The New England Patriots are known to give up "chunk" passing plays on defense. It’s the primary reason New England was ranked 29th against the pass this year.
The biggest vertical threat for the Baltimore Ravens is second-year receiver Torrey Smith. He is coming on strong in the postseason and had three receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against the Denver Broncos. Smith averaged 32.7 yards per reception.
New England scouted Smith in college while at the University of Maryland. But the Ravens, who were nearby, had a better beat on Smith and drafted him in the second round. The decision is turning out the be a good one for Baltimore.
"I'd say he was a similar player in college: big, fast, vertical receiver," Belichick said of Smith Tuesday. "I would say he’s had more production in the NFL than he had in college. Probably some of that’s a credit to his improvement and the coaching and just his development as a receiver. I’m sure part of it is related to the quarterback."
Smith gave the Patriots headaches in the first meeting. Baltimore won the Week 3 matchup, 31-30, and Smith had six receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Smith is a matchup problem for the Patriots that concerns Belichick in this week's rematch. Expect New England to make some adjustments to try to prevent the big plays Smith can make.
"He’s always been able to run and the guy that makes all the plays down the field," Belichick said. "He can also run after the catch on the shorter and intermediate routes. If you give him a big cushion, that’s a problem too. He’s made a lot of big plays down the field on deep balls and that’s opened up things for him underneath as well. He’s been very productive."
The major difference in this meeting is New England acquired No. 1 cornerback Aqib Talib in a midseason trade with the Tampa Bay Bucanneers. The Patriots knew they needed a better cover corner against dynamic receivers like Smith if they want to make a Super Bowl run.