Ravens - Patriots: 5 keys to the game

1. Throw the football vertically. <br><br> The Baltimore Ravens (7-3) have a prime opportunity to exploit the New England Patriots' vulnerable secondary in today's game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots (9-1) are without starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, and have replaced them with suspects, not prospects. Earthwind Moreland has a great name, but not even a decent game.

He gave up two touchdowns in the Patriots' win over the Chiefs on Monday night. Randall Gay isn't much better. Both are being picked on extensively and Asante Samuel is questionable with an injury and is in and out of Bill Belichick's doghouse.

New England has slipped to 20th in pass defense, allowing 218.9 yards through the air per contest.

Against the Chiefs, the Patriots allowed 353 passing yards and 64.3 percent accuracy as Kansas City gained 417 yards of total offense. Quarterback Kyle Boller has improved his accuracy, completing a career-best 67.6 percent against Dallas and has thrown 118 consecutive passes without an interception. He has thrown two touchdown passes in successive games for the first time in his career. If the offensive line can keep a fierce front seven off of Boller, he could be dangerous.

He averaged 6.8 yards per passing attempt against the Cowboys.

2. Contain Tom Brady and Corey Dillon.

Brady ranks first in Patriots history in completion percentage (61.5), passer rating (87.2), fourth in touchdowns (87) and fourth in yards (12,675). He's a heady, gutty player who has two Super Bowl MVP trophies on his mantle place. Brady is 49-13, including the playoffs. He has engineered 16 game-winning drives.

Dillon averaged 73 yards in his previous encounters with Baltimore. He is two yards shy of 1,000 yards and has rushed for 100 yards five times this season. Dillon has scored six touchdowns. He's on pace to rush for 1,663 yards, which would break Curtis Martin's old team mark of 1,487 yards in 1995.

The Ravens' third-ranked defense is an aggressive group that leads the NFL in fewest points allowed (140), is first in yards per play (4.3), passing yards per play (5.5) and sacks per pass play. In five of the Ravens' seven wins, the defense has scored a touchdown. With 30 sacks and 14 interceptions, the Ravens rank second in the NFL in both categories.

3. Change the game with safety Ed Reed.

Reed is rapidly overtaking linebacker Ray Lewis as the top play-maker and prime candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He has recorded six interceptions and set an NFL record with a 106-yard return for a touchdown to clinch a win over the Cleveland Browns.

Reed already has 18 career interceptions after leading the AFC with seven last season. The Ravens are 5-0 this season when Reed intercepts a pass and are 13-2 over the last three seasons when he records an interception.

4. Establish a lead and maintain it.

History says it's imperative that the Ravens begin the game strongly against New England. Since 2001, the Patriots are 35-0 when leading after three quarters, 32-1 when leading at the half. They are 33-9 when scoring first, and they have scored first in the last 18 straight games, including 15 straight in the regular season. They will set an NFL record if they score first in a 16th straight regular-season game. They are also 6-0 in overtime and 17-6 in games decided by seven or less points.

5. Win the turnover battle.

Since 2000, the Ravens have forced the most turnovers in the NFL (170), which could pay dividends against New England. Since Brian Billick took over in 1999, the Ravens are 43-2 when they have a positive turnover margin, including a streak of 36 consecutive wins. Baltimore hasn't lost a regular-season contest when it has had a positive turnover mark since losing 10-3 to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 15, 2000 when it had plus-2 margin.

Aaron Wilson writes for RavensInsider.Com and the Carroll County Times.

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