Joe Flacco: Patriots Can Intimidate Some Teams, But That's Not Us
It was a careful balancing act.
While the Ravens didn’t indicate any bad blood or animosity toward the New England Patriots during Wednesday's media session, they did make clear that they won't back down from one of the consistently great NFL franchises.
"When you haven't experienced it much, I think they're a team that can intimidate some people, but I don't think that's us," quarterback Joe Flacco told media.
"We play in a lot of tough games every year and we've had to go up there a good amount late in the season, in the playoffs. I think that gives you a sense of confidence to go up there and to get the job done."
The closest anyone got to showing a disdain for the Patriots was – surprise, surprise – outside linebacker Terrell Suggs. ESPN's Jamison Hensley pointed out that Suggs is continuing his tradition of refusing to say quarterback Tom Brady’s name.
Reporter: "Tom Brady became the winningest quarterback in NFL history. What's your take on that?"
*Suggs: "He's pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don't lie. He's pretty good."
Reporter: "Is it fair to say you really don't want to talk about Tom Brady?"
Suggs: "I'm like Marshawn Lynch. I know why I'm here. It's a big game this week. We're playing a good team. It's going to be fun."
Reporter: "You don't want to say his name, do you?"
Suggs: "I mean, it's going to be fun."
But for Suggs, that was mild-mannered. He was also quick to point out the Patriots' dominance in the league with their four Super Bowl rings with Brady at the helm.
Head Coach John Harbaugh called the Patriots' Bill Belichick the "greatest coach of this generation" and said the two have a good relationship. In fact, lacrosse took up a good chunk of both coaches' press conferences after Belichick mentioned that he and Harbaugh watched a Johns Hopkins-Maryland game together a few years ago.
"There was no mention of Spygate, Deflategate or any other 'gate,'" wrote The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec. "Nobody challenged the other side's formations or advised them to 'study the rule book and figure it out.' There was no disdain expressed for another player's hair or attitude."
Don't let the good behavior and compliments fool you, however. Both teams absolutely want this game, and most media agree with Flacco …
Why should the Ravens be at least a little intimidated?
Well, get this … according to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time Brady played an entire home regular-season game against an AFC opponent and lost was 10 years ago. Sit back and soak that in. It was when George W. Bush was still in the white house.
Oh, and Brady has taken down plenty of top-ranked defenses along the way. So the Ravens' No. 1 unit won't have him shaking in his boots.
You want to face *that *with your postseason fate on the line?
After all, the Ravens have beaten the Patriots in Foxboro twice in the playoffs in the last seven years. The first time they did it, during the wild-card playoffs in 2009, marked the first time Brady had ever lost a playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
This isn't the playoffs, but the Ravens have said they're playing every week like it's the postseason.
"For any team fighting for a playoff spot, the last place you want to play is at New England, and the last quarterback you want to face is Tom Brady," wrote Hensley. "Despite all of the daunting numbers, the Baltimore Ravens (7-5) are eager for the challenge that awaits them Monday night in New England.
"The Ravens are one of the few teams that don't seem intimidated by playing at Gillette Stadium, especially when the stakes are at the highest. Baltimore has handed Brady two of his three home losses in the postseason, and it could have been more."
New England Media Members Think Pats Are Still 'Pissed Off'
As much as the Ravens and Belichick downplayed bad blood from previous run-ins during their heated rivalry, some New England media members aren't buying it, especially longtime reporter Tom Curran.
In the CSNNewEngland.com video below, Curran says he thinks the Patriots are still "pissed off" about the role they perceive the Ravens had in Deflategate.
And while Ravens players still point to the Steelers as their biggest rivals, Curran says the Ravens are New England's.
"Who has been the Patriots' greatest rival of the Belichick-Brady Era?" asked Curran.
"There are a few candidates: There's no franchise the team hates more thoroughly than the Jets. The Steelers, just because of franchise tradition, are in the mix but the Patriots have had their way in most of the big games with Pittsburgh. The Colts? It's kind of a big brother-little brother thing. The Broncos? Definitely. But no opponent has provided the gripping games and the mix of animosity and respect that the Ravens have over the past decade."
Steve Smith Still Trash-Talking Dolphins … At Charity Events … In A Yoda Onesie
After an awesomely eventful 24 hours, more pleas have surfaced for Ravens' 37-year-old Steve Smith Sr. to never retire.
What's he done now?
Well, first he wore a Yoda onesie that he purchased during the Ravens' 12th-Annual Holiday Helpers event to his Wednesday press conference. Smith hosted the event, in which Ravens players serve as personal shopping guides to underserved Baltimore youth.
While dressed in that incredible onesie, a reporter asked Smith for his thoughts on the grass field conditions at M&T Bank Stadium last Sunday. Miami Dolphins players were noticeably slipping while Ravens players didn't seem to have a problem.
The folks at ProFootballTalk.com speculated that the Dolphins may have been wearing the wrong type of shoes during the "My Cause, My Cleats" day. But Dolphins defensive end Andre Branch said it was because "the grass was terrible."
"Since Miami got their a-- whooped (38-6), of course they're going to complain about it," Smith said. "But it looked pretty good for us. And I've been in Miami. They shouldn't be barking when they just started putting grass on half of the field, when they had the dirt and the baseball. Beggars, again, can't be choosy."
On top of the onesie, the holiday event, and Dolphins trash-talking, Smith was also honored as the Ravens' nominee for one of the most prestigious awards you can get in the NFL for charitable work done away from the field.
Smith really does it all.
Luck Wins AFC Offensive Player Of Week Over FlaccoThe NFL announced yesterday that Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck won AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Luck was on fire after returning from a concussion that forced him to miss the Colts' loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving. In a 41-10 thumping of the New York Jets on Monday Night Football, Luck was 22-of-28 for 278 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
While impressive, one could argue that Flacco was more deserving, as he threw for over 100 yards more and had just as many touchdowns.
Flacco went 36-of-47 for 381 yards, four touchdowns and one pick, and he did it against the ninth-ranked (coming into the game) Miami pass defense. The Jets now rank No. 23 in pass defense.
Oh well. My guess is Flacco couldn't care less about not getting the award. Although, he may have liked it if Luck was healthy enough to play against the Steelers. Without Luck, Indy was soundly beat, 28-7, by Pittsburgh.
Ravens' 2016 Fourth-Round Draft Could Be Significant Moment In Franchise History
The Ravens have taken some heat in recent years for not drafting enough top-end talent. Even General Manager Ozzie Newsome admitted last April that he hasn't performed "up to my standards."
But, if the Ravens' 2016 fourth-round draft picks (and others) continue down the road they've been traveling, Newsome and his team will deserve major praise.
"It's far too early to judge his 2016 draft class, but it's possible that we'll be looking back at the team's fourth round this year as a significant moment for the franchise," wrote Zrebiec.
In that round alone, Newsome added cornerback Tavon Young, wide receiver Chris Moore, left guard Alex Lewis, defensive tackle Willie Henry and running back Kenneth Dixon.
"Young is already a starter and has been arguably the team's most impactful rookie," wrote Zrebiec. "Lewis held his own in starting eight of the first nine games before hurting his ankle. Dixon is part of a two-headed rushing tandem that seems to be gaining momentum. Moore has two touchdowns on special teams while Henry is on injured reserve.
"The general belief is if you can get three starters out of every draft, you're going to be in pretty good shape. The Ravens might have found three starters in the fourth round alone."
That's not even counting first-round pick Ronnie Stanley, who has performed well since returning from a foot injury that kept him out four games. He figures to protect Flacco's blindside for a long time. There's also fifth-rounder Matthew Judon, who is third on the team with four sacks, and undrafted defensive tackle Michael Pierce who has been a major cog in the Ravens' top-ranked rush defense.