1. Hog the Ball
It’s time to reestablish the no-huddle attack—and win the time of possession battle at the same time. With a new pulse on offense, the time is perfect to use the short passing game and mix of well-timed runs to drain the clock and keep Peyton Manning on the sidelines. Moreover, by staying in the same formation without substituting, the Ravens will have a chance to wear down a defensive front that feeds off its speed and playmaking ability.
What’s the biggest key to keeping the no-huddle firing on all cylinders? First down conversions. Simply, if the offense isn’t able to sustain drives, the no-huddle will backfire big time.
2. Work the Linebackers
Part of containing a furious edge rusher like Von Miller is to force him to backpedal. When Miller is poised to pounce, the Ravens should motion a receiver or a tight end to his side. If Miller doesn’t react, the designated route needs to be a hot one that hits Miller’s vacated spot. If Miller moves with the motion man, he should be the primary target in the passing game.
Aside from Miller, the Broncos may also be vulnerable if Wesley Woodyard is either limited or doesn’t play. MLB Keith Brooking is also an interesting study. He still has his instincts intact, but he lacks the foot speed to cover a lot of ground. Look for Dennis Pitta to be a big focal point of the offense, especially given Denver’s struggles against TEs.
3. Double Team Miller
Even if the Ravens are able to force Miller into more pass defense situations, he’s still going to rush up field plenty of times, and there needs to be a sound blocking scheme in place to contain him. The incredible second-year pro does can move inside or outside. He’s developed an array of moves to complement his speed rush and he plays with a low center of gravity.
To keep him at bay, the Ravens may need to use a variety of blockers, including unbalanced looks with two tackles to his side, or a TE/RB blocking combo. No matter what happens, Miller can’t be checked by just one blocker.
1. Late Blitz Movement
There are two options to defending Manning. One, you can stay static in your fronts and hope that by keeping things simple, your defense won’t make as many mistakes.
Two, you can mix things up, move defenders around and try to keep Manning from reading the front too quickly.
The Raiders used the latter approach against Manning with some mixed success. They would jump around, shift their front seven, and run a few delayed blitzes. The delayed action was especially tough on Manning and led to a couple of sacks.
The same principle applies to Baltimore’s strategy. If they decide to blitz, they need to time it up perfectly. Otherwise, Manning will figure it out and make the defense pay.
2. Nickel Strong
What makes Denver so tough to defend is what made the Colts so tough to defend—their versatility. When Manning is in the shotgun, he operates from a two tight end set or a three wide formation. With two tight ends on the field—Tamme or Dreessen—Manning can stretch the seams, creating even more open space for his outside targets to gain separation.
Defending the Broncos’ predominant one back, shotgun formation involves using more nickel packages, potentially with a 3-3-5 setup. This means that the defense is also exposed to the running game. The Ravens will have to take their chances because they’ll need as much speed on the field as possible.
3. Change Coverages
The safeties will be instrumental in this game, especially before the snap. If they tip their position on the field too early, Manning will put his receivers in the right position to exploit the coverage.
The key will be for the safeties to disguise their look, whether that’s a two deep shell or single-high, and shift into the real coverage after the snap. Timing will be everything to execute this cat-and-mouse game.
One-on-One Matchup of the Week
Elvis Dumervil versus Michael Oher
The Ravens may use a well-orchestrated scheme to deal with Miller, but that’ll free up Dumervil on the other side. The active edge rusher is equally capable of taking over a game. He is tough to deal with because he plays with a low center of gravity and has a fast get off. Meanwhile, Oher has struggled to hold the edge the past two weeks. He’ll need to do a better job of bending yet staying balanced to stay in front of the Denver edge rusher.