AFC championship: Baltimore Ravens have respect for New England Patriots' Aqib Talib

BALTIMORE — New England's pass defense has improved greatly entering Sunday's AFC title game. One reason, Baltimore says, is CB Aqib Talib, who was acquired from the Bucs on Nov. 1.

Talib has just one interception and two pass breakups over eight games. But after surrendering an average of 285.3 yards, a 66.1 completion percentage and 19 touchdowns over its first nine games, New England trimmed those numbers to 253.4 yards, 57.3 percent and 10 touchdowns.

"He's a very, very skilled and talented performer," Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell said Thursday. "He's a very confident player. He's challenged the best in the league."

WR Torrey Smith might see a lot of Talib after catching two touchdowns last week against Denver. Even though he has never faced Talib, Smith said his reputation precedes him.

"He is a great corner. He is a playmaker," Smith said. "It will be a nice challenge for us."

By the way … : When the euphoria of the Ravens' overtime win over the Broncos dissipated, members of their special teams unit were left with another emotion: anger. That's not surprising considering Denver's Trindon Holliday became the first player in NFL history to return a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in a playoff game.

"Everybody was upset," Ravens FS Sean Considine said. "We let the team down. But fortunately … we made it up in other areas. Being a core special teams guy, I want to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Injury report: New England RB Danny Woodhead, who hurt his hand Sunday, fully participated in practice a day after being limited.

Top secret: Patriots DE Chandler Jones, who hurt his ankle against the Texans, hasn't told his brother, Ravens DE Arthur Jones, his status. "I was trying to get the inside scoop," Arthur Jones said. "But he's doing a good job not telling me anything."

Neutral brother: The middle brother in the Jones family, Jon, is a mixed-martial arts star and UFC light heavyweight champion. He plans to attend the game but won't choose sides. Said Chandler Jones: "I haven't asked him (who he'll be rooting for)."

AFC championship: Baltimore Ravens have respect for New England Patriots' Aqib Talib 01/17/13 [Last modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:49pm]

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