Ravens get ready for tough test against Patriots on Monday Night Football
— If the loss of Rob Gronkowski makes the task of slowing the Patriots’ offense any less daunting, it’s by the smallest of margins.
As long as Tom Brady is under center, New England isn’t any less dangerous without its four-time Pro Bowl tight end.
Brady, 39, is as efficient as ever in his old age. He has the NFL’s best touchdownto-interception ratio, throwing 19 touchdown passes and only a single pick this season.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said that if Brady’s skill set has diminished at all, he’s made up for it mentally. Baltimore knows how difficult it can be to fool a quarterback who has seen just about everything, so instead of getting tricky, the Ravens will stick to what
they do well on defense.
“Both teams will play to their strengths. You build your schemes through your personnel, and you play to the things you do well,” Harbaugh said. “There will be wrinkles in the game plans, I’m sure, on both sides. He’ll have studied us in every which way possible, I’m quite sure, looking for every indication that he can. That’s just what he does a great job of. That’s one of the things that makes him the great player that he is.”
Baltimore has played the Patriots as well as any team in recent years. Brady has thrown 11 career interceptions against the Ravens and only 12 touchdown passes – very uncharacteristic numbers.
“Our focus is on how we play this week. That’s what we need to talk about, not what we’ve done in the past,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to be facing the most difficult and challenging offense yet to stop that we’ve faced all year. We’re going to have to play our best football of the year to stop these guys.”
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has familiarity with Brady and New England, having held the position there from 2006-09.”
The Patriots will also be without wide receiver Danny Amendola, but Brady will still have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Tight end Martellus Bennett has caught 44 passes for 544 yards and four touchdowns. Those may not be Gronkowski numbers, but he provides another dangerous target.
The Ravens’ top-ranked defense surrenders just 296.1 yards per game. The secondary averages 222.3 yards allowed through the air – the eighth fewest in the NFL. Their 14 interceptions are the second most league wide.
Baltimore was recently without its top cornerback, Jimmy Smith, for a pair of games, but will have a healthy unit Monday night.
The Ravens need to be sharp against the run, too. Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount leads the NFL with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Though he never referenced Brady by name, linebacker Terrell Suggs referenced his career wins and championships. He was also aware that New England sits at 10-2, or first place in the AFC.
“It’s a big game this week. We get to play on Monday night. We’re playing a good team,” he said. “They’re ahead of their division. We’re ahead of ours. So, we have another big game. It’s going to be fun.”
Follow Sean Grogan on Twitter: @Sean_CecilWhig
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco ( 5) throws in the first quarter against the New England Patriots in the 2015 AFC divisional playoffs. Both teams will rematch Monday in a key late-season showdown.