1) Decipher the A gap blitz: Over the years, the inside blitz has been a staple play for the Chicago defense. This design has the inside and weakside backers perched directly in front of the A gaps. The backers will either blitz simultaneously; bluff the blitz; or one linebacker will shoot the gap while the other will drop.
Quarterback Joe Flacco had a tough time with this look against Indianapolis. The inside linebacker did a nice job of disguising his movement to indicate blitz, only to drop into the window that Flacco fired the ball through. The backer was able to pick off Flacco and seal the game for Indianapolis in the waning minutes.
The Bears play similar games with their linebackers at the line-of-scrimmage. Flacco has to be patient with his post-snap execution. Even if the linebackers show blitz, he will need to anticipate where the backers are once the ball is snapped before firing to his hot read.
2) Executing against the Cover 2: Against the Cover 2 (two safeties deep), a quarterback has to be precise with his ball placement. He will usually have to thread the ball in-between two or three defenders, through windows that close in a hurry.
It will be up to Flacco to throw the ball accurately against Chicago’s Cover 2 shell. He has struggled against zone schemes in the past, particularly throwing the ball over the middle. Flacco hasn’t proven that he can consistently hit the inside routes that cross behind the linebackers and in front of the safeties.
This game calls for the use of big receivers such as Kelley Washington and Todd Heap to work the middle of the field. The best routes to run would be crossing and post routes. Also, the Ravens should attack the seams and press the safeties inside the numbers.
3) Get to the second level: Last Sunday, the Ravens unleashed a series of combination blocks that had Detroit staggered. For most of these successful runs, the key was the pulling guard who sprang loose off of a down block. The free guard was able to pick off a linebacker at the second level, and the backs had room to maneuver from that point on.
Look for the same type of blocking scheme to be in play against Chicago. The Bears have yielded 12 runs that have covered 20 yards or more. They are susceptible to letting backs dash through the second and third levels of the defense.
1) Defending Jay Cutler: The key to disrupting Cutler is to make him uncomfortable in the pocket. Once the gunslinger gets out of rhythm, he becomes a mechanically poor passer and a dubious decision maker.
The Ravens will need to implement a creative game plan to keep the Chicago quarterback off-balance. He is actually good at dealing with identifiable pressure, so the Ravens can’t use a conventional blitz package. There should be plenty of pre-snap movement from the front to prevent Cutler from accurately determining where the rushers come from.
If Cutler makes the wrong pre-snap read, he will make a mistake or two.
2) Seven in the box: Despite their best efforts to run the football, the Bears have been an abysmal rushing offense. They are last in the NFL. It is doubtful that they will try to break out of their slump by pounding the ball against a Baltimore defense that yields the least amount of yards per carry in the NFL.
The Bears will take to the air, and the Ravens will need to play more of a coverage based defense. In the few instances when Chicago does run the football, seven defenders have to be enough to stymie their ground attack.
3) Win up front: Against a Chicago offensive line that has struggled to protect the quarterback, the Baltimore pass rush needs to stand up.
The linemen have to win their matchups. If the linemen are unable to disengage from blockers and collapse the pocket, Cutler will hit on some passes downfield. Moreover, the Ravens can’t afford to devote extra rushers to get after the quarterback. They will need more defenders in coverage.
This should be a statement performance for the four-man front against arguably the worst blocking unit in the league.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Tommie Harris versus Marshal Yanda: There is an old boxing saying that styles make fights. In Harris, you have a quick and active gap-shooter who has tremendous get-off. Yanda is a bull who wants to maul his opponent. It will be interesting to see which player forces the other to play his type of game.