1. Fast start
After two big wins against the Steelers and the Texans, the Ravens took to the road against inferior opponents and fell apart. Now, with a third such opportunity looming in Seattle, it’s imperative that the offense is ready to start fast.
This is a prime opportunity for the passing offense to get a rhythm established against a Seattle pass defense and a pass rush that is subpar.
Even entering the noise of the Seattle stadium, quarterback Joe Flacco should be able to engineer an effective hurry-up attack from a two tight, two wide, one back shotgun set.
The offense should be aggressive, spread the field, and strike early and often.
2. Off-tackle running game
If there is anything that Seattle has done consistently, it’s stopping the run. The Seahawks have a solid set of defensive tackles in Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch. Collectively they’ve been a driving force for holding opponents to a paltry 3.4 yards per carry.
Clearly, the middle of the defense will be tougher to pierce. But off the perimeter – where the Cowboys were able to do some damage last Sunday – would be the sweet spot to attack the Seattle front.
The Ravens haven’t designed much of a perimeter rushing attack using their backs, Ray Rice and Ricky Williams. Going forward, the Ravens will need to run a more balanced rushing attack, especially in the red zone. Defenses have keyed in on the Ravens’ tendency to run the ball up the gut.
3. Blitz beating routes
Last Sunday against the Steelers, Flacco was masterful against the blitz. Flacco had the autonomy to change plays at the line-of-scrimmage, and he made the right adjustments time and time again.
Moreover, the ball was out of his hand as soon as his back foot hit the ground. Using an assortment of slants, quick outs, and crossers, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron used the perfect route combinations against man coverage.
Against Seattle, Flacco will face another aggressive defense that plays a good mix of man coverage. Seattle should turn to the blitz to compensate for a lackluster frontline rush.
Just as he did against Pittsburgh, Flacco has to adeptly identify the rush, adjust his protection and hot routes accordingly, and get rid of the ball quickly.
1. Defend the bigs
With receivers Sidney Rice (6’4”), Ben Obamanu (6’1”) and Mike Williams (6’5”), Seattle trots out a group that looks more like an NBA backcourt than a corps wide receivers.
These receivers are terrific jump-ball threats who can stretch the field vertically. Although quarterback Tavaris Jackson doesn’t have a big arm, with these receivers, he can under-throw the ball and still complete passes.
This will be a tremendous test for the Baltimore cornerbacks. In particular, rookie Jimmy Smith should be given more playing time and he could provide the length needed to help defend these wideouts.
- Keep Jackson in the pocket
Throughout his career, Jackson has been a dangerous quarterback outside of the pocket. He is an effective enough passer on the move, and he has the scrambling ability to frustrate defenses.
However, as a pocket passer, Jackson has been mediocre at best. He is a passer capable of hitting on some big plays but he’ll also make critical mistakes.
The key for the Baltimore front seven is to contain Jackson and force him to make plays from the pocket. If Jackson is forced to step up in the pocket, he lacks the footwork and awareness to follow through.
- Splash plays
Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin said it best – the Ravens create “splash” plays. Those would be dramatic, game-changing turnovers — in some cases, turnovers that result in six points the other way.
However, in the last four games, the Baltimore defense has generated just three turnovers – hardly “splash” worthy.
It’s time for the Baltimore defense to get back to their playmaking ways from the beginning of the season, setting the pace for the second half of their schedule. They’ll be in prime position against a Seattle offense that has turned the ball over 16 times.
One-on-One Matchup to Watch
Terrence Cody versus Max Unger: This will be a terrific battle between two emerging players. Cody seems to get better every week, as he continues to understand how to play with precise gap technique. Cody is a load, and he’s doing a better job of getting off of blocks. But he’ll have a tough task against Unger, who is a tough and intelligent blocker, especially in the running game.