Firstly I would not single cover Smith who gashed you for 6 catches, 127 yards and 2 touchdowns earlier this season, but I would put Dennard on him with McCourty over the top. One thing is for sure, you cannot let Smith have the same kind of performance he had earlier this season; he’s faster than Talib in single coverage and is the Ravens only deep threat so why leave Talib on an island like that. Talib will be able to lock down Boldin one-on-one and if you play this way the Pats secondary will effectively be able to shut down, not only the deep ball, but intermediate routes as well. Going back to last year’s AFC championship game Boldin pulled in 6 catches for 101 yards so he is a viable threat to move the chains which is why putting Talib on him single covered isn’t a waste of Talib’s talents. How effective the Ravens passing game is does not have as much to do with Flacco as it does these two guys. They haul in lollypop throws and fight for yardage making Flacco seem better than he is.
Another big impact on this game is the Patriots pass rush which has virtually been nonexistent except for when Ninkovich gets there. Patriots beat writer Shalise M. Young tweeted today “Patriots upgrade Chandler Jones to full participation in practice; he is listed as probable with Woodhead, Cole, McDonald and Scott.” This is great news for the Pats because Jones has the ability to get to the QB. All the statisticians out there don’t kill me because I know Jones hasn’t had a sack since week 6, but since week 6 he has been nursing an injured ankle so none of us were seeing him at 100%. Getting consistent pressure on Flacco with just your front four is going to be huge because Flacco ranked among the best in 2012 in completion percentage when being blitzed. If you sit back in coverage and tighten up the windows for Flacco to throw into he’ll turn into the hack we know and love.
If you noticed, my two keys to the game are keys that have to do with the pass defense which has been the Patriots Achilles heel for the entire year going back to the Super Bowl vs. the Giants (yeah I said it). The Patriots seem to be much improved in this area since Talib, but this is the game that you will see Belichick’s vision come to reality. It’s time the Pats defense goes out there and wins a game for us like in the dynasty days and no better time than now.