Baltimore Sports and Life: Tom Brady is on another planet as far as his ability, we all know that. So what areas of the Patriots team is suspect to being exploited by Baltimore?
Morgan Smith: On offense, New England doesn’t have many weakness but if you can get pressure on Brady that obviously keeps New England from scoring a lot of points. Another
area would be shutting down Wes Welker completely. Vs the Texans, Brady had
targeted Welker 10 times before the half, Welker is Brady’s go to guy, the one he trusts
most, so if you take away Brady’s “blanket” so to speak, it definitely puts a
dent in the Patriots passing game.
BSL: What are some key match ups you’ll be looking for in this game?
MS: Terrell Suggs and Paul Kruger vs the Patriots offensive line. Suggs has always
given New England problems, so the Patriots have to know where he is at, at all
times to contain his pass rush, and now that Kruger has emerged as a pass
rusher, the line will need to stop him and protect Tom Brady. Also, the Patriots
defense against Torrey Smith, can New England survive the 4-5xs Flacco will bomb
it deep or get burned? That will determine the game.
BSL: The Patriots seem to run roughshod through a lot of teams. Often times scoring points at will. However the Ravens seem to play them very close. In fact they won in the week 3 match up, and if Lee Evans had a little “stick em” on his gloves then the Ravens would have victories in their last two match ups. Is this a case where the Ravens are just not a good match up for the Patriots?
MS: The Ravens always play the Patriots good because unlike some teams, the Ravens
know how to play the Patriots. It also helps that the Ravens on defense is a veteran
team, full of leaders. They are a great match up going against the Patriots this
weekend, I fully expect it to be a close game down to the end.
BSL: Losing a star player of the caliber of Rob Gronkowski would be devastating to any other team. For the Patriots and Tom Brady, the offense hasn’t missed a beat without Gronk, have they? Just from looking at the continued success they have had without him. Do you see this as being a factor at all?
MS: Last year New England had Gronkowski all season, and he was injured in the AFC
Championship Game vs the Ravens, and wasn’t 100% against the Giants,and didn’t
really play at all, except on a few plays, so it was a huge factor last year
because the Patriots didn’t know how to play without him. This year they have
had to play over a month without Gronkowski, and adapted to not having him out
there, that is why, it isn’t as huge of a loss as it was last season.
BSL: Special teams often gets lost in the fold when talking about match ups involving Tom Brady, Ray Lewis, Ray Rice, Vince Wilfork, etc… In the previous Ravens game with the Broncos, The Ravens allowed two kick returns to Trindon Holiday Can you fill us in a little bit on Devin McCourty and if he is someone we should be worried about as well?
MS: Well the Patriots special teams did a horrible job in their match up with the Texans, so both special teams have a lot to work on for this game coming up but the Patriots have more to worry about then the Ravens do. The Ravens have Jacoby Jones, he is a good returner, very dangerous, so New England’s special teams better be ready and have a much better day then they did against the Texans. Devin McCourty, is a good returner when he returns the kick, he has speed, but he most likely won’t be a problem for the special teams of the Ravens to contain. Wes Welker does the punt returns for New England, but hasn’t broken any for TDs. None of the Patriots guys are close to the returning ability of Trindon Holiday.
BSL: How much of an impact has Aquib Talib had on the team since coming to New England from Tampa Bay? He was one the top DB’s coming out of college, but his off field issues were getting in the way of his performance. Is he making the most of a fresh start?
MS: I think Talib is making the most of his fresh start. He changed New England’s
secondary in a huge way, and has helped the defense to play a lot better then
they did to start the season. They give up less plays with Talib, and with his
cover ability, it allows New England to play aggressive, especially up front
with blitzes. So Talib impact to the defense has been an huge one, big enough,
to give him a whole new contract.
BSL: In the AFC title game last year, Vince Wilfork had a field day with Ravens center Matt Birk. It was no contest, and there’s no doubt that Wilfork is one of the best at his position. Is there a way you think the Ravens can remedy that in this match up? Anything you have seen other teams maybe have success with such as keeping a FB home to protect the QB, an extra TE or something?
MS: They can double him, and try that out, but if that doesn’t work, and Wilfork is
stilling getting through, weather it is against the pass or run, then the Ravens
could go to short passes to counter it. Screens and short passes could take the
whole line out of play against the Ravens because Wilfork and the Patriots line
can’t run to the outside and catch the wide out or RB, and it could set the run
up for the Ravens by backing off the aggressiveness of the Patriots line.
BSL: Last week we asked a writer from the Denver Broncos who should be MVP. Manning, Brady, Peterson, Megatron, or someone else. In his unbiased opinion, he said Peyton Manning because of the way he elevated everyone’s game on that team. Decker, Thomas, McGahee and Moreno, etc… Do you agree, or would you like to make a case for Tom Brady?
MS: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady will always be in the race for MVP because of how
much they mean to their respective teams, and their play on the field. Both guys
elevate the play of their teammates, but with that being said I would actually
give the MVP to RB Adrian Peterson. He ran for 2,097 rushing yards, just nine
yards short of a rushing record that has stood for 18 years. He was doing this
on an team where the opposing defenses knew he was going to get the ball at
least 20-30xs a game, and knew he was their offense. He still gained a ton of
yards and helped the Vikings to an playoff berth. The Vikings QB wasn’t going to
get the team their on his back, but the RB did, which is almost unheard in the
NFL now, since it has become such a passing league.
BSL: Do you think that Foxboro will be the final stop on the Ray Lewis Farewell Tour?
MS: I don’t know if it will be. It will be if they the Ravens defense keeps
allowing the yards and points they have been allowing this season, and post
season run. The Ravens will also have to score touchdowns and not settle for
field goals through out the game, to be able to win the game.
BSL: Care to give a prediction for the NFC title game between San Francisco and Atlanta?
MS: I actually think Atlanta will win. Matt Ryan didn’t finish off the Seahawks and
that could be a problem against the 49ers, but with White, Jones, Gonzalez, and
Turner, the Falcons should get enough points to squeak by a very talented 49ers
team.With a lot of doubt, I think the Falcons will win.
Thanks again Morgan. You guys can check out my rebuttal on Patriots Gab sometime this week, as they have asked for my opinion on the Ravens in a similar Q & A format.
P.S. I completely agree with her choice for NFL MVP in Adrian Peterson, for that exact reason. Against eight in the box, he was still putting up 200 yard games. But that’s a whole different argument, probably for the message board to debate.