When the Ravens beat the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game in January, tight end Dennis Pitta played a prominent role.
Pitta caught five passes for 55 yards, including a 5-yard catch from quarterback Joe Flacco for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter during a 28-13 victory at Gillette Stadium.
In four career games against the Patriots, Pitta has frequently been a factor, with 15 receptions for 146 yards and three touchdowns. He had five receptions for 41 yards and a touchdown in the 2011 AFC title game.
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Now that Pitta is entering his third game since being activated from the injured reserve-designated to return list, accounting for him Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium is on the mind of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"Excellent player, does a really good job," Belichick said about Pitta during a conference call with Baltimore reporters. "A key guy in the offense that Joe [Flacco] has a lot of confidence in and goes to him in critical situations -- third down, red area, end of the game and two-minute-type of situations. He’s a go-to guy and a guy that has had a serious injury, but looks like he’s come back from it well and worked hard in rehab. He’s made good contributions for them since he’s been back. An impressive player.”
Pitta had a relatively quiet game Monday night against the Detroit Lions after catching a touchdown in his first game back against the Minnesota Vikings. Against the Lions, he was targeted just four times and caught two passes for 24 yards and wasn't utilized in the red zone.
The Patriots' defense is allowing 372.7 yards per game, ranking 24th overall. They're 18th in pass defense, allowing 240.2 yards per game, and 31st against the run with an average of 132.5 yards allowed.
The Patriots are tied for 10th in scoring defense, giving up 22.2 points per game.
"I think the biggest thing is, just overall as a defense, they’ve probably let up a decent amount of yards, but they keep teams out of the end zone," Flacco said. "They don’t do a lot of things to allow teams to just have quick drives. They don’t commit penalties to allow you to just run them over and get cheap ones. They do a lot of things very fundamentally.
"I think sometimes they give up some yards, no matter what way it is, rushing or passing the ball in their secondary, but they play fundamental, and they have good guys back there so that when they need to and they are called on, they make plays.”