Flacco will test Patriots' secondary with long passes
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots have cut down on the long completions they allowed early in the season. The Ravens keep making them.
On Sunday night, New England's progress will be tested against Baltimore's strong-armed Joe Flacco and his speedy receivers in the AFC Championship Game.
Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib saw just how dangerous the Ravens' deep passing attack can be in their 38-35, double-overtime win over the Broncos in last Saturday's divisional playoff 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.”
Flacco has completed passes to receivers 13 times on gains of 40 yards or more. The Patriots, meanwhile, had just five completions to receivers that picked up that distance.
“We can't allow them to just throw the ball over our heads,” safety 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.”
In the first half of the season, the Patriots allowed 21 completions that gained at least 25 yards in their first eight games. They lowered that to 15 in their last eight regular-season games. Talib, who played in the last seven after being acquired from the Buccaneers, helped. His addition allowed the Patriots to move McCourty from cornerback to safety, where he's solidified the secondary.
Flacco knows how Belichick likes to defend Baltimore's passing game.
“They're going to probably come up and put pressure on our receivers,” Flacco said. “They always, throughout the years, like to get up and not allow our tight ends and our inside guys to get off the ball very well and play over the top of the outside guys.”