybody, wherever you start at, you can always fix things here and there and make things better,” Lewis stated to reporters. “I think at the end of the year, every year, is when you always pay attention to stats. Trust me. We’ve never gotten into stats early. That’s why when people talk about our defense or whatever, they want to say [something] at the beginning of the year, we always say, ‘Find us at the end of the year,’ and you know what we’re going to be.”
The Ravens can’t wait until the end of the year to get back on their feet. Tom Brady and the New England Patriots still boast one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. The Ravens will be forced to cover the entire field as Brady does a great job of spreading the ball around. And while that will be the goal for the Ravens defense on Sunday night, the team knows exactly who they need to keep an eye on in this matchup.
“[Gronkowski] is a big guy,” Lewis said. “He gets open. If you see him, he gets open a lot. He is a big body. Those guys, they have a great scheme over there. New England has always been at the top for whatever reason they are, but he is just one of those guys. He is a hard-nosed guy. He is a hard worker, and Brady loves to use him.”
With the way Brent Celek got open against the Ravens last week, the team can ill afford to let it happen again. But if they are able to contain him, it will limit what the Patriots are able to do offensively.
For the Ravens’ offense to succeed, they’ll need to get back to the “sugar huddle” offense. They weren’t able to get this going last week because Cam Cameron feared the loud noise on a road game would interfere with communication issues. They won’t have that problem at home. And though the Ravens have had success running the ball against this team, Ray Rice knows this team is different.
“Well, the one thing about it is, when you add two first-round picks and they’re both starting, it’s for a reason,” stated Ray Rice. “Those guys are playing really well.”
If the Ravens are not able to get anything going on the ground, then Baltimore will be forced to get the job done on the ground. This is something Flacco was able to do with success in the AFC Championship game. And while everyone believes Flacco outplayed Brady last year, the 5th year quarterback doesn’t seem to care.
“Well, we didn’t win the game, so it doesn’t really matter what people say about that.”
LB Jameel McClain (knee), DE Pernell McPhee (knee), S Bernard Pollard (chest), T Jah Reid (calf), and CB Lardarius Webb (knee) were all no shows at practice on Wednesday. Besides Reid, all are expected to play on Sunday Night. LB Paul Kruger (back) and T Michael Oher (ankle) saw limited action in practice.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.