Tag Archives: Torrey Smith

NFL Week 16 Preview : Patriots @ Ravens

Playoff implications are on the line in Week 16 in Baltimore. Who will come to play?

After a 4-6 start, the Baltimore Ravens have won their last four – making a strong late season push to return to the playoffs for the sixth straight campaign. The rematch of last year’s AFC Championship was originally scheduled for Sunday Night Football, but got flexed to 4:25 in favor of the Bears vs. Eagles. Including the playoffs, the Ravens are 3-3 against the Patriots over the past six years. This non-division rivalry reached new heights when Baltimore denied New England a chance to play in the Super Bowl last year, embarrassing the Patriots in Gillette Stadium 28-13 and then hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Sitting a game behind the 9-5 Bengals, the Ravens have clawed their way back to wildcard legitimacy despite their worst rushing production in recent years of 82.9 YPG. Ray Rice is averaging a subpar (to say the least) 3.1 YPC, but has always found success against the Patriots. New England is coming off the wrong end of their fifth straight game decided by one score or less with a 24-20 last second loss in Miami. This is easily the most adversity a Patriots team has faced in the Belichick era, off-season departures and season-ending injuries are truly beginning to dictate just how much gas is left in the tank as we approach January football.

Brady couldn’t be more accurate with his statement after the Dolphins game, “There is a small margin of error”. The team is young and with inexperience comes mistakes. Without the security blanket of Gronk in the lineup, Tom has relied on Julian “Minitron” Edelman as his go-to. Jules has 89 receptions for 914 yards and 6 TD but the efficiency lost in the Red Zone seems irreplaceable. Outside of that consistent production, no one player has been a staple every given sunday. For the second straight week, the Pats have an opportunity to lock up their fifth straight AFC East title. Because the Steelers beat the Bengals last week, the Patriots are still in line to receive the 2 seed if they win out. What will give tomorrow afternoon? Can New England take the next step in restoring the faith or does Baltimore stay hot and give the Pats a reality check? Weather is calling for a 60 degree day with thunderstorm possibilities, here’s to hoping we don’t see a repeat of the brutal Cincinnati conditions. Check out these three keys to victory for an important late-season matchup for Belichick and company:

1) Contain Torrey Smith: Despite a modest total of 59 receptions and 4 TD, the UMaryland burner has 1,032 yards on the season. Smith has recorded a grab of 40+ yards in 8 games this year with a long of 74. Week after week, the Patriots have been burned over the top from the likes of Mike Wallace, Josh Gordon, Andre Johnson and more. These impact plays occur far too often, illustrating a glaring weakness aside from the depleted defensive line.

New England is allowing 132.5 rushing YPG, putting them at the bottom of the pack at 31st in the NFL. Assuming Ray Rice returns to normality with the porous front seven, limiting the Flacco to Torrey connection is imperative. Furthermore, TE Dennis Pitta made his 2013 debut two weeks ago – filling the void that the Boldin departure created. Flacco has 18 TD and 17 INT on the season. He is on pace to record the largest amount of passing attempts and turnovers in his career. If Chandler and Nink are able to win their respective matchups, it will be a long day for the Ravens offense. McCourty and Gregory also need to have solid performances over the top at safety if New England wants any chance to escape with a victory.

2) Special Teams: For as clutch and consistent as Gostkowski has been this year, he killed the Patriots last week with his third missed field goal of the season and an untimely kickoff out-of-bounds. This ultimately allowed Miami to score that go-ahead touchdown and forced New England to score a TD in the last seconds compared to a manageable chip shot. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens have one of the most dangerous returners in Jacoby Jones. He has one touchdown on the season but is always a threat to take it all the way. Baltimore placekicker Justin Tucker had a legendary performance last week with six field goals and a game winning 61 yarder. The third phase of the game will be an important factor in the outcome of tomorrow’s contest. Execution is key.

3) Linebacker Play: Dont’a Hightower and Dane Fletcher have been the recipients of additional playing time after Mayo’s season-ending pectoral injury. While Fletcher made some game-changing plays against Denver, Hightower struggled brutally in coverage against Miami last week. Yancy Thigpen caught a 14 yard TD pass with 1:15 left in which had Dont’a turned around and played the ball, he would have easily intercepted Tannehill’s game-winning pass. Hightower is solid in the run but has not been able to make enough plays when they matter. The Rice/Pierce backfield is an above average tandem and this game will be physical. The Ravens have weapons all over the field and the Patriots will need to cause a turnover if they want to get this done on the road.

These teams don’t like each other and playoff implications are on the line. What more could you ask for? I believe the Patriots can get it done with some timely luck that seems to alternate week in and week out. 21-18 New England.

Ravens Shock Patriots, Return To Super Bowl

Tom Brady sits on the ground following the interception that sealed the game for the Ravens.

Tom Brady sits on the ground following the interception that sealed the AFC Championship game win for the Ravens.

Remember when Tom Brady in the postseason was as sure as death or taxes? His 9-0 start to his postseason career had people all over New England thinking that this late-round diamond in the rough could never do any wrong. Three championships in his first four seasons.

None in his last eight.

Maybe it was payback. Maybe it was destiny. Whatever it was, Joe Flacco outplayed Brady, the Ravens defense outplayed that of the Patriots and as banged up as Baltimore  had been this year, it was the home team and favorite that felt the blows when it mattered most. Oh, and Ray Lewis, with the help if his good friend, God, has lived to play another day – and for the Super Bowl.

From the moment the coin hit the ground in favor of the Ravens and they deferred to the second half – stealing the Patriots’ bread and butter on their home field – it just seemed like it wasn’t meant to be. They committed fewer penalties, made less mistakes and completed a higher percentage of their passes. Most importantly, their zero turnovers, compared to three from the Patriots, were nothing less than huge. They were the team that executed better on Sunday.

Like it did towards the end if the regular season, the Patriots offense struggled to capitalize when their defense set them up with good field position and scored just 13 points – their lowest total of 2012. As the league’s No. 1 offense, the fewest points they had scored this year before yesterday were 18 in the Week 2 loss to the Cardinals.

The windy conditions at Gillette Stadium forced both teams to play conservatively and cost the Pats a couple chances at field goals they would normally attempt.

Their opening drive looked promising, but Wes Welker couldn’t haul in a deep pass from Brady when he had his defender beat by a couple if steps. They then almost caught the Baltimore special teams off guard, however, as Ryan Mallett snuck into the punt formation and forced the Ravens to burn a timeout.

A quick three-and-out by Baltimore gave New England the ball back, but only after a holding penalty called on Aqib Talib backed them up to their own 21. They had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and took a 3-0 lead on their 32nd straight red zone possession that resulted in points.

The next Baltimore drive ended quickly as well, but came at a cost as Talib hurt his thigh while breaking up a pass on third and long. Some production from last week’s star Shane Vereen on the ensuing drive and a 15-yard personal foul penalty called on Lewis were for not as Brandon Lloyd ended up dropping a tough catch on third down.

Flacco then missed an open Dennis Pitta down the field and New England couldn’t convert following a 28-yard punt return from Welker as Paul Kruger influenced the Brady pass. The Pats D allowed just one completion in the first quarter and the Ravens went 0-for-3 on third down. New England led the Ravens 3-0 after one quarter of the AFC Championship game for the second consecutive year.

As the second quarter began, Flacco would lead a 90-yard drive in his first Title Game win to put the Ravens on the board with a two-yard run by Ray Rice. Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower both missed tackles on the back as he then walked into the endzone on second down. Pitta had an 18-yard reception on third and four and Flacco took advantage of Talib’s absence, hitting Torrey Smith on a 25-yard pass to the New England 15.

Brady would answer right away, however, aided by another personal foul penalty, this time on Dannell Ellerbe. A 24-yard pass to Welker set the Pats up in good position and Brady found him again from a yard out to make it 10-7 Patriots with 4:18 left in the opening half.

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2013 AFC Championship Preview: Ravens @ Patriots

Tom Brady is going to cut Ray Lewis' last shot of another ring short on Sunday - 6:30 - CBS

Tom Brady will cut Lewis’ last shot of another ring short on Sunday – 6:30 – CBS

The stage is set for a repeat of last year’s AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium. This is the first time two teams have met in a conference championship game in consecutive seasons since 1994 (DAL & SF). The past three of four games between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens have been decided on the final play. This tidbit is a testament to how intense the battle will be come Sunday night at 6:30. Add in the fact that this is the “last” chance for Ray Lewis; spectators can count on his aggressive play all game.

After losing their most dominant force on offense last week, Rob Gronkowski, spirits remain high in the Patriots locker room. The team has been here before and knows how to execute without one of if not the best tight end in the NFL. While Danny Woodhead is not Gronk, he too was lost early on against the Texans but it did not matter. Shane Vereen was the standout player last week, filling in for Woody, totaling three touchdowns and 124 all-purpose yards.

It has become evident year after year that on both sides of the ball, Belichick implements a system that utilizes each cog to the best of their abilities. Bill will not put a player in a position to fail by deciphering the strengths of each individual. Whether it’s putting Hernandez in open space or Welker underneath, Belichick’s 37 years in the NFL has reined superior with the Patriots. After passing Montana for the most postseason victories (17) as a quarterback, Brady is looking to reach his sixth Super Bowl in his thirteen-year career. Let’s take a look at three keys to victory against some feisty road warriors, the Baltimore Ravens.

1)   Disrupt Joe Flacco: Why are the Ravens traveling to Foxboro on Sunday to compete for a Super Bowl birth? Because of the time Flacco had in the pocket and his strong arm. There is no denying that was some of the worst coverage by Denver’s defensive backs in that Hail Mary. Regardless, Flacco was able to stand tall and deliver long balls all day against the Broncos.

In the playoffs, Joe Flacco is 8/12 for 324 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions on throws deeper than 20 yards downfield. During the regular season, Flacco completed 37% of those tosses with 7 TD. Furthermore, he had the most attempts without an interception (81) of any QB. What does this mean for the Patriots? It’s two-fold.

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Patriots vs. Ravens Recap: Five Reasons the Patriots Lost Sunday Night

After so much hype by the NFL and NBC, Sunday night’s game lived up to everything that was promised. But after 60 minutes of play, the Patriots are 1-2 and below .500 for the first time in nine years. It took Baltimore all 60 minutes to win the game, and a field goal as time expired that many Patriots players thought was no good to win. Here are five notables about the game that led the Patriots to their second loss in as many weeks:

1.)    The Replacement Officials.

Bernard Pollard was right about the Refs when he was interviewed by the Sports Hub Toucher and Rich. These replacements don’t have control over the players. The 1st quarter was evidence as there were many arms and elbows being thrown around after plays between groups of players. The refs could do nothing to stop these extra circulars from happening.  In the game the refs called 24 penalties, 12 of which resulted in 1st downs, totaling in 218 yards. It sounds whiny and immature to blame the game solely on the refs, so I can’t put all the blame there. But I can say that Roger Goodell needs to the right thing and get the actual refs back on the field immediately.

2.)     Gronkowski was ineffective without Aaron Hernandez

Rob Gronkowski, the almighty Tight End was held to just 2 receptions in the game which resulted in just 21 yards. A big part to Gronkowski’s ineffectiveness can be pinned on the absence of Tight End Aaron Hernandez. Without Hernandez, the Ravens were able to focus just on Gronk, and were able to hold him to just 2 receptions. Kellen Winslow who was signed this week by New England to fill the void Hernandez left, had just 1 catch for 12 yards and he dropped another pass that was intended for him in the first half.

3.)    Ridley Is NOT the Dominant Running Back he Appeared to be in Week 1

After a week 1 win in which Stevan Ridley ran for 125 yards on 21 carries and scored 1 touchdown, he’s been irrelevant. Last week against the Cardinals he ran for 71 yards on 18 carries. Against the Ravens he only ran for 37 yards on 13 carries with his longest rush being just 14 yards. Danny Woodhead seemed more reliable in the game with 34 yards on 15 carries. Ridley lost yards multiple times in the game, and he makes Patriots fan miss the reliability of the Law Firm, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis.

4.)    Edelman Injury in the 2nd quarter

In the first half Julian Edleman was tearing it up! He was playing with as much passion as you can ever ask a player to have. He had 4 catches for 28 yards, and should have had a big reception in the 2nd quarter, but it was called back after a questionable call by the officials. At the end of the 1st half Edelman left the game with a hand injury and didn’t return.

5.)    McCourty Drops an Interception

Early in the 4th quarter, Devin McCourty had a chance to intercept a Joe Flacco pass intended for Torrey Smith. McCourty had the ball in his hands but then dropped it. Had McCourty held on, the Patriots would have taken over control in decent field position. Instead on the next play, Flacco connected with Anquan Boldin for 24 yards. Patriots defense did stop the Ravens, and in field goal range, the Ravens attempted to convert on 4th and 1. They failed conversion, and didn’t score, but had McCourty held on to the interception it could have led to a more points from the Patriots offense.

The Patriots will now get ready to play the Bills in Buffalo next Sunday. Next week will be no easy game for the Pats as Buffalo is coming off a 24-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns and have a 2-1 record.  Also expect the NFL to hand a hefty fine to Bill Belichick this week for touching an official after the game to try and get an explanation of the field goal that won the game for the Ravens at the end of regulation.

Three Key Matchups: Patriots vs. Ravens Edition

Will Patriots running back Stevan Ridley be able to build on his early success against a stout Ravens defense?

With both teams sitting at 1-1, the Patriots and Ravens are mutually eager to make a statement in week 3 on Sunday Night Football. Considered two of the top teams in the league, there will be talent across the field when the Pats and Ravens go to battle. Given the amount of playmakers possessed by each team, there will be plenty of matchups to keep an eye on come kick off. After observing two weeks of NFL football thus far, I’ve singled out some key matchups to watch for in what should be a nail biter for New England and Baltimore fans alike.

Stevan Ridley vs. Ray Lewis and the Ravens run defense

While the sample size is still small, second year running back Stevan Ridley has provided much needed stability and production to the Patriots run game.  This week, Ridley will face a stingy Ravens defense led by All-Pro middle linebacker, Ray Lewis.  Lewis has made his mark on the league by stuffing the run and punishing opposing running backs on a weekly basis.  Ridley has shown signs of toughness as he’s bounced back from a few big hits taken when the Pats offensive line has not held up. He will need this level of toughness to continue should he hope to make an impact this week. Despite his optimistic start and displayed toughness, the Ravens defense will serve as the most difficult matchup yet for Ridley and it would be almost shocking if Ray Lewis and company allowed him to rush for anywhere close to 100+ yards on Sunday night.

Patriots Cornerbacks vs. Torrey Smith

After keeping star receiver Larry Fitzgerald hush in their week 2 loss to the Cardinals, the Patriots cornerbacks have been sharp in the early stages of the 2012 season. Improving on their play from last year, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington have yet to give up a monster play, keeping their men in front of them for the most part. This week, however, McCourty and Arrington will face a true down field threat in Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.  Poised for a breakout season, many are awaiting a big performance from Smith as he’s been rather quiet through the first two weeks of play. The defensive minded Bill Belichick, is well aware of Smith’s downfield ability as he torched the Pats for 83 yards and a touchdown during last year’s AFC Championship game. Given Smith’s speed and big play ability, I would look for safeties Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory to offer downfield support in an attempt to limit the effectiveness of the Ravens vertical passing attack.

Chandler Jones vs. Joe Flacco

Finally, an impact pass rusher in a Patriots uniform.  One of the few bright spots during the Patriots week 2 loss was rookie defensive end, Chandler Jones. In just his second game as a pro, Jones looked like a veteran on the field, getting after Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb and consistently winning his battles against the Cardinals offensive line. In this week’s Sunday night showdown against the Ravens, Jones will face a efficient game manager in Joe Flacco. In order to contain an improved Ravens offense, Jones amongst others will need to lead the charge in disrupting Flacco by limiting his freedom in the pocket. This matchup may be the one to keep the closest eye on as it will be essential for the Patriots defense to get off the field and put the ball in the hands of quarterback Tom Brady. If the Flacco and the Ravens are able to control the game clock, the Patriots will have a tough time pulling out a victory on the road.

Missed FG, Timely Defense Sends Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI

Patriots celebrating after Billy Cundiff missed a last minute field goal during the AFC Championship game.

So who’s to blame for this one?

Is it Lee Evans for not hanging onto the ball? Is it Joe Flacco for overthrowing a wide open Torrey Smith a couple of times? How about the kicker? Let’s blame the kicker! All he does is kick field goals so he shouldn’t miss a 32 yarder when the game is on the line, right?

Wrong.

Don’t count out any possibilities if your kicker goes by the name of Billy Cundiff.

With a chance to send the AFC Championship game to overtime, Cundiff shanked – what should have been – an easy field goal which led to the Patriots 23-20 victory over the Ravens.

In his defense, he wasn’t solely the reason Baltimore lost. However, his explanation for choking was pretty interesting. Cundiff and the Ravens claimed that the scoreboard at Gillette Stadium was displaying inaccurate information, therefore “confusing” the players and not letting them focus on what was happening on the field. According to an interview with Deadspin, the Ravens kicker wasn’t fully prepared, as he stated,  “Instead of taking a deep breath and collecting myself, everything just kept speeding up, speeding up. The mechanics of the operation were just off a little bit.”

Besides the kick, what was also a little bit off was that explanation. I’m aware of the scoreboard malfunction, yet that should be the lesser of a teams’ worries in the final minutes of an AFC Championship game. Not only is that a poor excuse, but Baltimore still had a timeout left to use. If Cundiff or any of the Ravens coaching staff felt like the play was rushed, wouldn’t they have just used their final timeout? Or is that considered icing your own kicker?

If that is the case, don’t blame Billy for your loss, blame Jason Garrett for ruining that whole scenario of calling – or not calling – a timeout before your kicker attempts to put one between the uprights (his only responsibility).

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