Ravens @ Cowboys

Battle Plans Ravens @ Cowboys

Posted in Battle Plans
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Offense

 

1) Backside screens: One of the most innovative plays that the Ravens ran against

Pittsburgh
was a form of a chip-block screen play to fullback Lorenzo Neal. The play was designed to pull linebacker James Harrison up the field so that Neal could sneak past him and into the flat area.


 

This type of play could prove fruitful against

Dallas
as well. Like

Pittsburgh
,

Dallas
boasts a tremendous upfield rush that is relentless. To slow them down, the Ravens should use their backs, just as they used Neal on that particular play. It could spring gains behind linebacker Demarcus Ware, who is just as much of a force as James Harrison.


 

The best bet for the Ravens will be to use more unbalanced sets to fake the run-action to the play-side in order to invite the rush, and then run pass plays behind the rush on the backside.


 

 2) Keep the backs in: In a lot of ways, the

Dallas
defense mirrors that of the

Pittsburgh
, at least in terms of comparing the two pass-rushing units.  As mentioned before, the

Dallas
front seven can fly.


 

In certain situations, the Ravens tried to counteract the

Pittsburgh
rush by operating out of an empty set, in particular on third down. That strategy backfired, as the Steelers were still able to get pressure by sending more blitzers than the Ravens could block.


 


Baltimore
should ditch that plan and stick with using extra blockers to keep the pocket intact. Although running back Willis McGahee whiffed on a crucial third down block on Baltimore’s final offensive drive of the game, he should still be on the field to help pick up the blitz, along with either Lorenzo Neal or Le’Ron McClain. There should be two backs in on third down to help pick up the blitz at all times.


 

3) Get the safeties moving: Although the

Dallas
defense has played much better football over the last couple of games, it is still a defense that can be exploited on the back end. The

Dallas
safeties are aggressive and they will overbite when coming up to support against the run.


 

In this game, quarterback Joe Flacco should throw the ball away from the side of safety Ken Hamlin. Hamlin is a ball hawk who will close on the ball in a hurry. Meanwhile, strong safety Keith Davis is more susceptible on the other side, and he may have issues covering in deep support, especially in one-on-one situations against a free receiver. The game plan should be to run routes through his area.   

 

Defense

 

1) Keep Romo in the pocket: Facing Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo in back-to-back weeks is a difficult task for any defense to handle. However, in this instance, it should benefit the

Baltimore
defense to face Romo after Roethlisberger, considering that the unit has to carry the same type of mentality when they attempt to defend Romo on Saturday night. Specifically, their goal should be to try and contain Romo within the pocket.


 

Despite the progression that Romo has made as a more complete quarterback, he is still not able to function as a pure pocket passer. When he’s at his best, he is moving around from side-to-side and improvising in order to keep a play alive. If Romo is in this mode against the Ravens, the defense will have a tough time containing the

Dallas
offense.

The defensive line and the linebackers cannot over pursue when they push the pocket, and when Romo moves up, defenders will need to stick to their assignments and let Romo run, as opposed to allowing receivers to uncover downfield so Romo can find them while he’s on the move. 

 

2) Defending the middle: The most difficult challenge that a defense has to deal with when facing the Cowboys is being forced to rely on its corners to man up the outside receivers so that the linebackers and the safeties can converge on tight end Jason Witten.

Witten
is the foundation of the

Dallas
offense. Romo will look to him the entire game.


 

The Ravens have a number of offensive weapons to keep track of, but

Witten
is the most important one in this game, considering that Romo has a propensity to force passes his way. The Ravens will need to double

Witten
when he is moving past the second layer, and on short routes, the linebackers will need to tackle well and limit his gains. If

Witten
has a monster game, the

Dallas
offense will be at its apex.

 

One-on-one Matchup to Watch: Todd Heap versus Ken Hamlin: Hamlin is perhaps the most important defender that

Dallas
has on the back end. He has played at a high level all season, and has been the glue that has held the tattered secondary together. He is a physical player who has the speed to track the football in space. Heap has been a non-factor all year long, but he stills draws attention from opposing defenses. He’ll have some opportunities in man coverage against Hamlin on Saturday night.

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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 Ravens24x7.com 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 Scouts.com 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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