Curran: These Ravens don't travel well

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Curran: These Ravens don't travel well

The qualifiers that have dogged the Patriots throughout their 13-3 2011 season are easy to list.

They didn't beat a team that finished the season with a record over .500. Godawful pass defense. A run defense that's inconsistent. Slow starters. And we've visited and revisited those topics.

But there are indictments in the Baltimore Ravens stat pack as well from 2011. And most of them are related to how badly they tend to play away from Maryland.

The Ravens lost at Jacksonville, Tennessee, Seattle and San Diego this season. None of those teams made the playoffs. Baltimore managed just 51 points total in the four games.

And while the losses to the Jaguars and Titans are lessened by the passage of time (they happened in September and October), the loss to San Diego on December 18 is a glaring toe-stub from the tail end of the year.

Baltimore lost that one 34-14 and it wasn't even that competitive as the Chargers got up 31-7 by the end of the third. In that game, the Chargers did things similar to what Houston did last week. Pressured quarterback Joe Flacco (five sacks) and created turnovers (two picks).

Houston just didn't have the quarterback to finish Baltimore off.

There are creditable wins on the Ravens schedule. Two over Pittsburgh, one over the 49ers and two over the Bengals - all playoff teams.

But comparing the Ravens losses and the margins to the teams the Patriots lost to - Pittsburgh, the Giants and Buffalo by a total of 15 points - leaves the impression that the Ravens are extremely capable of flat performances especially away from home.

The key, as mentioned yesterday, is bothering Joe Flacco and making him less than average.

Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

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Van Noy sees playing-time bump as he learns Patriots language

When Kyle Van Noy was traded to the Patriots in late October, he had a lot to learn. He needed to understand the layout of his new team's maze-like facility. He needed to adjust to a new locker room. He needed to adapt to a new home. 

He also had to become fluent in a new language.

The former Lions 'backer was inactive for two weeks before he was comfortable enough with the Patriots system -- and the coaching staff was comfortable enough with him -- to get on the field. He played 29 snaps against the Niners in first game with his new club, then saw 28 plays against the Jets. On Sunday he saw his role expand as he played 40 of a possible 51 plays, which was more than Shea McClellin (38) or Dont'a Hightower (33). 

"Kyle has done a great job of working really hard to acclimate to what we’re doing, and he has had to learn really fast as far as the system, the communication, the language," said defensive coordinator Matt Patricia on a conference call Tuesday. "It’s like when you go to a different system, offensively or defensively, a lot of times it’s just learning the vernacular and the verbiage . . . That’s a big part of it. Then getting more familiar with that kind of terminology and the communication is critical because there’s a lot of calls and adjustments, things like that that we’ve got to do on the field."

Van Noy was making some of those calls himself on Sunday as he wore the green dot on his helmet when Hightower was on the sidelines. Even with the added responsibility, Van Noy was able to play freely enough that he put together what might have been the best game of his three-year career. 

Used at the end of the line of scrimmage as well as in a more traditional off-the-line linebacker role, Van Noy was effective in defending both the pass and the run: He stuffed three Rams rush attempts, he recorded a quarterback hit that led to an incompletion, he drew a holding call, and he recorded an athletic interception when he tracked a wobbling Jared Goff pass that floated over the middle after Jabaal Sheard hit Goff's arm as the rookie released his throw.

After several of his stand-out plays, Van Noy was visibly excited on the field and later on the sidelines. It was the culmination of six weeks of work, learning as much as he could from a coaching staff that was eager to teach him. 

"He’s extremely prideful in his work and his approach to the game," Patricia said. "He’s very cerebral. He’ll ask a lot of questions. He really wants to understand what we’re doing and why, which is great. We’re trying to give him those answers and insight into kind of where some of this either came from or developed or situations like that so that’s really good."