Asked whether the Ravens throw the deep ball as well as any team he has faced this year, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick had a simple answer.
The traditionally bland and tight-lipped Belichick couldn’t contain himself for long, however.
“It’s a very explosive team with a lot of big plays,” he said later in his press conference. “They can kill you on the deep balls. … They do a real good job on the deep balls, really good.”
The Ravens have gone bombs away this season, particularly in the playoffs.
In the wild-card round in Indianapolis, Flacco completed seven passes of 20 yards or more, including 50- and 46-yard bombs to wide receiver
“He can sit back there and throw the ball deep,” Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “He has a great arm and those receivers always seem like they come down with the ball.”
Smith has grown from a speedster that can stretch the defense into a better playmaker on the deep ball throughout this season. Boldin doesn’t have the same quickness, but he’s consistently made plays even in tight coverage. Jones is another speed merchant on the outside.
Then there’s Flacco, who has what ESPN’s Ron Jaworski called the strongest arm in the league.
Flacco’s 60 passes of 20 yards or more this regular season were the fifth-most in the league.
Asked what it’s like to see a deep ball from Flacco, Jones likened it to Starburst candy.
“It’s juicy, it’s good,” Jones said. “It’s like candy. Everybody loves candy. Who don’t like candy?”
“As you can see, he can launch the ball and he’s accurate with it,” Smith added.
Smith has particularly been the target of Flacco’s launches, and the wide receiver has had big games against the Patriots in two career meetings.
In last year’s AFC championship, Smith caught just three passes but they went for 82 yards and a touchdown. In Week 3, he caught six passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns just hours after learning of his brother’s death.
Smith said he’s not sure who will match up on him this time considering the Patriots have shuffled their secondary. It could be veteran cornerback Aqib Talib, who the Patriots traded for midway through the season.
“It’ll be somebody with a Patriots jersey,” Smith said. “It’s all the same.”
Belichick specifically has his eye on Smith, however.
“He’s always been able to run and is the guy that makes all the plays down the field,” Belichick said.
"He can also run after the catch on the shorter and intermediate routes. If you give him a big cushion, that’s a problem too. He’s made a lot of big plays down the field on deep balls and that’s opened up things for him underneath as well. He’s been very productive."