Less talk, more action needed from Pats secondary

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Less talk, more action needed from Pats secondary

SEATTLE -- The Patriots secondary has a mantra: "We need to make more plays."
At some point, they'll need to stop saying it and start doing it.
The Seahawks had 11 passing plays of 10 or more yards in their 24-23 win over New England Sunday. Quarterback Russell Wilson, a rookie, completed 16 of 27 passes, including three bombs that traveled 46, 50, and 51 yards. Two of those deep balls went for touchdowns.
After the game, that tired old refrain spun around and around.
"It's just that simple. That's the bottom line: We've got to make more plays to help this team win," said cornerback Devin McCourty.
"It's disappointing. We could have played better. Seattle did a great job, just kept fighting and trying to make plays. We've got to play better."
Nobody is arguing.
New England's secondary is the imperfect cog in an otherwise sleek machine. Sometimes, the cog works OK, like when McCourty grabbed two interceptions against Buffalo. Even then, as with Denver last week, the opposing quarterback was allowed more than 300 receiving yards and at least three touchdowns.
But the Patriots offense rolled on in both weeks because of its high-powered offense and defensive front seven. Two victories drowned out the groaning of that uncertain cog.
Until this weekend.
A hip injury has sidelined safety Steve Gregory since Week 4. When Patrick Chung sustained a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and left the game, that left rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner to sure up the back end. That's when Seattle's quarterback and Sidney Rice pounced on New England with a 46-yard game-winner.
"I got beat -- plain and simple," said Wilson. "We were in simple coverage. Rice made a play and I didn't.
"I'm held accountable just like everybody else on this team. I don't expect them to take no slack on me because I'm a rookie. That's what my team put me out there for -- they expect me to make the play. And I should make the play."
There's always the threat of benching.
Starting cornerback Kyle Arrington was booted on the third series for rookie Alfonzo Dennard. A 24-yard touchdown surrendered by Arrington in the first quarter appeared to be a last straw of some kind.
But what do you do when the entire unit gives up 293 yards to the NFL's 31st-ranked passing offense? Bench them all?
"Gotta do better," said Arrington. "I don't have much to say. I can only speak for myself. Gotta do better. I will be better and we'll work our ass off this week and get ready for New York."
All they need to do is make more plays.

Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

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Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett could use a rest, and the Patriots had him sit out for the start of Wednesday's practice.

The 6-foot-7 tight end is dealing with ankle and shoulder issues that have limited him in practice in recent weeks, and he missed an appearance at a preschool on Tuesday with what a representative called an illness. During Sunday's game against the Rams, Bennett's physical ailments clearly limited him as he had difficulty both as a blocker and as a receiver. 

The Patriots also went without safety Jordan Richards, receiver Danny Amendola and special teams captain Matthew Slater at the start of practice. Richards suffered a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12 and missed practice time last week. Amendola endured an ankle injury against the Rams and left the game iin the third quarter. Slater is dealing with a foot injury that has kept him out of the last two games. 

Patriots corner Eric Rowe was present for the start of Wednesday's practice, but he was not spotted with other corners after a couple of drills. Rowe injured his hamstring late in the third quarter against the Rams and did not return. 

Patriots running back DJ Foster was spotted with receivers near the end of the team's media-availability period Wednesday after working out with running backs to start the session. Foster played receiver for a year in college after beginning his collegiate career as a running back. If the Patriots want depth at wideout with Amendola injured, Foster could be an option.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup