What they're saying about the Ravens

Baltimore Sun staff

Here's a look at recent media coverage of the Ravens' 20-13 victory over the Houston Texans, and the team's upcoming game against the New England Patriots for the AFC championship.

* ESPN.com's John Clayton answers 10 questions about Sunday's Ravens-Patriots game, including his pick for the winner.

 I'd give the edge to the Patriots, but I do this with one caveat. The Patriots still give up 411.1 yards a game, and as the Packers found out against the Giants, it's hard to overcome a defense that gives up big plays and scores. Home field should win this for the Patriots, but there are no guarantees.

* ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley identified three things to know about the AFC championship game. No. 1 is protecting Joe Flacco.

The Ravens quarterback will get criticized for the fact that he completed 14 of 27 passes against the Houston Texans. But Flacco didn't get much help from the offensive line. He was sacked a season-high five times (matching his total at San Diego last month) and it was mainly against Houston's front four. New England showed an aggressive pass rush against Denver, sacking Tim Tebow five times. The Patriots ranked 14th in the NFL in the regular season with 40 sacks.

* ESPN.com's James Walker also provided his take on the Ravens-Patriots game.

It's only fitting: The Ravens and Patriots have been the best teams in the AFC all season, so it's only right that they settle it on the field to see who represents the conference in the Super Bowl. Baltimore and New England did not meet during the regular season. The teams last met in 2010 when New England won in overtime. The Patriots and Ravens also split two meetings in 2009, with New England winning in the regular season and Baltimore winning in the playoffs.

* Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, in a radio interview Monday, spoke about facing Terrell Suggs and the Ravens.

Brady was complimentary as well, calling the Ravens "the best team we’ve played all year." On a radio interview this morning, he said, "When you watch them, like you watched them yesterday, they’re physical, they’re tough, they can cover, they have some of the best players in the history of the NFL at their positions like [Terrell] Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata."

* SI.com's Don Banks writes that the Ravens need a much better offensive output against the Patriots than what they did against the Texans.

There's no way the Ravens will match scores with Tom Brady and Co. if they can't get more out of Flacco and the passing game in New England. Flacco picked the wrong time to speak up on his own behalf last week, because he's had perhaps the least impressive season so far of his four-year NFL career. For much of the game against Houston he looked painfully slow in his decision-making and struggled against the intensity of the Texans' pass rush. Houston sacked him five times, and Flacco isn't adept at getting rid of the ball quickly or accurately when he's under pressure.

* SI.com's Peter King thinks the Ravens could have been in trouble had the Texans been able to start their first-string quarterback.

5. Houston with Matt Schaub could very well have won in Baltimore. T.J. Yates threw three interceptions and was overmatched on the big playoff stage. Maybe Schaub would have had some jitters, but not like Yates. The Ravens scored three points in the last 46 minutes, and amassed 227 yards all day. That's not going to cut it Sunday in Foxboro.

* SI.com's Chris Burke gave out just two As in his Ravens report card. One went to the secondary.

Defensive Backs: It would have been easy for the Ravens to get caught peeking into the backfield -- much like Pittsburgh did against Denver last week -- since Houston featured such a formidable run game. Instead, Baltimore prevented any really big plays in the pass game, then took advantage when Yates made mistakes. Lardarius Webb had two of Baltimore's three interceptions and continued to show that he's one of the league's rising stars at cornerback. Grade: A-

* The Monday Musings of CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco include Ray Lewis' thoughts on facing Tom Brady.

"Tom is playing excellent up there, and what they did to the Broncos last night, I think they sent a message to whoever was coming up there," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. " So, we’ve got our hands full and we’ve got to go up and get ready to play in the AFC championship.”

* In a look at the NFL's final four teams, CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson points out what he thinks is the Ravens' biggest weakness.

Flacco's inconsistency. The fourth-year quarterback has flashed glimpses of franchise potential, but he's usually taking sacks, throwing inexplicable interceptions, or misfiring on wide-open targets. Historically, he's played well in the playoffs, which is good news, as is the fact that the Titans, Jaguars, Seahawks or Chargers didn't qualify for the postseason.

* CBSSports.com's Will Brinson thinks that a Ravens-49ers Super Bowl -- the HarBowl, Part II -- would be the least appealing championship matchup.

But how quickly would the "They're Related!" storyline get old? It might take a day, maybe two tops. Trust me, with that much free time you'll be sick of it before media day even happens, and don't even get me started on the players.

* CBSSports.com's Jason Butt gave the Ravens a B for their win over Houston.

In vintage Ravens fashion, the offense couldn't sustain any drives but the defense was dominant. Baltimore turned four Houston turnovers into 17 of its 20 points. CB Lardarius Webb picked off two passes, his second a key interception that stalled a Houston attempt in the fourth quarter.

* CBSSports.com's Clark Judge delivered his two cents on what the Ravens have to do better vs. New England.

If Baltimore puts as little pressure on Brady as it did T.J. Yates, the Ravens are cooked. They didn't sack Yates and barely touched the guy, and that's not how you beat Brady. Rewind Baltimore's victory over New England in the 2009 playoffs -- Brady's first home playoff loss -- and you'll find pressure, with Brady sacked three times and intercepted three times. Of course, there's a disclaimer. He played with broken ribs that afternoon.

* Yahoo! Sports' Les Carpenter says that the Ravens' real test awaits Sunday in Foxborough.

They’ve been here before, on the doorstep of the Super Bowl only to find the mat yanked from beneath their feet at the most inopportune time. And the Patriots, whose defense made them appear vulnerable for most of the season, suddenly look like monsters again. Isn’t that just Baltimore’s luck?

* FoxSports.com's Jen Floyd Engel wrote that the Ravens defense bailed out Joe Flacco again.

He may not have been a great quarterback but he was good enough and he had the courtesy to say thank you. Hauling around Flacco's butt has to be exhausting, and this Ravens defense does it with little complaint.

* NFL.com's Michael Lombardi was impressed by the Ravens' win over Houston.

I love that the Ravens can gain just 227 yards, convert only 11 first downs and go 4-for-16 on third down -- and still win the game. When a team can win with such a lackluster offensive effort, it's tough-minded, opportunistic and competitive. The Ravens' past two opponents (Cincinnati and Houston) have looked like the better team, but both times the Ravens found a way to win. It might not look pretty, but a win's a win in this tournament.

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