Brady's wary of more than just Reed

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Brady's wary of more than just Reed

FOXBORO- When a team prepares for the Baltimore Ravens defense, the primary attention is focused on the usual suspects: Reed, Lewis, Ngata and Suggs.

But ignore the rest of the Ravens defense at your own peril was the message Tom Brady gave me in the Patriots' locker room Wednesday.

The Ravens' outside defenders -- corners Lardarius Webb, Cary Williams and Jimmy Smith -- are worth more than a passing glance, Brady pointed out.

"They're good there," Brady said. "That's become a real strength for them. You hear about so many of those other guys and you end up taking for granted the guys on the outside. We played against Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister and they were really good and I think these guys can cover. They feel good about their matchups."

Last week, in the Ravens' Divisional Round win over the Texans, Webb came up with two interceptions. He had five during the regular season to go along with 59 tackles, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

"Webb has great hands, makes some plays on the ball -- he's a punt returner so that tells you how they feel about him -- he can make plays," said Brady. "If you throw to his side, he can make plays. He seems like he's on another level this year after playing him last year."

Brady extended the usual praise to Reed and Lewis, saying, "You always enjoy going up against the best because you can really measure where youre at. You cant take plays off against those guys. You cant take things for granted when youre out there against them. You have to see where theyre at on every play because theyre guys who change the game. Not only the games that we play them, but every single game that theyre in, theyre making plays."

There's little a quarterback can do to look off Reed and get him out of position. Even one of Brady's ability.

"You dont fool Ed too often," Brady said."Every once in a while you see him out of place but its very, very rare. When you break the huddle, you find where hes at and you make sure youre not lobbing the ball up in his zones, because as you saw in the Houston game, hes going to go up there and make the plays. Hes just an exceptional player. I dont think there is a weakness that he has."

According to Deion Branch, Reed's skill -- and Lewis' -- make the defenders around them that much better.

"They've been playing with Ray, they been playing with Reed, it's almost like playing with Tom," said the Patriots wideout. "They're guys who make playing out there a lot easier when you have confidence you know he'll be in a certain place on the defensive side of the ball. Webb and my man Cary Williams who has done a great job this year. Lardarius is doing a great job for those guys. And (strong safety Bernard) Pollard, he's a hitter. This guy is downhill. I remember playing against him in Kansas City."

There have been games when offenses have been able to beat the Ravens outside. San Diego for one. The difference is that San Diego is more of a downfield offense than New England. The Patriots are more of a horizontal, timing offense that spreads teams sideline-to-sideline instead of going over the top.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh was asked about receivers opening things up for Wes Welker.

"Theyve always had somebody to open up for Wes, it seems like," said Harbaugh. "Whether it was all of the receivers . . . Randy Moss comes to mind. But, theyve always had guys to push the coverage up field and clear out space for Wes. Thats part of their plan all the time.

"Theyve got another guy in there, Hernandez, who they do the same thing with now. He runs some of those same routes underneath. Of course, between Danny Woodhead and just all their guys, its just amazing. They all do the same things underneath, and they all are built that way. But Wes Welker is the guy that leads the charge. Gronkowski is pushing the ball up the field, it seems. Hernandez is pushing the ball up the field, it seems. And then theyve got good receivers outside that can get over top. Its pretty much the same formula. There are a couple of different faces, but pretty much the same idea.

Interestingly, Harbaugh tried to make a point about someone running vertical routes to clear the underneath area for Welker but he didn't seem like he could really muster it.

It is an "underneath" offense primarily with some seam routes and some throws to the sideline but it is predominantly an offense that works from 0-20 yards downfield. And that means Webb, Williams and Smith will be able to sit a little bit in coverage and give tight coverage, especially knowing Reed may be behind them.

The counter-attack for New England would be if they can get Reed to suck up to help in the middle and get 1-on-1 outside and downfield with Branch, Chad Ochocinco or Tiquan Underwood. But that's something New England hasn't done an awful lot in 2011.

At some point on Sunday, they will. And whether the Patriots can win that battle with the Ravens' forgotten DBs could be a game-changer.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

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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.