NFL Playoffs Capsule: Ravens at Patriots

NFL Playoffs Capsule: Ravens at Patriots

BALTIMORE (12-6) At NEW ENGLAND (13-4)

Sunday, 6:30 p.m., CBS

OPENING LINE - Patriots by 9 1/2

RECORD VS. SPREAD - Baltimore 8-10; New England 10-7

SERIES RECORD - Patriots lead 7-2

AP PRO32 RANKING - Ravens No. 11; Patriots No. 2

LAST MEETING - Ravens beat Patriots 31-30, Sept. 23, 2012

LAST WEEK - Ravens beat Broncos 38-35, 2 OT; Patriots beat Texans 41-28

RAVENS OFFENSE - OVERALL (16), RUSH (11), PASS (15)

RAVENS DEFENSE - OVERALL (17), RUSH (20), PASS (17)

PATRIOTS OFFENSE - OVERALL (1), RUSH (7), PASS (4)

PATRIOTS DEFENSE - OVERALL (25), RUSH (9), PASS (29)

STREAKS, STATS AND NOTES - Teams meet for second straight season in AFC championship game and third time in playoffs, all in Foxborough. Ravens won 33-14 in wild-card game Jan. 10, 2010. ... Ravens beat Patriots this season on last-play 27-yard field goal by Justin Tucker. ... Ravens lost AFC title game last year when Joe Flacco threw two incompletions from Patriots 14-yard line followed by Billy Cundiff's failed 32-yard field goal attempt on next to last play. ...Win sends Ravens to Super Bowl for second time, first since 34-7 win over New York Giants on Jan. 28, 2001. ... Ravens 8-5 postseason road record is best in NFL for teams with minimum of 10 road games. ... LB Ray Lewis retiring after this season, his 17th. He's 12-7 in postseason games and only Raven remaining from last championship team. He has 30 tackles in two playoff games this season. ... Ravens gained 503 yards in this season's win over Patriots. They averaged 459 in two playoff wins this year. ... With five postseason road wins, Flacco tied with Eli Manning for most in NFL history and only quarterback with postseason victory in each of first five seasons during Super Bowl era. Flacco 2-3 vs. Patriots in his career with nine TD passes, four INTs. He threw for postseason franchise record 331 yards in playoff win over Broncos. ... RB Ray Rice rushed for 131 yards against Broncos, his second playoff game with more than 100 yards rushing. First was 33-14 win over Patriots when he rushed for 159, starting with 83-yard TD run on Ravens first offensive play. Led AFC running backs this season with 61 receptions. ... WR Jacoby Jones had 70-yard TD catch with 31 seconds left in regulation against Broncos. He led NFL in kickoff return average with 30.7 yards and returned two kickoffs and one punt for TDs. ... WR Anquan Boldin averaging 108 yards receiving in playoffs with 10 of his 11 catches going for first downs. ... WR Torrey Smith has nine catches for 209 yards and three TDs in two career games vs. Patriots. ... LB Paul Kruger led Ravens in regular season with nine sacks. He had at least one in six of his last eight regular-season games and 2 1/2 in this year's playoffs. ... Patriots going for second straight Super Bowl appearance and third in six years, but lost previous two to New York Giants. Won three NFL titles in four years but none in seven full seasons since then. ... Win sends Patriots to eighth Super Bowl, tying Dallas and Pittsburgh for most all-time. ... Patriots 14-3 at home in postseason. ... Brady's 17th postseason win last Sunday broke tie with Joe Montana for most by NFL quarterback. ... Brady 7-6 in postseason after starting 10-0. ... His 78.4 passer rating in seven career games against Ravens lowest against any opponent. ... Bill Belichick's next win is his 18th as coach in postseason, one behind Don Shula and two behind NFL leader Tom Landry. ... TE Rob Gronkowski sidelined for season after breaking left arm on Patriots seventh offensive play vs. Texans, had missed five games with broken left forearm before returning for regular-season finale. ... Third-string RB Shane Vereen scored three TDs - two receiving, one running - last Sunday against Texans. His 124 yards from scrimmage were career high. Only other players with two TD receptions and a TD run in the same playoff game were Roger Craig and Ricky Watters. ... RB Danny Woodhead expected back after hurting thumb on Patriots first offensive play against Houston and missing rest of game. ... Patriots led NFL with 427.9 yards and 34.8 points per game. ... Patriots first in NFL with plus-25 turnover differential, got only turnover of game against Houston on INT by DE Rob Ninkovich. ... DT Vince Wilfork and Ninkovich tied for second in NFL during regular season with four fumble recoveries.

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Ravens excited about increased speed at wide receiver

healthyperrimanravensrefframe_1.jpg

Ravens excited about increased speed at wide receiver

Will the Ravens’ increased speed at wide receiver force opponents to defend them differently?

The Ravens hope so.

They were without Breshad Perriman (knee injury) all of last season, and without Steve Smith Sr. (Achilles injury) the final two months.

That gave opponents license to put a safety closer to the line of scrimmage, and to crowd Ravens receivers with press coverage – unafraid that the Ravens could throw deep with success.

However, Perriman is healthy again, and the Ravens added two speed receivers by signing Mike Wallace during free agency and drafting Chris Moore in the fourth round.

The Ravens believe that speed will lead to more big plays, help their running game, and give Smith and other receivers more operating room.

“We’ve had years when we couldn’t back anybody up,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “The ability to back people up, it’s huge – to quote a famous politician not to be named here. It’s hard for me to see the speed all of the time in some of these drills. I’m like,`How fast are they really moving?’ Then I go ask the (defensive backs) and they say, ‘They’re moving really fast.’ And that makes me feel good about it.”

Perriman averaged 19.5 yards per catch at Central Florida, Moore averaged 19.3 yards per catch at Cincinnati, and Wallace has averaged 15.2 yards per catch over a seven-year NFL career.

The Ravens believe their speed will make opponents think twice about crowding the line of scrimmage. And when opponents do crowd the line of scrimmage, the Ravens plan to make them pay with big plays.

RELATED: FREE AGENT WEDDLE ALREADY MAKING AN IMPACT

Ravens quickly convinced Weddle will be difference maker for secondary

healthyperrimanravensrefframe_1.jpg

Ravens quickly convinced Weddle will be difference maker for secondary

Veteran safety Eric Weddle is quickly making a strong impression with the Ravens.

After the first week of OTA’s, both coach Johh Harbaugh and defensive back Lardarius Webb mentioned Weddle as being a difference maker, after being acquired in free agency from the Chargers.

Weddle’s experience as a three-time Pro Bowler should be vital for a Ravens secondary that surrendered too many big plays last season.

Webb sees Weddle seamlessly taking command of the secondary, calling out coverages and making sure teammates are lined up properly.

“If he has anything to tell me I’m always listening,” Webb said. “He’s going to be big for this defense – for this team. He speaks up. I told him, `We want Eric Weddle. Don’t hold back. Don’t be quiet. We want you. If you yelled when you were with the Chargers, I want you coming out here yelling. Just be yourself. Grow the beard back, because we want the beard. If that’s who you were, grow the beard. He’s growing it back. He’s being himself and we’re loving it. It was a great move.”

Weddle has been offering advice to Webb on making the transition from cornerback to safety. Weddle can also lead by example, helping the development of young safeties like Terrence Brooks and Matt Elam.

At age 31, Weddle wants to show he can still play at a Pro Bowl level, and he desperately wants to make the playoffs. Harbaugh seems to have no doubt Weddle will make the Ravens’ defense better.

“I just really appreciate his attitude,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got an enthusiasm for the work day. He loves football. He loves every part of the work day. He loves every part of being in here and being a football player. There’s never something that you look at him and he’s not excited to do. That is infectious. That’s something that makes us all better, and to me, that’s one of the things that a great leader does and he’s got those qualities.

“He fits in with how we do things around here perfectly. I give (general manager) Ozzie (Newsome) all the credit in the world. That was a great signing.”

RELATED: CONDITIONING REMAINS AN ISSUE FOR RB RICHARDSON

Will lack of conditioning lead to Richardson's downfall with Ravens?

healthyperrimanravensrefframe_1.jpg

Will lack of conditioning lead to Richardson's downfall with Ravens?

Will running back Trent Richardson’s lack of conditioning be his downfall with the Ravens?

Richardson missed the first week of OTA’s with a hamstring issue, which was not the kind of early impression he wanted to make. Some injuries are unavoidable. But conditioning has been an issue for Richardson throughout his brief and so far undistinguished NFL career.

Entering the NFL as the No. 3 overall pick with the Browns in 2012, Richardson has disappointed in Cleveland and Indianapolis, and spent 2015 out of the league after the Raiders cut him before the season. When the Ravens signed Richardson in April, he knew it might be his last NFL chance. However, Ravens coach John Harbaugh wants to see even more commitment from Richardson when it comes to staying in shape.

RELATED: IN LATEST COMEBACK BID, RAVENS TE DENNIS PITTA'S CONFIDENCE NOT A PROBLEM

“Trent just needs to get healthy,” Harbaugh said after the first week of OTA’s. “I think the workload and the amount of work it takes to be a world class conditioned athlete is something that he’s working on right now. That’s what he needs to understand and that’s where he needs to get himself. When he gets himself there, he’s got talent. It will be fun. I’m very certain he’ll get there and when he does we’ll be able to evaluate him.”

The Ravens don’t have to wait on Richardson. Their running back competition is already intense, with Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Lorenzo Taliaferro, and Terrance West all fighting for carries and roles.

Whether Richardson even threatens to make the team remains to be seen. His bigger priority is improving his conditioning, and getting back on the field.

MORE RAVENS: MIKE TOMLIN, ANTONIO BROWN GO TO PENGUINS PLAYOFF GAME