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How to Be the Better Purple Team vs. Minnesota

Pat Ricard face Hubbard
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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Click here for the full version of Battle Plans but for those in a hurry, here’s the Keys to Victory against the Vikings…

Offensive Keys

Would I lie to you?

Mike Zimmer would. He’d lie to Quarterbacks and Offensive Coordinators all day. Zimmer is a master of disguise, and his pressure packages and coverages aren’t revealed until the very last second.

Their defense is sixth in the league in DVOA according to Football Outsiders and particularly good against the pass. The Ravens though have struggled against teams with more mature coverage schemes and with the players on the back-end to execute at a high level.

Zimmer is a master of using his safeties to disguise his eventual coverage and links it up well with his pressure packages. They also cycle through all manner of coverages with no real tendency.

The Ravens should set up with their best middle-of-the-field open passing concepts this week and be ready to run them, even when it seems that they shouldn’t pre-snap.

They should also utilize option routes to allow their receiving threats to read the coverage themselves and adjust their route.

Slide to the left, slide to the right

The Vikings got the news this week that they will once again lose Danielle Hunter for the season. This is a huge blow for Minnesota and a huge boon to the Ravens.

It would be foolish though to underestimate the Vikings’ ability to still pressure the QB without Hunter, especially against the patchwork OL the Ravens will put out on Sunday.

The concern is the way the Vikings attack Offensive Lines. This could be limited without the athleticism of Hunter but, while they don’t blitz at a high rate, they do like to run stunts.

To combat this, the Ravens need to get their combo protection working on Sunday.

A combo protection would ask some of the OL to slide protect, which means blocking a gap to your left or right, while asking others to simply block the man across from them.

Mike Zimmer has packages to fool even the most advanced QBs and Offensive Linemen, so the Ravens need to execute this protection to a high level on Sunday.

Fire Pat Ricard out of a cannon

The Vikings are giving up the fifth most yards per attempt and it seems that even though the component parts of their interior run defense are frightening, with Dalvin Tomlinson AND Michael Pierce, the unit is not yet the sum of its parts and they give up a lot of yards inside.

Testing the edges of this run defense early would be advisable given the loss of Hunter and in spite of the weakness of the interior of their run defense.

If the Ravens can establish something to the outside (which has been tough sledding in previous games) then they can perhaps try and employ the inverted veer in this game.

The Ravens also need to get their usual power runs going and should find that many of their usual interior runs work well.

Defensive Keys

Take the Bang out of the Offense

The Vikings run a wide zone run scheme, which at its core, has a three-pronged read for the Running Back.

The back can either choose to bang – run into an open rushing lane in the B or C gap, bounce – to the outside and outrun the defense to the sideline, or bend – back to the weakside of the run.

The wide zone run has to be defended well as a unit, with multiple component parts working well to take away the opportunity for the back.

Holding up at the point of attack in the way that Williams (Questionable) and Wolfe (OUT) can both do, would keep Cook from banging into open running lanes on the path of least resistance for him, but the Ravens will unfortunately have at most one of those players available.

Still, that’s only part 1 – you need to take away the bounce too. This comes from setting the edge and I expect Oweh, Houston, and McPhee to be setting hard and disciplined edges in this game.

That only leaves the bend, but that’s Cook’s specialty. Backside play from both Defensive Tackles and Edge defenders will be crucial in this game.

Wide Zone isn’t the only running play the Vikings run, and the Ravens need to be careful of the way Minnesota plays off this staple of their offense with Counters and Tight Zone runs.

Missed tackles

Dalvin Cook is outstanding as a runner in space and when he gets to the second level he can make even the better tackling teams miss.

It won’t have escaped anybody’s notice that the Ravens aren’t the best tackling team in the league…far from it.

For me, the Ravens have been leaving their feet too much to make big hits, not wrapping up and driving through contact.

You have to think the Ravens defense, prideful as it is, will come out swinging on the tackling front this week, but hopefully not too aggressively, just with far better technique.

Cook can beat you with physicality and elusiveness, with some of the best contact balance in the league, unless you wrap up and use your feet, he will break tackles and run free all day long.

No post-Halloween fear of Jefferson and Thielen

Both Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen use a lot of smoke and mirrors to get open – they fool Defensive Backs with lots of hesitation and false steps.

The Vikings also work them well in combination and both the game plan and Jefferson/Thielen’s skill allow them to play the long game, setting up routes they know will be used later in the day.

The Ravens Defensive Backs will need to remain patient and not over-commit to one early move by these two.

The other way to combat them, is to stop them at source, i.e. Kirk Cousins.

Cousins is a veteran, and more than that, he’s good against pressure. He can ID it, and he has receivers that are masters of beating man coverage behind that pressure.

The Ravens need to mix in plenty of zone coverage on Sunday afternoon, and bring plenty of simulated pressures to keep Cousins at bay.

Matchup to watch

Pat Ricard vs Eric Kendricks

Eric Kendricks is very good against the run, but this week he draws a tough matchup against the best blocking Fullback in the league. The Ravens should look to get Ricard to the second level and up against Kendricks where possible.

This Vikings run defense, as already mentioned, has been surprisingly soft up the middle, if you can get in Kendricks’ way, the Ravens Running Back stable will be off to the races.

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