FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots have cut down on the long completions they allowed early in the season. The Ravens keep making them.
On Sunday night, New England’s progress will be tested against Baltimore’s strong-armed Joe Flacco and his speedy receivers in the AFC championship game.
Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib saw just how dangerous the Ravens’ deep passing attack can be in their 38-35, double-overtime win over the Denver Broncos in last Saturday’s divisional playoff game.
“That game summed it up, man,” he said. “They started the game taking shots and they ended the game taking shots. So that’s what you’re going to do against guys like that, play that deep ball.”
On the Ravens’ second series against the Broncos, Flacco threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. On their last series of regulation, he heaved a 70-yard score to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left.
That was the Ravens’ longest completion of a season in which Flacco keeps connecting with targets far downfield. He has completed passes to receivers 13 times on gains of 40 yards or more. The Patriots, meanwhile, had just five completions to receivers that picked up that distance — and two were caught by players now on injured reserve.
“We can’t allow them to just throw the ball over our heads,” safety Devin McCourty said. “The biggest thing is understanding how strong Flacco’s arm is because I think we already know how fast some of the receivers are over there. So it’s just being aware and making plays down the field.”
They Patriots (13-4) didn’t do that very well in the first half of the season. They allowed 21 completions that gained at least 25 yards in their first eight games. A season-high five came in a 31-30 loss to the Ravens in Week 3.