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Ravens Offense

1) Using the bait and hook: With veteran stalwarts like Ty Law and Patrick Surtain lined up wide on the corner spots in Kansas City
, the Chiefs have relied on the two former Pro Bowl corners to play aggressive man-to-man coverage at various times this season. For the most part, the two players have received help from safeties Greg Wesley and Sammy Knight in deep coverage situations; however the Chiefs will bring their safeties up in the box at times, leaving either corner on an island against an opposing receiver.

Baltimore , one can expect to see either Knight or Wesley blitzing or lined up close to the line-of-scrimmage on Sunday afternoon. The Chiefs will likely use a similar defensive strategy that
Cincinnati used, blitzing either safety off the edge to take away the cut-back lanes in the running game. If Kansas City uses this aggressive scheme, especially on first-down, the Ravens need to counter by attacking Law or Surtain on the outside using the pump-and-go pass play.

Law and Surtain tend to jump routes, so they will be sitting on any comeback or hitch patterns that the Ravens receivers run in order to knock the ball away or intercept it. The Ravens should try to exploit their aggressiveness by selling the underneath route, only to throw the ball downfield after the second stem of the route is run by either Mason, Clayton or Williams.
2) Nickel and Dime attack: For the most part, the Chiefs blitz less and rely more on their front four to generate a pass-rush. Using this strategy allows the linebackers to drop into coverage. However when employing such an approach,
Kansas City has only generated 23 sacks so far this season, with 14 produced by ends Jarred Allen, Tamba Hali and Jimmy Wilkerson. They have not been able to get a push up the middle from the interior of the line.
The front five of the Ravens will need to win their man-to-man battles against the
Kansas City
line, so more receivers can be positioned to attack the
Kansas City pass-defense. Although the Chiefs may break away from using more cover-two coverage than they normally do, in order to stack the box to defend the Baltimore rushing attack, the Ravens may still be forced to work against tight coverage. Steve McNair will need to be patient and complete his check down passes, and complete passes in the short game to sustain drives.
Ravens Defense

1) Motion and Offensive Switches: Kansas City
runs one of the more intricate offenses in the league. Rarely will you see the Chiefs line up in a static look through the course of the game to move the ball against a defense. On a given play,
Kansas City could start out in a U-formation, only to come out of that formation and spread out in in any empty set right before the ball is snapped.

By the same token, they run a rather unpredictable game plan. They run the ball in obvious passing situations and pass the ball in obvious running situations.
The Ravens will need to be aware of all of the different looks and potential plays that are run against them. This requires good recognition of plays which were studied in classroom film sessions, in addition to making the right personnel substitutions on each down. Despite all of the window dressing that the Chiefs may use on Sunday to create mismatches, the Ravens have enough versatile and disciplined defenders on the field to stymie their attack.

2) Tough up the gut: The Chiefs do a great job of creating opportunities for Larry Johnson to succeed on the ground. They will give a steady diet of misdirection runs, and draw and delay runs out of passing formations to catch a defense lined up in the wrong formation. They will also give Johnson the chance to make some plays off the perimeter, running counter and trap runs with the guard or center leading the way.

However, when Johnson is at his best is when he’s able to run up the middle behind the dynamic interior trio of Brian Waters, Casey Wiegmann and Will Shields. This is the strength of the
Kansas City
offensive machine, and there is no question that the Chiefs will look to execute a lot of inside runs against
Baltimore ’s front seven.
In order to stuff the run, especially so Johnson is not able to get to the second layer of defense after the linebackers are blocked by free lineman, defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg must play stout. The duo has been solid all year in eating blockers so the linebackers are free to chase ball-carriers sideline-to-sideline, and they will need to continue their play on Sunday to take away Johnson’s inside runs.

3) Forcing the wideouts to play big: The Ravens will approach defending
Kansas City
the same way that they game planned for
San Diego
Atlanta , which are two similar offensive units. The Ravens emphasized stuffing two dominant rushing attacks and taking away the big play threats of tight-ends Antonio Gates and Alge Crumpler.

In both games, the Ravens were able to follow through on their goals. Against
San Diego
Baltimore held LaDainian Tomlinson to 98 yards rushing and Gates to four catches for 41 yards. Against
Atlanta , the defense held Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick to a combined output of 106 yards on the ground, while Crumpler was a complete non-factor in the passing game, catching two passes for 16 yards. The onus ended up falling on the receivers to make plays on the outside for both offenses, and the Ravens held serve for the most part.
Using the same defensive blue-print,
Baltimore will look to take away Tony Gonzalez in the passing game by double-teaming him, using Adalius Thomas to cover the short routes and Ed Reed to shadow the future Hall-of-Famer downfield. On the ground, the Ravens will use eight players to defend the run. Safety Dawan Landry will act as a fourth linebacker, hovering near the line-of-scrimmage all day. 
It will be up to the
corners to shutdown the Kansas City
receivers without much help from their safeties on the outside.

One-on-One Matchup to Watch: Brian Watters versus Haloti Ngata: The mammoth 340-pound rookie tackle from
Oregon has a come a long way this season. Although there are still times when Ngata struggles when using proper technique, he has been a steady force against the run all season. Ngata is tough to move when he stays low to the ground, and he does a nice job of using his big arms to battle through a block. Watters is arguably the best guard in football. At 6’3, 320 pounds, he possesses a rare combination of great size and quickness. Watters has a knack for making key blocks at the second-level of a defense to spring Johnson loose in the open field.

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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. 

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