Baltimore Ravens' scouting report

NICKEL PACKAGE 1. Can the Baltimore Ravens harass Tom Brady? This is a major question mark for the Ravens (9-7) heading into today's AFC wild-card game against the New England Patriots (10-6) at Gillette Stadium. The Ravens have to balance the need to hit and hurry the Patriots' star quarterback between avoiding roughing-the-passer penalties.

A pair of controversial flags on Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata led to touchdown drives during the first meeting, a 27-21 Baltimore loss on Oct. 4. The Ravens have emphasized staying in the strike zone whenever they make contact with Brady, hitting him above the knees and below the neck. They can't afford to give him too much breathing room, though. Otherwise, Brady will carve up the secondary like a fat turkey.

2. Will the Ravens be able to contain Randy Moss?
Traditionally, the Ravens have prevented the mercurial wideout from busting loose against them. He has been held to one touchdown per game during the past two meetings, but hasn't been his usual dominant self. Watch for free safety Ed Reed to provide some assistance to cornerback Domonique Foxworth today.

3. Is the kicking game going to rebound?
The Ravens have lost some big games this season by narrow margins. That includes three of their six losses to playoff teams by three points or less. A shaky kicking game is in need of a jumpstart. Due primarily to poor snaps by ailing long snapper Matt Katula, who's battling tendinitis, the Ravens have missed three of their past six field goal tries as they enter the postseason. Katula is slated to snap today, but will need to be much better than he was last week against the Oakland Raiders when a pair of errant snaps caused kicker Billy Cundiff to miss two field goals.

4. Will the Ravens avoid turnovers?
The Ravens were haunted by two extremely costly turnovers during the first meeting as Chris Carr fumbled away the opening kickoff, which cost him his kick returner job. And quarterback Joe Flacco threw an interception in the red zone where he wasn't on the same page as wide receiver Derrick Mason. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says that the top goal he's set is to avoid turnovers at all costs.

5. Will the Ravens come up big in the clutch?
During some of the Ravens' biggest losses this season, the breakdowns at critical junctures have followed a familiar pattern: a missed field goal, a key penalty, a long pass allowed. To pull off the upset today, they have to snap out of those bad habits and play mistake-free football when the game is on the line.

KEY MATCHUP
Baltimore Ravens RB Ray Rice vs. New England Patriots LB Jerod Mayo


Rice exposed the Patriots' run defense as a vulnerable unit earlier this season. His elusiveness proved to be too much for the New England front seven to handle as he dashed past them in the open field to average 9.4 yards on 11 carries. Mayo is an active, aggressive linebacker who's capable of shadowing Rice. During a preseason game when Rice and Mayo were rookies, Mayo delivered a fierce blow to Rice's chest. The Patriots have had some issues stopping the run, allowing 4.4 yards per carry to rank 20th in the NFL. Rice could represent a major portion of the Ravens' game plan today. He has improved since the first game, emerging as a versatile Pro Bowl runner who caught 78 passes out of the backfield.

KEY MATCHUP
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth vs. New England Patriots WR Randy Moss


With Wes Welker out for the season with a devastating knee injury, the Ravens are expecting quarterback Tom Brady to go to Randy Moss a lot. Moss is an imposing downfield presence who literally posts up smaller cornerbacks like a basketball power forward. His hands and focus have improved markedly. Over his past two games against the Ravens, Moss has registered a total of seven receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns. The Ravens were fairly effective during the last meeting with Foxworth allowing one score, but otherwise containing Moss. The Ravens used bracket coverage to keep Moss from having too much freedom to operate. If the Ravens can stalemate Moss, they'll arguably have an excellent chance to pull off an upset. THREE DOWNS WITH …
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice


1. On whether he feels fresh for this game: "I'm a rhythm player. Obviously, last week, it was a Willis McGahee kind of game, and he had a great opening. But I think going into the playoffs right now, the way my body feels, I feel great. Coming into any game, you come ready to play, but I'm a groove player. Obviously, you want to get going before anything starts to happen, and that comes with the game slowing down for me. I don't want to hit a play too fast, and every run is different. You'll see, when the explosive plays come, they come."

2. On being in the playoffs: "The playoffs are something else. It's another season. Right now, you can erase everybody's stats, erase all the rushing yards, all the 2,000 yards that I had to get to the playoffs to say that we have to start all over again, essentially, for four games. "To say that we fought through what we fought through to make the playoffs is pretty remarkable. We wouldn't have rather had it any other way. We would rather it be the hard way. You fight through a lot of stuff and your team becomes a lot closer."

3. On the Pro Bowl being in Miami this year: "This is new to me. The Pro Bowl is new to me. Whether it was before or after, I could say it's my first experience. So, until I get voted to many more, when it's in Hawaii, I can't really tell the difference. I just go on what somebody else is saying like, ‘Man, I liked it in Hawaii better.' I can't judge. I'm a first-time comer."

THREE DOWNS WITH …
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady


1. On the first game against Baltimore: "Schematically, they always change things up. They're really a game-plan team, so what we saw in the first meeting, who knows how much of that we'll see in this coming game. But, they're still one of the best defenses in the league for a long time.

"They have some really talented players – Ed Reed obviously, and Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, along with Dawan Landry, who is really underrated as a strong safety, and Domonique Foxworth is playing great. So, they have a lot of talented guys, and we're going to need to certainly play better than the last time we played them."

2. On Ravens cornerback Chris Carr and the entire secondary: "He's done a great job. Chris has done a great job since he's been in there. He played in the slot a bunch earlier in the season, and then when Fabian Washington went down, he was in there, and he's done a great job. And Tom Zbikowski's done a great job when he was in there for Ed Reed. It's a really talented group. They're obviously well coached, because they're always on the same page.

"Scheme-wise, it's a very disciplined scheme. Dawan Landry is a very disciplined player, and Ed always takes his chances when he thinks he sees something. He's one of the most instinctive players, probably, to ever play the game. They're all talented. They're all playmakers."

3. On his injuries, including ribs, finger and shoulder: "Coach [Bill] Belichick doesn't like us to talk about injuries, so I kind of just defer to whatever's on the injury report at this point. I felt good. I'm out there practicing, so I always enjoy that."


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