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Patriots prep for a Dean Pees-led defense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick hits from conference calls with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia:

Facing a Dean Pees-coached defense. McDaniels will be matching wits with former Patriots linebackers coach (2004-2005) and defensive coordinator (2006-2009) Dean Pees, and he was asked if Pees’ familiarity with the Patriots gives either side an advantage in dialing up a game-plan. “I don’t know how much of an advantage it is one year to the next,” McDaniels said. “Dean is a very good coach. This unit we are playing is very talented, but they don’t really stay the same in terms of the things they use or do in each game that we’ve played them. There’s always some level of adjustments that are going to be required during the course of a game. He’s going to put pressure on you in different ways. He’s going to force you to handle new problems that he is going to create.”

Connolly’s value. Starting left guard and team captain Dan Connolly has been battling a number of injuries down the homestretch of the regular season, missing the final two games. McDaniels is looking forward to getting Connolly back on the offensive line and praised his contributions in his first year as a team captain. “Dan is a good representative as a captain for our unit and our team,” McDaniels said. “He’s unselfish. He works extremely hard and is prepared every single week. He’s tough, dedicated and will do whatever we ask him to do in terms of his role during the game, some of the things he’s done to help our younger players when he hasn’t been playing due to injury … He’s done a nice job for our offense and offensive line.”

Flacco’s fit in Kubiak’s system. Ravens first-year offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has implemented some of his offensive ideology from his years as head coach of the Texans. The system has become a good fit for quarterback Joe Flacco who likes to make plays vertically down the field. “I think it’s a great system fit for him from his ability to get the ball downfield -- Flacco has an extremely strong arm, can really make those hard deep throws downfield -- along with his mobility,” Patricia said. “That mixed with being a smart quarterback, a seasoned vet.”

Steve Smith’s toughness. At 35-years-old, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. has continued to produce in Baltimore as a consistent all-around target in the Ravens’ passing game. “A smart savvy vet, who brings a huge element of toughness out onto the field,” Patricia said. “Strong competitor, a guy that really does a great job of finding the open zone or defeating the man-to-man coverage. Really does a great job of getting open for the quarterback.”