One early indicator of the Patriots' success Sunday will be how well they tackle against Ravens running back Ray Rice, who finished the season as the NFL's leader in yards after the catch (710, according to ESPN Stats & Information).
Rice not only led the Ravens with 1,339 rushing yards but also was their leading receiver with 78 catches. Most of his damage on those receptions came after he caught the ball near the line of scrimmage, then made defenders miss.
The Patriots have taken notice.
"He's just slippery," outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said. "He's a short guy, but he's not a little guy. He runs real hard. He breaks a lot of tackles. He gets in the open field and is able to pull away from defensive backs, so he's got break-away speed. He's a threat when he gets the ball."
Banta-Cain compared Rice's pass-catching prowess to Jets running back Leon Washington, who is annually one of the tougher matchups for the Patriots.
"He's a guy who can explode at any time in the game," he said. "You can never take your eyes off of him."