Nickel Package: Five Things to Watch in Ravens vs. Patriots
Aaron Wilson: As the Ravens (12-6) square off with the New England Patriots (13-4) Sunday night in an AFC championship game rematch at Gillette Stadium, here's a checklist of a few key areas and people to keep an eye on:
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3. Will the special teams falter again in kick coverage?( Baltimore Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf / December 11, 2011 )
The Ravens are fortunate that the Patriots don't have a dangerous return specialist like Broncos standout Trindon Holliday, who ran back a punt 90 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 104 yards for a touchdown last week to set an NFL postseason record.
The Ravens had an embarrassing effort last week, missing tackles and getting out of coverage lanes when Sam Koch's punt didn't go the way he had anticipated with the wind taking hold of the football.
"The punt return was a ball that we scouted out the winds prior to the game," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg (pictured) said. "We tried to punt it right, and the wind grabbed it and sent it to the left, and as a result to that, our coverage was headed in the wrong direction. We did a real poor job adjusting down the field. We missed tackles. We had one guy fall down. It is one of those situations where, as a coach, I take responsibility for the call, and then a series of other events happened.
"We got blocked. We had a guy fall down. With a returner like that, you just can't make that mistake. On the kickoff coverage, it was simply a situation where the ball wasn't exactly where we wanted it either, and we got out of our lanes, and the guy split us. He's a dynamic returner. He's shown that all year long. When you make a mistake like that, he makes you pay."
Now the Ravens are looking to snap out of their special teams struggles against the Patriots.
Wes Welker is a good return man, but he's not nearly as explosive as Holliday.
"We've had a good season in coverage, and we've had a good season in returns," Rosburg said. "So I have a lot of confidence in our guys. When you have a game such as last week, it certainly grabs your attention, and you want to react and you want to do something to try to make things right.
"But at the same time, you can't overreact, because we've had consistent coverage all season, and I fully expect our guys to be really focused on the task at hand. I think we'll play really well and really smart. So as far as what we're going to change and not change, that really remains to be seen. But I think the one thing that I think really will change is that our performance will change."