BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Saints

Battle Plans BATTLE PLANS: Ravens v. Saints

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Offense

1.      Quick release: Against the pressure intensive Saints, the game plan has to be predicated on a swift attack. The Saints has a fast front seven, and speed is their biggest asset. Therefore, the internal alarm in quarterback Joe Flacco’s head needs to go off sooner.

Flacco has had a difficult time with releasing the ball on time, especially against the blitz. He tends to hold the ball, anticipating a route to develop. He also has too much confidence in his ability to evade the rush to keep the play alive.

The combination of Flacco’s slow release and poor timing has led to some catastrophic results on offense. The Saints are built on producing big turnovers through their pressure scheme. Flacco has to be mindful of his timing and get rid of the ball quickly on Sunday, even if needs to change his drops and the routes his receivers run.

2.      Shotgun set: One way to enhance the quick passing game is to stay in a shotgun formation. For Flacco, he is at his best operating from the gun. He has a quicker release, is more comfortable with his footwork, and the offense seems to be more explosive.

In this game, Flacco should have the reign to jump from under center to the gun when he audibles. By being away from the center, Flacco doesn’t waste any motion, and is not nearly as vulnerable to the open blitzes as before.

Moreover, the power running game is not working well. Against a defense like New Orleans that gets upfield in a hurry, using quick draws and delays could be the best route. Ray Rice is comfortable running from this formation, and his best gains against Houston came out of the shotgun.

From the shotgun, the offense should be in and out of the huddle quickly, maintaining a fluid pace.

3.      Proper blitz recognition: It is clear that the offense has struggled against the safety blitz. In this league, teams will attack a deficiency until it is solved.

The Saints, led by free-wheeling defensive coordinator Greg Williams, use an array of looks at the line to break apart protection schemes. They challenge everyone up front to make the right reads and adjust the protection accordingly.

It is up to Flacco and his pass blockers to make the right reads, checks, and then physical adjustments to the blitz after the snap.

Defense

1.      Nickel and Dime packages: Against the multi-faceted New Orleans offense, a defense is challenged to keep up with their shape-shifting offense. The Saints could use an empty set on one play and then go to a full-house set on the next. In a lot of ways, the defense has to substitute just as much as the Saints substitute their personnel.

The Ravens should be in predominant pass defense packages with an extra defensive back on the field. However, the key will be having the right personnel on the field to defend the run, as the Saints will run from spread formations.

The Ravens may need to use their safeties more in this matchup to cover and defend the run. With corners on the field, the Saints may have an easier time attacking on the ground.

2.      Watch the pump: If anyone has studied the Saints offense, they know that quarterback Drew Brees strives to use his eyes and his pump motion to move defenders off of their landmarks. In fact, Brees uses his first read as bait to open things up for his second and third options.
The staple route for New Orleans is a seam pattern in which Brees will pump to the outside, get the safety to commit, and then hit a receiver running down the seams.

The key to defending this play is for the safeties to stay true. If they go for the fakes, they will consistently blow coverage off the top. 

3.      Press coverage: As much as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison does not like to take chances with his pressure packages and coverage schemes, he may need to against the Saints.

Brees is simply impossible to defend using a base zone scheme. The Ravens also don’t have the four-man rush to defeat the New Orleans offensive line.

The reality is that the Ravens will need to change their coverages and pressure packages as often as possible to keep Brees from locking in. But they will also need the corners to play up on the line and handle man coverage responsibilities, especially when they blitz. The defensive backs cannot let the New Orleans receivers run free off the line.  

One-on-one Matchup to Watch  

Jahri Evans versus Haloti Ngata: Depending on the play, Ngata will play head up against Evans, who is one of the best guards in the game. This will be a great matchup between two players playing at the top of their game. Ngata will need to use his hands well to get by Evans, who is quick and nimble, and moves well in space.

 

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Aaron Wilson

About Aaron Wilson

Aaron Wilson covers the NFL for National Football Post as well as the Baltimore Ravens for The Carroll County Times and Ravens24x7.com. He has previously covered the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans and has covered the NFL since 1997.  He has won several regional writing awards, including, most recently, Best Sports News Story for the state of Maryland in voting conducted by the Associated Press managing editors. 

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