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1 Picking up the blitz: Denver’s defensive scheme is predicated on manufacturing a lot of pressure up front. The Broncos use an intricate blitzing scheme to confuse and confound the opposing line and quarterback into making mistakes. Considering that Edwin Mulitalo is out of the lineup, there is little doubt that Denver will try to turn up the heat that much more by dialing up various blitzes up the middle.
Schematically, the Ravens did a nice job of picking up Denver’s blitzes in last year’s match-up. The Ravens kept backs in as extra defenders. In addition, they moved the line a couple of times so the quarterback was not a stationary target.
Another way to slow down Denver’s rush is to use quick hitting pass plays to the tight ends and the backs. But the most important goal is for the line to be on top of their assignments.
2. Spreading it out: When using a blitz heavy defensive attack, Denver uses a lot of man-to-man coverage. The Broncos have a lot of faith that corners Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams can handle any responsibilities without much safety help. With the corners being able to handle their responsibilities, safeties John Lynch and Nick Ferguson are freed up to be more involved in blitzing and defending the run.
If the Ravens run their traditional base sets, they’ll have a harder time moving the ball because the Denver safeties will be able to run up the field to stop the run, and the corners will be able to cover Mason and Clayton man-to-man. But if the Ravens use more spread formations with extra receivers, that may force the Denver safeties to cover. And if the safeties are forced to cover, Steve McNair will have mismatches to exploit in the passing game using his third and fourth receivers.
Not only will spreading out the offensive formations help in regards to opening up the passing game, but it should also help to open up a running game which has struggled mildly for the first quarter of the season.
3. Misdirection: The strength of Denver’s defense is its linebacker corps. This group has great speed, instincts and cover skills. They move well in space and from sideline-to-sideline. In order to establish any semblance of a running game, it is important for an offensive coordinator to neutralize these backers. In the Ravens’ case, the best way to accomplish this feat may be to run some misdirection and off set running plays. These would be plays where the Ravens use two players, but one would be the decoy to freeze a certain player or force the defense to commit to the wrong side of the field.
Using some fake reverses to the receivers or option runs where McNair would fake a handoff to the fullback or running back and toss it to Jamal Lewis off the right or left side could work very well. The key is to get the Denver linebackers to overextend and use their aggressiveness against them.


1. Corralling the Snake: One of the ways to break an aggressive blitz is for the quarterback to move around to avoid the rush, and then run to the spots that the defense opens up by releasing defenders up the field. When it comes to moving around and improvising, few quarterbacks are as good as Jake Plummer. Plummer doesn’t have the best pocket presence, but he has an innate ability to keep plays alive using his footwork and running ability.
If he is able to scramble outside of the pocket, not only is he a threat as a runner, but he is an even bigger playmaker using his arm. Plummer is an accurate passer on the run and his receivers do a nice job of breaking off their routes to come back to him.  In Monday night’s game, the Raven defenders are going to have to play with discipline against Plummer. That means the ends should not rush past him off the edges and the linebackers will need to use proper angles when they pursue him.
In addition, if defenders chase after Plummer, they should make sure that they are sticking to their coverage assignments so the receivers aren’t able to get open off of a busted play.
2. Denver’s formations: The Broncos use various formations in order to create mismatches against a defense. They do not stay with a static attack. On one play, they may use a five-wide spread set. On another play, they may use one receiver.
The Broncos also tend to change formations before the ball is snapped. A running back may come out of the backfield and line up as a receiver, or a tight end could split out wide. It’s a good bet that Denver watched the tape of the San Diego game, and they will try to duplicate some of the formation shifts and personnel substitutions that the Chargers used. It’s important that the Ravens are able to stay on top of these shifts by having the right defensive packages on the field.  For the most part, the Ravens should be able to stay with their base defense.  But there will be times when Denver may spread the ball out, and the Ravens need to be prepared to substitute defenders properly.

One-on-One Battle to Watch: Derrick Mason versus Champ Bailey: Quarterbacks rarely throw to Champ Bailey’s side. They fear his great playmaking and ball hawking ability to disrupt a pass. That said, the Ravens won’t shy away from game planning to throw against Bailey, especially in the times when Derrick Mason is matched up against the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback.

Mason has a knack for being able to make catches even when the odds are completely against him. And he is also Steve McNair’s go-to receiver;  so one can expect to see McNair take some chances throwing to Bailey’s side if Mason has a step or two to work with against Bailey in coverage.

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Dev Panchwagh

About Dev Panchwagh

Dev Panchwagh is a versatile analyst who breaks down the Xs and Os of the game and has been a columnist/analyst for since the summer of 2004. In his regular season column Battle Plans, Dev highlights the Ravens' keys to success against each upcoming opponent. Dev started modestly as a sports journalist, but his contributions to sports talk radio were noticed, leading to duties as a regular columnist for the network before joining RSR.  It would be very difficult to find his rare combination of youthfulness, knowledge and insight in all facets of football anywhere else.  Fortunately, Dev brings it here each and every week.  More from Dev Panchwagh


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