Find a Flow Earlier
The insertion of Lamar Jackson into the lineup the last two games has given the Ravens an identity…should they choose to accept it.
The first half play calling last week felt more like a team trying to prove their first-round QB could throw the ball. *whispers* anyone with two eyes can see he can.
It also felt like said QB left some first-half rushing yards on the field trying to fight against the narrative himself. In the 2nd half, the Ravens got back to the running approach that allowed them to trample over the Bengals the week before and it’s an approach they should bring immediately into this game. Establish that early success on the ground then began to mix in your counters off it whether that be play action, boot action, QB counters, etc.
I hate to take such an antiquated approach but for a team with just average weapons, play calling-deficiencies and a QB making just his 3rd start, I don’t know if it’s smart to go too far off script.
Get the Backs Involved in the Passing Game
The Falcons schematically ignore backs coming out of the backfield. For evidence, look no further than this: NFL teams target their RBs more versus Atlanta than any other team in the league.
The Ravens should absolutely follow suit. Gus Edwards has taken control of lead back duties but the passing game would be a nice way for Alex Collins to contribute this week (if healthy). He’s not a natural pass catcher in any sense but his power and shiftiness for a guy his size can create problems in the open field. Just send him on simple flat routes, giving him a chance to make something happen after the catch makes sense.
Ty Montgomery is far more comfortable and versatile in the passing game and his role grew substantially last week. He could settle into being more of a staple for the rest of the year.
Know where Kazee is
The Falcons have seen their defense decimated by injury this season, but Damontae Kazee’s development has been a bright spot. Traditionally a slot corner, he’s taken full advantage of his opportunity to play free safety. His improved tackling and aggressive play have led to an NFL-high six interceptions.
He’s reading quarterbacks well this season and if Lamar is late or off on a throw it could wind up in Mr. Kazee’s hands.
Shot Play Alert
Matt Ryan averages 9.68 net yards per pass attempt at home, compared to 7.31 on the road. The only other QB I could find with that type of disparity is Drew Brees (9.77 at home to 7.61 on the road). The Ravens’ pass rush (or lack thereof) certainly won’t deter the Falcons from taking shots in this one.
The Ravens have done a great job all year in preventing the big play, but with an offense with this type of weaponry, they need to place even bigger emphasis on doing just that. Honestly, the greatest thing the Ravens can do tactically is to control the clock with their running game and keep this high-powered offense grounded as much as possible.
Challenge the Interior Offensive Line
The Falcons guards have been under fire as of late. In month of November, no team has given up more QB hits than the Falcons. There was talk that one or both could be benched but it sounds like that won’t come to fruition just yet.
The Ravens should challenge this shaky interior group with stunts and delayed blitzes. If they are lucky enough to get Tim Williams back this week it would be a great opportunity to get a fresher Za’Darius Smith some one on ones versus these guards.
I also love Ken McKusick’s suggestion of making Michael Pierce more of an interior rush specialist.
Treat Tevin Like he’s Elite
Jalen Richard had a 16-yard run after catch reception last week that actually made me pretty nervous. We know covering backs and tight ends from traditional base or nickel sets are not the Ravens forte right now but if Richard can look as good as he did on that play imagine what Tevin Coleman can do with his talent and the increased passing game looks he’s received as the season’s progressed.
Baltimore has the cornerback talent to hold their own against the Falcons trio of wideouts, even if they don’t decide to do anything special, but they’ll need to make certain concessions versus Coleman. Much like they did versus Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey, he should have the eyes of the inside defenders. It’s important those defenders play disciplined and understand where they are on the field in relation to their teammates in coverage.
This should also be a game where the dime is more prevalent so that Anthony Levine can match up with him as often as possible.
Matchup to Watch
Brandon Carr (or Tavon Young?) vs. Mohamed Sanu
We know how explosive Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley can be, but Mohamed Sanu could be a measuring stick of sorts for the Falcons. In wins, he generates 11.91 yards per target. In losses, he’s down to 8.83. Brandon Carr did a really good job last week versus Seth Roberts but Sanu is a significant step up in competition. With attention on those burners outside in what will likely be a pace battle, Sanu’s ability to shake free early on could determine who’s in control.