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Looking at the enemy: New England Patriots

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Looking at the enemy: New England Patriots

Over the past two weeks, CSNBaltimore.com has been taking a chronological look at each of the Ravens 2013 opponents. We've finally reached the end with the Week 16 opponent, the New England Patriots. (The Ravens' Week 17 opponent, Cincinnati, had previously been covered since the Ravens play the Bengals twice.)

Week 16: New England Patriots

Date: Sunday, Dec. 22, 8:30 p.m., M&T Bank Stadium

2012 Record: 12-4, won AFC East; beat Houston, 41-28, in Divisional Round; lost to Baltimore, 28-13, in AFC Championship Game

Key offseason losses: S Patrick Chung (to Philadelphia); WR Brandon Lloyd (unsigned);  G Donald Thomas (to Indianapolis); WR Wes Welker (to Denver); RB Danny Woodhead (to San Diego);

Key additions: WR Danny Amendola (from St. Louis); RB LaGarrette Blount (from Tampa Bay via trade); G Tyronne Green (from San Diego); WR Donald Jones (from Buffalo); RB-KR Leon Washington (from Seattle); S Adrian Wilson (from Arizona);

Top 5 draft picks: LB Jamie Collins (2nd round, Southern Mississippi); WR Aaron Dobson (2nd round, Marshall); CB Logan Ryan (3rd round, Rutgers); S Duron Harmon (3rd round, Rutgers); WR Josh Boyce (4th round, TCU)

Overview: Is the Patriots' window closing? Tom Brady will be 36 when this season starts, and it's fair to wonder how much longer he can keep the Patriots in the running for an AFC title.

Brady has lost one of his main offensive weapons in Wes Welker, as he has joined Peyton Manning in Denver. The Patriots are hoping that Danny Amendola, who has arrived from St. Louis, can fill that void, but that's asking a lot. Welker has averaged 112 catches and 1,243 receiving yards over the past six seasons. Amendola is four years younger than Welker but has had a hard time staying healthy.

There are also a lot of questions about the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who with Aaron Hernandez gives the Patriots the league's best tight end duo when they are at 100 percent. But Gronkowski continues to be bothered by a broken arm, an injury that has resulted in additional surgeries because of infection, and has a bothersome back as well.

The Patriots re-signed tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who along with tackle Nate Solder, guards Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly and center Ryan Wendell give New England a solid, veteran presence in front of Brady.

Stevan Ridley returns as the feature back after running for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. At least he won't have to see Bernard Pollard when the Ravens meet the Patriots; it was Pollard who knocked Ridley unconscious in the playoffs last season, forcing a fumble.

On defense, the Patriots ranked 29th against the pass, but the secondary got a huge lift last season from the midseason trade for cornerback Aqib Talib, and the Patriots re-signed him and corner Kyle Arrington. The secondary also picked up Adrian Wilson from Arizona, but at age 33, his window could be closing, too.

The defense still has Vince Wilfork clogging up the middle, Brandon Spikes and Jerod Mayo at linebacker and a couple of good young players in Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, the younger brother of the Ravens' Arthur Jones.

The Patriots had no draft picks in the top 50 this year, as they traded out of the first round and ultimately took Southern Miss linebacker Jamie Collins with their first pick at No. 52.

Given the AFC East landscape, the division appears to be the Patriots' to lose again this season. This Week 16 matchup could have a lot to do with clarifying the AFC playoff picture.

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Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

Baltimore Ravens Week 6 awards after shutout win over Titans

The Baltimore Ravens went into the Tennessee Titans' home and completely robbed them in a 21-0 shutout win.

Here are the players and plays that stood out from the afternoon.

PLAYER(S) OF THE GAME: Ravens Defense

The Ravens defense had a historic afternoon recording a franchise-record 11 sacks. Yup, you read that right. 11 sacks.

Za'Darius Smith led the way with three, followed by Patrick Onwuasor with two and Matthew Judon, Terrell Suggs, Tony Jefferson, Kenny Young, Anthony Levine Sr. and Chris Wormley with one apiece. The 11 sacks tied for the second most by a team in league history and the most in a game since 2012.  It was so historic, the Ravens changed their Twitter name to included 11 S's. 

But that wasn't the only impressive part of the Ravens' afternoon. Marcus Mariota was limited to 10 completions and the defense allowed just 51 passing yards  —  the fewest in franchise history  — and 55 rushing yards. The Titans finished the afternoon 1-for-10 on third down as well.

With the shutout, the Ravens defense cemented its place as one of the NFL's most elite units in 2018. A win that must have been extra sweet after a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns the week prior and with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees staring back from the opposite sideline. The Ravens remain the only NFL team to not allow a second-half touchdown this season. 

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE GAME: Michael Crabtree

After dropping what would have been the game-winning touchdown Week 5 against the Browns, Michael Crabtree said his priority this week was to get back into the lab and correct his mistakes. Out the gate, the veteran receiver stayed true to his word finishing the Ravens' first drive catching three passes for 52 yards and one touchdown. Earlier in the week, Joe Flacco had faith his receiver would get over the hump of six drops in five games and was willing to stand by him until it happened.

"Besides just trying to give him the confidence that, you know, I'm still going his way when he calls for it and I still believe that it's going to be the difference...it's something that he'll definitely get over," Flacco said.

The patience worked as Crabtree finished the day with six receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown leading all Ravens receivers.

But more importantly, the relationship between Crabtree and Flacco continues to grow.

"That’s trust. That’s what you need in football, you know," Crabtree said postgame. "Quarterback, receiver relationship. It’s only going to get better. It’s all about how much time you put in, how much work you put in. I’m new; this is my first year here so I got to do what I got to do."

STAT OF THE GAME: Flacco makes his way into the history books

With 25 completions Sunday against the Titans, Flacco became the third different quarterback in NFL history to complete 25 or more passes in nine consecutive games, per the NFL's communication department. Drew Brees sits atop the list with 11 and 10 consecutive games followed by Peyton Manning with nine. Flacco finished the 21-0 win 25-for-37 with 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

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Ravens pile up team-record 11 sacks against former defensive coordinator

Ravens pile up team-record 11 sacks against former defensive coordinator

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Baltimore Ravens swarmed around their new defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale, celebrating after a game that will go down in the record books.

Getting 11 sacks along with a shutout against the man Martindale replaced makes this mark even sweeter.

Za'Darius Smith had a career-high three sacks as the Ravens piled up the franchise-record Sunday in routing the Tennessee Titans 21-0 in the rain, just missing the NFL record shared by five teams by one.

Baltimore coach John Harbaugh called it an "historic defensive performance."

The Ravens (4-2) smothered Tennessee, allowing just 106 yards of offense while they turned Marcus Mariota's day into the worst of his NFL career. Eight different Ravens sacked Mariota, and four got their first sack this season at his expense. The Titans never got closer to the end zone than the Ravens 37, each time pushed back with yet another sack.

"We want to be something special out there," Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon said. "For Wink, it's great to go against his predecessor, and he stepped up and we came through and pitched a shutout. You don't ever talk about unicorns while you're doing it, but we got it done. We got it done for him, and we celebrated after."

Martindale was promoted to defensive coordinator when Dean Pees retired after last season. His retirement lasted less than a month with first-year coach Mike Vrabel luring Pees to join him as the Titans' defensive coordinator.

Asked about Pees, Smith only said that the coordinator told him at his pro day at Kentucky that the linebacker would be a Raven.

"Love him to death, but hey, we won tonight, so we're going to leave it at that," Smith said with a smile.

The Titans (3-3) had not been shut out at home since the franchise relocated to Tennessee.

"That's the headline: The `Tennessee Titans didn't do nearly enough on all levels to win the football game,'" Vrabel said. "Or even make it competitive."

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