Foxborough, Mass. - The Baltimore Ravens are generally considered as the best defensive team in the NFL. According to New England head coach Bill Belichick, who knows a little something about defense, the most valuable player on the best defense in the league right now is Baltimore safety Ed Reed.
The Ravens lead the NFL in scoring defense, allowing just 14.0 points per game. In just his third season, Reed is regarded as one of the top safeties in the NFL. He currently is tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions, after finishing third in the NFL with a franchise-record seven picks last season.
In reviewing the Baltimore defense Wednesday, Belichick called Reed the Defensive MVP of the league.
"Ed Reed is having a great year," he said. "If you were to ask me who I would pick as the Defensive MVP of the league, from what I've seen, and I haven't seen everybody, it would have to be Reed. He's tremendous. I think Reed brings probably everything you'd like in a football player. Of all his attributes, I would say his most outstanding one is his intelligence. He anticipates very well and he knows what the offense is doing. Wherever the ball is, that's where he's going to show up. They've got a lot of great players on defense."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who will be playing a mental game of Tug-of-War with the Pro Bowl safety Sunday, acknowledge he must be aware of where Reed is on the field. Reed set an NFL record with a 106-yard interception return for a touchdown to help seal a 27-13 win over Cleveland on Nov. 7, and nearly matched the feat against the New York Jets the following week with a 104-yard interception return for a score that was called back by a penalty. He has an interception in three consecutive games, giving him 18 in 42 career games.
"He's as good as there is in the league," Brady said. "Watching him on tape, you always have to know where he is. He's everywhere. It's like you watch him on SportsCenter and you're like, 'How is he always around the ball?' He's got incredible instincts and he flies around. He's awesome."
Talking Turkey with Matt Light
Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light, avid hunter and outdoorsman, held court in Wednesday's locker room media session on all things turkey. Light pontificated on what makes a successful turkey hunt, including camoflauge, decoys and of course a turkey call. He refused to demonstrate such a call, citing a throught condition, and wouldn't divulge the biggest turkey he has tracked down in the wild.
"I don't want to get into numbers really, I think that might frighten the turkeys," said Light, who might spend part of the day with fellow Purdue alums Brandon Gorin, Rosevelt Colvin and Gene Mruczkowski, among other teammates. "They start getting nervous."
Light, who went on to explain the "extraordinary" vision of turkeys, says he hunts with a bow, comparing himself to several well-known archers.
"I'm a bow hunter. It's easy to pull a trigger," Light said. "Like Robin of the Hood. Errol Flynn. Just a few guys that come to mind when I think about archery skills. [Tights?] Yeah, underneath. I don't really sport just the tights. I'm not big on the English accent, but as far as accuracy, I'm pretty good."
Samuel, Gay On Injury ReportThe health of the Patriots secondary is becoming a primary concern. When the Patriots, already without starting cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole, released their injury report Wednesday, it included cornerbacks Asante Samuel (shoulder) and rookie Randall "Blue" Gay (arm). Both players were both listed as "questionable" and missed a portion of team practice. Gay and Earthwind Moreland, signed off the practice squad earlier this season, started against Kansas City on Monday night, while Samuel played in a reserve role before having to leave the game at several points because of the injury.
Poole, who has missed six of the last seven games with a knee injury, is listed as "doubtful."
"It's up in the air," Poole said when asked if would attempt to play this week. "It's a question mark. Basically, it goes off of how I feel and what my trainers think. I listen to those guys and also listen to my body. If it's not a rush for me to get back, even if I could go this Sunday, what's the use? Wait, let it really heal, come back and perform how I want to perform."
Also listed as "questionable" on the injury report were linebackers Roman Phifer (calf) and Matt Chatham (hamstring). Quarterbacks Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) are probable.
Ravens Sans LewisThe Patriots caught a break on the NFL injury wave Monday night when Priest Holmes was held out of the Kansas City lineup. The Ravens find themselves in a similar situation this week, turning to reserve Chester Taylor in place of injured starter Jamal Lewis. Baltimore head coach Brian Billick said Wednesday Lewis will not play against the Patriots because of the sprained right ankle he suffered Sunday's 3-10 victory over Dallas. Lewis left the game in the first quarter after rushing twice for five yards and did not return.
"He's definitely out this week," Billick said Wednesday. "Bottom line, doctors are optimistic that he'll be able to go next week."
History suggests the Patriots will be successful over their last six games of the season. The Patriots are 16-2 (.889) over the final six games during the last three seasons, including 6-0 marks in 2001 and 2003. Under Belichick, the Patriots are a combined 19-5 (.792) over the season's final six games. The schedule also favors the Patriots. The overall record of their final six opponents is 23-37, with only Baltimore and the New York Jets (both 7-3) having winning records.
"The one thing that I have learned the last three or four years is that the good teams start getting better after Thanksgiving," Brady said. "That's really where we're at. We've got six tough games left, and this week is one of the toughest we've had all year."
With the return of wide receiver Deion Branch from a knee injury, Brady is surrounded by the full set of skill position players for the first time this season. "I feel like I have a great cast of characters. Some running backs who can really run, some receivers who can catch. We always like having everyone healthy, but I think the reality of the NFL is you just don't get that very often. So you really need to take advantage when you do get them. It's fun to be a part of this offense right now." ... Brady successfully sidestepped the question if his current offense is the best he has played with in his career. "Well, I had a high school offense that was pretty tough." ... Patriots safety Dexter Reid, a collector of NFL retro jerseys, is going with a Los Angeles Rams Eric Dickerson jersey, cira mid-1980s, this week. ... Belichick on Ravens' 37-year-old cornerback Deion Sanders: "He looks fast. He's still got the same ball-hawking skills that I remember from him three or four years ago. He's got some quickness and [still has] a lot of vertical speed. Nobody runs by him." ... Because of the Thanksgiving Holiday, the "Ask PFW" column will not appear on Patriots.com this week.