Belichick: Ravens loaded with explosive players


Belichick: Ravens loaded with explosive players

FOXBORO -- In Baltimore's attempt to make big plays offensively, sometimes its quarterback Joe Flacco will just throw it up and see if someone can come down with it. Sometimes the throw is right on the money.

Either way, the Ravens aren't afraid to throw the ball. And they won't be afraid to throw the ball against New England's secondary in Sunday's AFC Championship at Gillette Stadium.

And why would they be? Their receivers have been pulling in everything that comes their way during the playoffs.

But as Patriots coach Bill Belichick pointed out on Wednesday, the Ravens' receivers and running backs are dangerous in more ways than just the deep ball.

"Torrey Smith's good," said Belichick. "They're all good. It's Torrey Smith, but that's all of them. It's Jacoby Jones, it's obviously Anquan Boldin. It's Dennis Pitta. It could be Ed Dickson, Tandon Doss, I mean, you could go right down the line. They throw it to all of them. And then they also have explosive players like Ray Rice, like Bernard Pierce, like Pitta, like Boldin, even Smith on some catch-and-run plays, where they take the ball on a five, six, 10-yard pass, and end up getting 40 or 50 with it because they're fast and they're tough to tackle.

"Some of them, they just launch it down there and throw it up, and the receivers go up and get it. Or they make great plays like they did last week against Denver. But sometimes it could be a screen pass or an under route or something like that, and they could turn it into a 50-yard gain too, because of their ability to run with the ball."

Either way, the Patriots are ready to face an explosive offense.

"All these guys can run," said Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo on Wednesday. "They can do multiple things. And then you have Anquan Boldin who's lining up at different spots. He always seems to come down with the ball no matter if he's in the slot, at the one spot, he's always making plays and doing a good job for them. So it's a good test for us. But it's not only for our secondary. I think it's for everyone across the board. It comes down to the pass rush. It comes down to us checking the tight ends and backs and the secondary holding up in the back end.

"So, it's a very explosive team, with a lot of big plays," Belichick added. "It's a lot of long balls, but it's not all long balls. It's a lot of catch-and-run plays too. So they get you both ways. If you play off them and give them a lot of space, then they'll kill you on the catch-and-run plays. If you get up there and try to take those away, they can kill you on the deep balls. They're very well-balanced. They execute well, and they can get a lot of yards in a hurry. They do a real good job on the deep balls. Real good."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Hornets at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

BOSTON -- The last time Boston saw the Charlotte Hornets last month, both teams were streaking in the wrong direction with each coming in having lost three in a row.

Both come into tonight’s game streaking, although in two very different directions.

Boston (25-15) has won 12 of its last 15 games to firmly establish itself as the third-best team in the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Meanwhile the Hornets (20-20) are on the cusp of falling below .500 for the first time this season after losing their last four games.

Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen enough of this Hornets team to know that a win tonight won’t come easily.

“This is a good team,” Stevens said. “We all know Charlotte. They don’t beat themselves. We’ve had to play really well against those guys. This is going to be a tough one, as we all know.”

Figuring out why these two teams are trending in opposite directions isn’t all that complicated.

For the Celtics, their success of late has hinged heavily on their ability to make 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s problems have had a lot to do with a tough slate of road games (all four of their recent losses were on the road) and their inability to make shots which has been an issue in some form for them all season regardless of the opponent.

Look at the last four games, all of which the Hornets lost while the Celtics won three of their four games in that span.

The Hornets rank 21st in scoring with a 101.5 points per game average while the Celtics average 110.8 points which ranks 8th in the league.

Charlotte ranks dead-last in the league the last four games when it comes to shooting the ball (40.5 percent), while Boston comes in 18th at 46.0 percent.

But it’s the 3-point shot and its impact on having an effective field goal percentage, that really separates these two.

Boston has averaged a league-best 15.3 made 3-pointers in the last four games while the Hornets and their 9.8 made 3’s ranks 20th.

And as far as its impact on eFG%, Boston comes in with the eighth-best eFG% in the league (54.8 percent) while the Hornets next-to-last in the NBA with an eFG% of .462.

So what does that mean tonight?

Boston will look to continue being fueled offensively by good ball movement and attacking the rim which in turn should result in lots of good looks from 3-point range which is clearly a strength of this team.

Charlotte will search for other sources of offense besides former UConn star Kemba Walker who is on the short list of candidates for a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference all-star roster.

As was the case in Charlotte’s 102-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, an off-night shooting for Walker (17 points, 7-for-23 shooting with three assists) left the Hornets extremely vulnerable to defeat. Similar struggles tonight will provide a similar ending for Charlotte which would allow both teams to continue streaking along … something the Celtics wouldn’t mind at all.