Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco talks about the play of the offensive line and Dennis Pitta as well as playing against the New England Patriots. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)
After a nine-reception, 90-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, tight end Dennis Pitta considers himself a marked man by opposing defenses in the future.
The invisible target on Pitta's No. 88 jersey will begin Monday night against the New England Patriots, who pay a good deal of attention to opposing tight ends, Pitta said.
"They'll try to jam you off the line with a defensive end or a linebacker and then they'll play coverage over the top," Pitta said after Thursday's practice. "It does become more challenging against those guys to get good releases and get timed up in your routes. So that's something we'll look for this week and be ready for."
New England has hounded opposing tight ends to averages of 4.9 catches and 49.0 yards a game while allowing just three touchdowns this season. The last tight end to crack the 100-yard mark against the Patriots was Coby Fleener, with seven receptions and 144 yards in an Indianapolis Colts' 42-20 loss on Nov. 16, 2014.
If New England remains true to its previous tactics, the Ravens could counter by having Pitta stand up at the line of scrimmage at his usual tight end spot or in the slot. Pitta – who has not recorded more than 55 yards in five meetings with the Patriots, but has scored three times – said the onus is on him to avoid getting entangled by a defender.
"You have to be really good with your releases and be aware that they're going to be doing that," he said. "When it catches you off guard and you're not ready for it, that's when you can get in trouble. You've just got to be aware of it and where it's coming from and just be ready to have good release moves and get into your route."
Pitta leads the Ravens in receptions (61), is third in yards (529) and fourth in touchdown catches (two). But he said Sunday's showing did not raise the confidence he has in his game.
"You always feel confident in your ability to play that way," he said. "For whatever reason, because of the looks you get or the defense that they play, it's just not that productive as much as you want it to be. You just have to understand that. It's that way for everybody.