BB: As usual, it's interesting to get going on the Ravens. They're obviously one of the best teams in the league. They're very well put together and I think it all starts at the top with Steve Bisciotti, he's put together a great organization and Ozzie [Newsome] on the personnel end and John [Harbaugh] on the coaching end and all their assistants and staff. A lot of outstanding players, they're well coached, they play well, they're a really good football team, as evidenced by the last four seasons in the playoffs, winning playoff games in each of those seasons. They've had a very consistent team, they're a very good team and they're good in every area. Offensively, of course Ray Rice is a top player in terms of his production, not only running but receiving and yardage, touchdowns and all that. [Joe] Flacco has won more games than anybody in the same amount of time that he's played. The tight ends have been productive, they have good receivers and a very experienced offensive line – those guys have played together now. Of course defensively, four great players, two Hall of Famers for sure and probably more than that. They're very good on defense, they're smart, they're well coached, they're very aggressive and they consistently do a good job. They're good in the kicking game with their coverage units. They have a lot of players that are excellent special teams players, good role players that don't play a lot on particularly defense but they're very, very active and productive on special teams as well as their specialists. Good organization, good football team all the way around. Big week for us. We play here yearly but haven't played them in almost a year and a half now so a lot of familiar faces but we have a lot of work to do so we're on it.
Q: Could you speak about the job that Josh Boyer has done this year?
BB: Josh has primarily focused his time with the corners but also done things with the secondary in some of our sub defenses we're in multiple DBs on the field and so forth. Josh has done a great job for us, especially game day in the [coaches] box, recognizing what the opponents are doing, how they're building their route concepts, what adjustments we need to make, does a good job preparing the players on that. We have a lot of young players at the position, guys like [Antwaun] Molden, Sterling Moore, Nate Jones that weren't with us last year, even at the beginning of the year in some cases, along with Devin [McCourty] and Kyle [Arrington]. It's a young group and a lot of new people that he's blended together and worked with back there. They've improved over the course of the season.
Q: Are versatility and flexibility valued traits in a member of the coaching staff?
BB: Yeah, absolutely, sure. I think coaches that have had multiple responsibilities have an appreciation for other things that are going on, not just their position and that's always good. Guys like Dante [Scarnecchia] that have coached special teams, that have coached on the defensive side of the ball, coach on the offensive line now, really kind of appreciate a lot of the things that are going on and can be helpful in other subtle or sometimes not so subtle ways. That's certainly a big advantage when you have people on your coaching staff that can do that. Matt Patricia is another one, Josh [Boyer], guys that have worked on the opposite side of the ball than what they're on now. I think there is some valuable experience there, [yes].
Q: Is there an effective way that teams have covered or attacked Anquan Boldin?
BB: He's a tough guy to handle. They have a great complement of receivers and tight ends and backs. They get the ball to everybody. The receivers are productive, their tight ends are very productive and of course, [Ray] Rice is their leading receiver. I think it's a little bit like the passing that we're familiar with. You take one guy away and they can beat you with, whether it's Torrey Smith or Boldin or last week [Lee] Evans made a big play for them. They have a lot of different guys. Boldin is a tough matchup – he's strong, he's really physical, he's got great size, tough guy, tough after the catch. You give him too much space and he's strong and physical and can hurt you with the ball in his hands. You get up there too tight on him and he's big and physical and can throw some of those smaller guys around and get on top of him and go up and get the ball. He's a tough guy to match up on.
Q: With all the attention Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have gotten recently, is Wes Welker getting more room to run his routes?
BB: Again, we don't really know what the defense is going to do after the ball is snapped. Usually we see multiple things – we see one coverage on one play and another coverage on another one and then a pressure somewhere along the line there. We usually don't see a team just sit in one coverage play after play after play. It all depends on what pattern we happen to have called and what they happen to be in, whether it's man, zone, man-pressure, zone-pressure, three man rush, four man rush, five man rush. That creates different spacing and different opportunities for us on each pattern depending on what the pattern is. Who gets what and where the ball goes and whose opportunities those are is really a function on every play of how our pattern matches up with the defensive call they happen to have on. There's really no way to know that. Sometimes you have a coverage indicator based on an alignment or film study or that kind of thing but teams do a good job of disguising that. It isn't that easy to really predict what teams are going to be in. We just have to all run our routes and run good routes and try to get open and have the quarterback read the coverage and try to figure out who has the most advantage. That really, it changes from play to play. I don't think you can, I don't get the sense that they just sit there and 'Oh, this game, it's this guy and that game, it's that guy and this game it's somebody else.' It's really play to play and you just have to see how the defense is going to deploy against your formation and your pattern in the passing game.
Q: Did you expect to get this much defensive production out of Rob Ninkovich? What do you attribute that to?
BB: Coming into the season, we definitely expected him to be a big contributor for us, just as he was last year. Rob has a variety of skills and he does a lot of things well – he's smart, he's very well prepared, very competitive player, he's tough, he runs well, good athlete, can rush the passer. He's been very productive for us in the kicking game. We would use him, it's a question of how much we can use him. But he's played in all phases of the kicking game and he's played in all situations on defense: regular, sub, goal line, all those things. He's really had a role in just about everything that we've done defensively and in the kicking game over the time that he's been here. Sometimes that's been scaled back in one area or another so not to totally overload him. He has the ability and the skill to do it and he's done it for us on a consistent basis, multiple things, whatever the happen to be. Sometimes it's been more in the kicking game, sometimes it's been more on defense. But it's been a lot no matter what it has been. The last two years, those have usually been combined in some form.
Q: In what areas have you seen improvement in Joe Flacco's game over the years?
BB: They've won a lot of games and I think that's the big thing. A quarterback has to do what his team needs him to do to win and Joe has done that. I don't know how improve much on 11-5 and 12-4 and they just keep doing it. He's been a solid guy since his rookie year in terms of managing the game and using the clock and making good decisions and those types of things. He's been able to throw the ball obviously to his backs, to his tight ends and down the field to whether it's [Torrey] Smith or [Lee] Evans or [Anquan] Boldin or whoever it happens to be. I think he can make all the throws that you need a quarterback to make. He can run the team and manage it well. He can make checks and decisions that the offense needs to have a good flow and take advantage of defensive alignment. I think he's certainly over four years improved in all those areas incrementally but he did them at a pretty high level to begin with and he continues to do that.
Q: Your tight ends have gotten a lot of attention this season. A lot of people seem to think these guys have revolutionized the position but can you give your thoughts on them just being the latest in line of the evolution? Mike Ditka was pretty good at yards after catch before people knew what that was.
BB: There have been a lot of great players at that position through the years that we could rattle off a number of them. Our two guys have had a good year. They've been very productive for us, they've been consistent. They've been able to get the ball down the field, to run after the catch and to make critical plays in the red area and on third down. All those things are important in the passing game and being able to cut off backside and block at the point of attack on the outside plays is really the heart of their run assignments. There have been a lot of them through the years, going all the way back to Ditka and [John] Mackey, certainly more recently [Tony] Gonzalez and [Antonio] Gates and guys like that. Seems like we face one ever week, [Dustin] Keller and the kid from Cleveland, [Evan] Moore and all those guys. Honestly it seems like we're dealing with a tight end – we have two of them again this week with Baltimore. Those are tough matchups defensively because of the size and the athleticism of those players. It's hard for any defense to find guys that are 250 pounds that run like these tight ends do and have the ball skills that these tight ends have. Most of those guys are either pass rushers or they're real good inside run defenders. To have that kind of coverage skill and match up with them is hard. Ozzie Newsome, you can start with him too. There's another one. There's a guy that really went from receiver to tight end, which is not that uncommon now but it was when he did it, you didn't see that very often. He really had to refine his blocking skills from what they were at Alabama and he did. He was a good blocker for a guy who played receiver his college career.
Q: Is the difference not that it's unique but that there are more skilled tight ends? Like you said, you face one every week and I'm guessing in the '70s and '80s that wasn't the case.
BB: Well I think when you had teams that were emphasizing tight end running attacks which were very common and really prevalent in the National Football League for a couple decades. Now you take the fullback out of the equation, which is, that position has diminished over time. If you want to run the ball and you don't have a fullback or even if you do have a fullback, he's not in the game the percentage that he was going back to certainly the '70s and the '80s where teams carried at least two fullbacks. Now you have a lot of teams that don't carry any and some that just carry one. That role offensively has shifted more to the tight end. Again, to be able to find the tight ends that are those kind of blockers, guys like Donnie Warren that we faced with the Redskins for years was one of the best blockers in the league. It's hard to find that skill set where the guy is a point of attack blocker on 30 plays a game and he has the same league leading or top of the league type receiving skills too. You find guys that have that, that really makes them special. I don't want to say it's one or the other, but there's a certain element of that other than the few players that can excel in both areas.
Q: On Stevan Ridley's two fumbles over the last couple of weeks, what can you tell him from a coaching perspective in avoiding that? Was it just good plays by the defense or was there something he could have done to not lose the ball?
BB: As you know, we work on our ball security every week with all of our players, all the players that handle the ball. That's a very, very important part of what we do. We also work on trying to take the ball away on the defensive and special teams side of it. We'll continue to emphasize those same things with everybody that handles the ball. It doesn't make any difference who it is. Again, it's important that everybody that handles it use the utmost care in taking care of it so that we have it at the end of the play. That includes everybody and that includes every week and that includes every play. It's not just the emphasis with one player or one thing – it's everybody all the time. That's what we've done for a long time here and that's what we'll continue to do with everybody.