Tough task ahead for Patriots in Baltimore

Tough task ahead for Patriots in Baltimore
December 16, 2013, 6:00 pm
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots would probably love to gnash their teeth for a few days over losing to Miami this weekend, over failing to wrap up the AFC East, but they really don't have the time.

"Just as quick as we move forward from wins we have to move forward from losses, put it behind us, and focus on preparing for Baltimore," special teams captain Matthew Slater said Monday. "We know it's going to be tough going down there and trying to win a game."

Not the easiest spot to land after a tough loss.

Rob Ninkovich smirked at the thought: "Baltimore, they love us. They enjoy our company. The fans are great and they're welcoming. It’s always fun."

It's fair to say the 2013 Ravens don't resemble last year's Super Bowl Championship team. Between September 29 and November 17 they lost five of six games. The offense has been inconsistent at best. Heading into a November 28 matchup with Pittsburgh, two-time All Pro running back Ray Rice was averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. The team ranked No. 31 in the league for total offense. 

But Baltimore started twitching just as the rest of the league was ready to pull the sheet over its head.

"They're really a good team. They kind of have some momentum going for them over the last few weeks," Ninkovich said. "They're playing better football now than they were at the beginning of the season."

John Harbaugh's club is riding high on a three-game winning streak. It is currently holding the AFC's sixth and final playoff spot, and must keep winning to keep that coveted postseason berth. Considering Baltimore is 1-5 on the road this year, upcoming games at Detroit and Cincinnati look grim. They're better at home -- much better.

And it's New England who must meet the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

"[It's a] physical, hard-nosed football team," Slater said. "They're well coached and play the game the right way. They don't back down from anyone and they always compete. It's never easy to play those guys."

New England hasn't exactly throttled any of the 10 opponents put down this season. Eight of the team's wins were one-possession games; six of them were won by three points or less. The Patriots were losing well into the fourth quarters of the three tilts leading up to the Dolphins game.

Signs of trouble that manifested in Miami? A weakness for the Ravens to prey upon? Depends on your perspective.

"I just look at [the loss] as an opportunity to play another game," Ninkovich stated. "You can't get discouraged in the NFL. If you do, it's not going to help you the next week win a football game. So for us, stay positive.

"It's not the end of the world for me. We're going to move on and we're going to play another game."