For all the issues the Ravens' secondary has endured this season, Randy Moss didn't exactly dominate the unit in the first meeting between the teams, a 27-21 New England Patriots victory. Covered primarily by Domonique Foxworth, Moss caught just three passes for 50 yards.
It was, in some respects, Foxworth's best game this season. Moss did, however, catch a third-quarter touchdown pass that gave the Patriots a 24-14 lead. The pass, which was underthrown for Moss to come back and catch it, still bothers Foxworth.
"I felt really good about how I played him last time," Foxworth said. "I was a little upset about the play he scored on, though. It was like a tipped ball, but it ended up being a difference in the game. I wasn't happy with it, but aside from that, it was good to have that experience against a guy like that."
It has been an odd season for Moss, who is in his 12th year in the NFL. He caught 83 passes for 1,264 yards and 13 touchdowns during the regular season, but he also had to weather the accusation that his attitude was affecting his play. The Patriots sent him home from practice earlier this year, and Moss was accused of quitting on several routes during the Patriots' 20-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in mid-December.
He still poses matchup problems for the Ravens, who don't have a cornerback taller than 6 feet.
"He's pretty tall, pretty fast and he can change directions," Foxworth said. "I think what separates him from other receivers [that big] is that he changes directions like a little guy. Most of the time it's hard to find someone that tall who is that quick. But he's 6-foot-5, and running a sub 4.4 [-second 40-yard dash], which is as quick as a slot receiver. So, he presents a challenge on every level."
The Ravens also entered that game with a healthy Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb at cornerback, although Webb had yet to work his way into the lineup. Season-ending injuries to both players have increased the pressure on Foxworth, Chris Carr and Frank Walker. The Patriots have different faces in their lineup, too, with Julian Edelman replacing Wes Welker after Welker tore an anterior cruciate ligament last week.
"Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses," said Carr, who primarily covered Welker in the first meeting between the teams. "Randy can go deep, and he can jump over you, so you're going to have to play him a little differently. You're going to have be more conscious in your mind that, 'Hey, if he gets over the top of me, it's going to be a touchdown.' You're going to have to adjust your game, but you should go out there with the same confidence that you can cover this guy and do your job."
Questions for Katula
When Ravens long snapper Matt Katula
is playing well, almost no one brings it up and almost no one wants to talk to him. So the fact that he was surrounded by reporters Wednesday, Katula acknowledged, wasn't a good sign.
"This is a different feeling for me, having a group of dudes asking me questions," Katula said. "It's not something I really enjoy."
Katula understood why there was interest in him, however. Lately his snaps - on both field-goal attempts and punts - have been inconsistent, which has caused the Ravens' already-shaky kicking game to struggle even more. Against Oakland, his high snap contributed to a missed 37-yard field-goal try in the first half and his low snap on a 51-yard attempt didn't help kicker Billy Cundiff late in the game either.
Katula has been battling tendinitis in his elbow and pain in his right hand from when it was stepped on, but he wouldn't use either as an excuse.
"It's my job, and I need to do it better," Katula said. "It's frustrating, but no one brought this on but me."
Katula said he didn't think he would need surgery to correct the problem.
On Monday, coach John Harbaugh threw his support behind Katula.
"Matt Katula is a quality snapper in this league," Harbaugh said. "You see it in practice every single day. You see it in pre-game. You see it in most of his snaps during the game. He'd be the first to tell you he's got to be better in that situation, and he does have to be better in that situation. But he's a really good snapper, and he's going to be fine."
Wide-out Derrick Mason
was a terror on the Ravens' first drive in their Oct. 4 game at New England. He caught six passes for 77 yards - including a 20-yard touchdown catch to finish it - and was the target on another play.
But after that, Mason caught just one more pass - an 11-yard reception - in the game.
"They kind of wised up," Mason said Wednesday. "They switched things up. That's what you expect from a well-coached team. They forced other guys to beat them."
Quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns that day, said he expects more of the same defensive strategy from the Patriots when they meet in the wild-card round Sunday.