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Pitta comes to the defense of his quarterback

By David Driver

for the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 7:38 p.m. MST

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Several of the Baltimore Ravens came to the defense this week of fourth-year quarterback Joe Flacco, who took some hits from his own teammate on the airwaves Monday.

Ed Reed, the All-Pro safety for Baltimore, said Flacco appeared "rattled" against Houston on Sunday. Reed, to be fair, also was somewhat critical of the Baltimore offense in general in the interview with Sirius NFL Radio. Dennis Pitta, a second-year tight end for the Ravens out of BYU, was among those that rallied around Flacco.

"Joe does a great job of handling criticism and praise," Pitta said. "He just shrugs it off and plays hard. He is always poised. We know how good of a player he is."

Pitta had two catches in the win over Houston while fellow tight end Ed Dickson had one, as did third-string tight end Kris Wilson, whose first catch of the season was a 1-yard TD pass from Flacco that gave the Ravens a 7-3 lead.

Now the Ravens, who will face the New England Patriots in the AFC title game Sunday, will face a defense ranked far below that of Baltimore's. "We just have to stay aggressive. Sometimes we rely too much on our defense to hang on for us," Pitta said.

The Ravens don't appear to be worried Flacco is not in the same class as Tom Brady.

"(Running back) Ray Rice is our playmaker. Every team has a playmaker. Ray happens to be ours," said Vonta Leach, Baltimore's All-Pro fullback. "I just want to play Ravens football and I think we will be all right."

New England also has two solid tight ends drafted the same year as Pitta and Dickson: former University of Arizona standout Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Gronkowski has caught 20 touchdown passes this season.

Another Utah connection to the Ravens is All-Pro nose tackle and Salt Lake native Haloti Ngata (Highland High), who had three tackles in the win over the Texans. Ngata had 65 tackles in regular-season play. Wide receiver David Reed (University of Utah) is on reserved/injured list for the Ravens.

The Patriots' roster includes rookie defensive end Christian Cox (Utah), who is on injured reserve.

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