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1. Power I-formation: While the Tampa Bay front seven is fast and quick, it is undersized and can be exploited by a bigger offensive line which fires off the ball. Baltimore will have to do a good job of being quicker off the snap count in order to push the pile in the running game, but if they can do so, they’ll have the chance to gain yards.
The key to controlling the line-of-scrimmage stems from the line being able to block the Tampa Bay linebackers. Tampa is harder to run on when an offense tries to go side-to-side, and the backers have the chance to use their speed to pursue and chase. But if they have to take on blocks and disengage in order to tackle the ball carrier, they will have a much harder time. The Ravens don’t have the traditional fullback to line up in a smash mouth I-formation set, but they will need to multiple times on Sunday in order to try to set up favorable match-ups for their offensive line to win in run blocking situations. And by running the ball well enough, the Ravens can perhaps force the Buccaneers to bring a safety in the box to help defend the run, thereby forcing Tampa to play more man-to-man coverage on the outside.
2. Patience is a virtue: Tampa Bay’s cover two defensive scheme (aka Tampa 2) is run to perfection. The corners and safeties handle their zone coverage responsibilities down the field, and the backers do a good job of floating underneath and occupying their areas of coverage. The linebackers especially are adept at closing in fast on passes thrown in the middle of the zone windows. The Buccaneers use the cover two in order to force offenses to methodically move up and down the field. They don’t usually give up the big play. So the Ravens would be wise to devise an offensive game plan which exploits the holes in coverage, in-between the linebackers and safeties and the line and the linebackers. The use of inside pass routes likes slants and crossing routes would work well, especially with Daniel Wilcox and Todd Heap involved. Ultimately, whatever the Ravens do, they need to be able to pick up the yardage that the defense gives them.
3. Quick steps: Considering how fast and agile the Tampa Bay front seven is, it would not be wise for the coaches to use a game plan which emphasizes long step drops for quarterback Steve McNair. The pass plays that the Ravens use should be quick hitting, off of three and five step drops. The Buccaneer lineman will try to bat down passes at the line-of-scrimmage to deter McNair from getting rid of the ball so quickly. And they’ll sit on the underneath routes. But until the Ravens establish a good group attack, the Ravens can’t take too many chances by using long developing pass plays which could put McNair in a position of losing yards if he’s sacked or making an errant pass if he’s pressured.
1. Defending play-action: Tampa Bay’s offense will look to attack the Baltimore defense much like the Baltimore offense will look to attack Tampa Bay’s defense. They will rely on workhorse Cadillac Williams to pound out yards on the ground, forcing the Raven defenders to peer into the backfield and if they’re too overzealous, Chris Simms will use play-fakes to suck the defenders up the field so he can complete passes down-the-field. The Raven defenders have to play aggressive, but not too aggressive against the run in order to guard against being exploited off of the play-action game.
2. Different formations: The John Gruden led version of the West Coast offense uses a mix of various pass formations. For example, on one play, the Buccaneers may line up in a four-wide tight set. On another play, they may be in a four-wide bunch set, with tight end Alex Smith being one of the pass targets. Gruden may use a different formation on every play. It simply depends on what defense is on the field, and how the coordinator reacts to the offense’s movement and plays.
In order to counter this game plan, the Ravens will need to keep a certain group of defenders on the field who are capable of covering the spread formation, if the Buccaneers suddenly morph into a passing set. That doesn’t mean that the Ravens have to use an extra defensive back or two in order to protect against Tampa’s pass plays, just that they need enough versatile defenders on the field capable of dropping back or dropping down into the box to stop the pass or the run.
One-on-One Battle to Watch: Simeon Rice versus Jonathan Ogden: It seems like these two future hall-of-famers battle on an almost regular occurrence. The last time they faced off was four years ago, when the Buccaneers came to Baltimore and shut out the Ravens in their home stadium. In that game, Rice got the better of Ogden, and was able to get pressure on then quarterback Chris Redman. Rice’s strength is that he’s not only fast and uses his long arms well, but he has an array of moves and has the balance to break down a tackle. Ogden has lost some of his quickness but he does a nice job of using his great size and length in order to force a defender to take the longest path possible to the quarterback.