1. Hog the ball: The Ravens have traditionally been slow starters out of the gate. Against the Texans, a slow start could lead to more of a back-and-forth game. Baltimore has to find a way to establish an early lead by putting together time consuming drives.
Ideally, the Ravens would be able to put points up on the board while draining the clock, thereby keeping the high-powered Houston offense off the field. The Ravens had lost their ability to eat the clock through the last couple of games. They need to be efficient, move the sticks, and gain yards in chunks to keep the ball.
2. Wide open sets: The Ravens must take more chances in the passing game, especially with tight end Todd Heap out of the game. There is a prime opportunity to run more open, four-wide sets against a Houston pass defense that has struggled all year.
This is a game in which receiver Donte Stallworth should be featured prominently, especially in third-and-long situations. He has the speed to attract a safety over the top, opening up one-on-one opportunities for the other pass catchers.
Overall, the offense should be much more wide open than it was against Pittsburgh. Without having to pick up the blitz as often, the offensive line should be given more responsibility to block without help, freeing up more targets for quarterback Joe Flacco to turn to downfield.
3. Run in the red zone: When the Baltimore offense is at its best, the unit is able to finish off drives through its power rushing attack.
The running game has been a missing component for weeks. Specifically, in short-yardage situations, the backs and the blocking have come up on empty. This has also been the case in scoring opportunities at the goal-line.
Instead of turning to the passing game, the offense should run from power formations when they get in scoring position. They need to find a way to push the pile and hammer the ball into the end zone.
This could lead to more two-tight end, two back sets, but the Ravens have to bully the Texans in these situations, and overall, improve their scoring efficiency heading into the stretch run.
1. No over pursuit: In Arian Foster, head coach Gary Kubiak has the perfect tailback to run behind his zone blocking scheme. Foster is a patient, one-cut runner who does not waste any motion.
He gets downhill quickly and is a power runner in the open field.
He is the type of back who tests a defense’s integrity and ability to maintain its gap responsibilities. He will squeeze the line and wait for a gap to open up backside.
The front seven has to stick to their gap responsibilities and not play too aggressively. If they over-pursue and chase Foster inside, he can cut it off-tackle for a big gain.
2. Coverage over the top: The key to containing the Houston passing game is to limit their vertical pass plays. With quarterback Matt Schaub at the helm, the Texans look to strike downfield as often as possible.
Clearly, the biggest threat is receiver Andre Johnson, but the Texans also have other capable home run hitters such as receivers Ken Walter and Jacoby Jones. Jones is a burner; Walter is a jump-ball threat.
Limiting Houston to more of an underneath passing game is the challenge that awaits the Baltimore secondary. They have done a good job of containing vertical plays since facing Buffalo. Against the Texans, the safeties need to play deep and the corners should play with outside leverage, funneling the receivers to the middle.
3. Better open-field tackling: The defense had another shaky tackling performance against the Steelers last Sunday, and it cost them, especially on the game-winning touchdown drive. Between Terrell Suggs’ missed sack opportunity of Ben Roethlisberger and the missed tackles of running back Isaac Redman in the open area, the Steelers did just enough to score a touchdown.
Going forward, the tackling has to be much better, especially against a team like Houston. The Houston receivers and backs are good enough to turn short catches into long gains. The backers and the defensive backs have to be sounder in their tackling technique to get stops on Monday night.
One-on-one Matchup to Watch
Chris Carr versus Andre Johnson: In all likelihood, the Ravens will rotate their corners to cover Johnson. The former Miami Hurricane is a beast who can get free at the line and get separation downfield. He is a big target who can box-out defenders for the football. Carr is the Ravens’ best cornerback and is physical enough to give Johnson some trouble. He has the footwork to keep pace with Johnson, but he will have a tough time battling Johnson when the ball is in the air.