FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick held a conference call with reporters earlier on Monday, and here were a few notable topics. The Patriots host the Ravens on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET.
What defines the Ravens. Belichick referred to them as a solid team in all three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams. "They're well coached, they're physical, they do a good job on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball," he said. "They have explosive skill players on offense, in the return game and on defense. I think Coach [John] Harbaugh has, as always, put those type of teams out there with [general manager] Ozzie [Newsome] and their respective staffs. I think that's what they have again. That's what they are. They're tough; physically and mentally tough. They can play in tough situations and they're talented. They keep coming at you."
At the core, it starts with the running game. When Belichick was asked about what groupings on offense the Ravens tend to favor under first-year coordinator Gary Kubiak, the response was to expect a little bit of everything. But in his view, one constant is the running game. "At the core, they still are a very good running team, a very good play-action team," he said. "They hit a lot of big plays and they're a very good vertical passing team. They make a lot of big plays in the running game, too. It's not just long passes and a lot of their passes that are big plays come off play-action, which of course draws the defense's attention to the running game and then that opens up other areas."
Joe Flacco and the deep ball. Belichick referred to Flacco as "one of the best deep-ball passers in the league" and added he has "good deep receivers, especially [Torrey] Smith." As was the case with Kubiak's offense over the years in Houston, there are plenty of boot-action plays with Flacco where he's on the move.
Big and physical on special teams. Belichick noted the Ravens generally have good size on their roster, which shows up on special teams, where they use big linebackers, defensive backs, receivers and fullbacks/tight ends. "They're a tough, tough team to match up against in the kicking game because of the level of skill that they have and the amount of physicality that they bring with their core guys," he said.
A feel for the Ravens' defense. When assessing the Ravens over the 17-game full-season snapshot, Belichick said, "I wouldn't say they've really changed too much over the course of the year. They pretty much do the things that they like to do. ... It's kind of not that often that you look at a game and say, 'We've never seen them do that before.'" He then highlighted how the team's versatile outside linebacker/defensive end types -- Courtney Upshaw, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs and Pernell McPhee -- move around a lot from an inside-outside perspective and create flexibility for the defense while off-the-line linebackers C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith are most often going to be in coverage. The versatility and flexibility of the players can create some third-down confusion for opposing offenses, with defensive coordinator Dean Pees dialing things up. "Dean does a good job mixing up the coverage of single high safety, split safety, pressure, man zone, combination, using different rushers, using different guys in coverage," Belichick said. "It's pretty extensive, but they kind of keep rolling through it and you know you're going to have to block several different looks over the course of the game."