Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Patriots' worry vs. Ravens runs deep

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots have cut down on the long passes they allowed early in the season. The Ravens keep completing them.

New England's progress will be tested Sunday against Baltimore's strong-armed Joe Flacco and his speedy receivers in the AFC Championship Game.

CB Aqib Talib, acquired by the Patriots from the Bucs for the final seven games, saw how dangerous the Ravens' deep passing attack can be in their 38-35, double-overtime win over the Broncos in last weekend's division-round game.

"That game summed it up, man," he said. "They started the game taking shots, and they ended the game taking shots. So that's what you're going to do against guys like that, play that deep ball."

On Baltimore's second series in that game. Flacco threw a 59-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith. On his last series of regulation, Flacco heaved a 70-yard score to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left.

That was the longest completion this season for the Ravens, but Flacco has completed passes to receivers 13 times on gains of 40 yards or more. The Patriots had just five completions to receivers that picked up that distance.

"We can't allow them to just throw the ball over our heads," S Devin McCourty said. "The biggest thing is understanding how strong Flacco's arm is because I think we already know how fast some of the receivers are over there."

They Patriots (13-4) allowed 21 completions of at least 25 yards in their first eight games, including five in a 31-30 loss to the Ravens in Week 3. They allowed 15 in their last eight regular-season games, mostly after getting Talib from Tampa Bay for a future draft pick.

NOTHING NEW: The fast-paced Patriots offense, behind QB Tom Brady, often forgoes a huddle, racing to the line to exploit reeling defenses. But coach Bill Belichick, who grew up in Annapolis, Md., watching Hall of Fame QB Johnny Unitas lead the Colts in an early version of a two-minute drill, denies any notion of New England's offense being pioneering. "It's not like that's something brand new to football," Belichick said.

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