By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens are back in the AFC Championship game for the second straight year. The stage is bigger and the stakes have never been so high. Baltimore will travel to New England to battle the hot Patriots in what looks to be another classic between to powerhouses. The Ravens enter practice this week focused on defeating one of their bitter rivals.
“Guys are very focused,” Harbaugh told the media on Wednesday. “Our guys have studied a lot already. We have a team that studies football anyway. We’ve got a lot of guys that like football [and] spend a lot of time in their notebook, spend a lot of time watching tape. That’s one of the major reasons we are here at this point, and we just need to continue that and build on it.”
Another major reason for the Ravens current position in the postseason is QB Joe Flacco. He’s played lights out so far this postseason and is statistically playing better than any other quarterback. Joe has recorded 5 touchdowns and no interceptions. He’s hitting receivers for big plays as he is registering over 20 yards a completion. He’ll attempt to keep that trend going against the Patriots defense on Sunday.
“They’re a good football team, and they’re still going to attack us in what they feel like is going to put pressure on us,” Flacco told reporters. “I think they’re going to probably come up and put pressure on our receivers. They always – throughout the years – like to get up and not allow our tight ends and our inside guys to get off the ball very well and play over the top of the outside guys.”
So how will the Ravens combat the aggressiveness of their defense?
“We’ll see if they match them on Torrey [Smith] or Anquan [Boldin] or anything like that,” Flacco continued. “I think they’ve let up some yards in that area, but at the same time, they do a good job of playing very well and playing some man [coverage] underneath, and like I said, getting pressure, getting their hands on those guys to kind of re-route them a little bit. So, we’ll have to be very good this week at combating that a little bit and running crisp routes and making sure that we don’t allow them to hold us up.”
The Ravens will practice on working through that form of defense. The receivers struggled this season to break away from bump and run coverage. This is especially true for Torrey Smith, who lit up the Broncos defense last week. The Ravens will try to get Ray Rice involved in order to keep the defense honest and get the play action game going in the favor. But Ray Rice states this is still the Joe Flacco show.
“For me, I’ve always said this offense goes as Joe [Flacco] goes, Rice stated. “There is a lot of take in saying, ‘We could have run the ball, but we did this.’ But Joe Flacco is truly our leader. Not only has he taken the role of our leader, he is leading us down this whole stretch. The one thing that he’s doing is he is very vocal. He gets us lined up. He does everything that he needs to do as a quarterback.”
Rice is absolutely right. The Ravens aren’t in this position if not for Joe Flacco. And if Baltimore hopes to ride their momentum to New Orleans, they’ll need a similar performance out of their quarterback on Sunday. If history is any indication, Baltimore will be just fine.
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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.