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Keys to Victory in Chicago

Lamar Jackson
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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For the full version of this week’s Battle Plans, click here.

This is the short version, AKA The Keys to Victory, c/o The Victory Team at Keller Williams.

So how do the Ravens go about this week’s matchup against the Chicago Bears?

Offensive Keys

Facing another Fangio disciple

The Bears defense was a top ten unit last season under former Raven Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano. Sean Desai, a Fangio disciple. has taken over play-calling duties for 2021.

Having faced Fangio himself and Staley already this season, the Ravens should be starting to get somewhat familiar with the scheme.

If run properly, the scheme makes masterful use of the safeties, particularly their pre-snap depth, to give the illusion of a light box before deploying a Safety with a quick trigger and good instincts to add an extra body to the cause of stopping the run. This dares teams to run the football into light boxes and gives the defense the chance to stay competitive against the pass by rolling in and out of MOFO (middle of the field open) and MOFC (middle of the field closed) looks.

This Bears defense has started to replicate many of those principles in their run defense but it doesn’t quite work yet, and the Ravens should be able to take advantage of this in their running game this week.

The plan to take advantage of this should be multiple:

  • Pre-Snap Motion
  • Heavy Formations
  • Multiple men on the move, not just pre-snap, but post snap.

Combination punches to open up the haymaker

This Bears defense has a particular problem with outside runs, especially to the right where they are dead last in DVOA at defending the left edge of their defense.

Without JK Dobbins though, thinking about how the Ravens might get the ball to the outside in their running game is a challenge. It’s one that Greg Roman hasn’t entirely worked out yet, especially as more and more teams play with a five-man front against the Ravens on obvious passing downs and set hard edges.

I still think the Ravens could stand to run more outside zone than they do but it’s not a weapon Roman deploys often, so it’s not worth dwelling on.

So it might be worth changing the conversation and not talking about how to get outside, but how to overwhelm the edges of a weak-edged run defense. Using multiple pullers, as already mentioned but also with an H-back and a Fullback, in those heavy sets I suggested the Ravens get into, would be a start.

If you can get Lamar around the edge and into the defensive backfield, one of the most dynamic open-field runners in the league will find a lot of room to run against a defense which has not been good at defending in space.

Extending the metaphor – knockout punch in the passing game

They Bears are second to last in blitz rate. The Ravens persistently targeted the flats last week to try and manipulate the Dolphins defense and to soften up other areas of the field, like the seams and to open deeper shots. It didn’t work, but I’m not convinced it was the wrong plan altogether.

I think the Ravens will need to be patient again this week and soften the Bears up for deeper shots. The Bears run a lot of underneath zone coverage and Roquan Smith is particularly good in it. But he’s also trigger happy and likes the big splash play in the backfield towards the sidelines. The Ravens may have to take some of those if only to create more space for Mark Andrews to work.

That tactic has worked against this defense to the tune of being in the bottom third of the league efficiency-wise at defending Tight Ends. Andrews should eat this weekend if the Ravens are patient enough. And drag routes underneath may also come open against this defense that doesn’t blitz much and when they do, don’t drop guys into coverage in the middle of the field.

On the face of it, this matchup with Lamar – the NFL’s leader in completed Air Yards – does not bode well for the Bears. It’s even worse when I tell you that Bears are dead last in defending a team’s number one Wide Receiver. Unfortunately, as we learned yesterday, Hollywood Brown will miss this game.

That means someone else has to take over and run deep post routes. Perhaps Sammy Watkins or Devin Duvernay, or even rookie Rashod Bateman. Two concepts I’d like to see the Ravens use to get the deep game’s wheels going: Yankee and Mills.

Yankee will work well this week as it’s most often run from heavy personnel, which I’ve already suggested the Ravens should use. It works a deep post over the top of a deep over route, this will also work well in combination with the punches the Ravens land with Andrews if he’s the one running the deep over. Similarly Mills works a dig from an inside receiver, only this time from the same side as the outside receiver running a post over the top.

Defensive Keys

A Ravens defensive favorite: feast on the rookie QB

In Justin Fields the Bears found an exciting prospect for the future and a Quarterback that could, in the future, be a handful to defend. Unfortunately for the Bears, that likely doesn’t come this year and likely not this week, against a Ravens defense that has feasted on young Quarterbacks.

Fields is not yet fulfilling his considerable potential.

Wink needs to dial up his usual rookie blitz packages, sit back and watch the fireworks. This is especially relevant on 3rd and long, as the Bears are 31st in 3rd/4th and Medium/Long, and 32nd on all 3rd/4th Down plays. It’s also why part two of the defensive keys is important: stopping the run and putting this Bears team in a negative game script can be a recipe for disaster for them.

I would expect to see a stunt/game moratorium this week as we’ve seen from Martindale before against mobile QBs. Fields is a pocket passer but he’s dangerous in space and you’ expect to see a heavy snap count for Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser this week to keep as much athleticism on the field as possible.

The Ravens also need to stay disciplined on the back end and avoid any of the communication errors that have led to big plays over the course of this season.

The Bears alike to run naked bootlegs for Fields and give him half-field reads. These come with play-action and so I’d keep rolling coverage and moving the Safeties immediately post-snap, to keep him seeing different coverages from when he lines up under Center to when he snaps his head around after play action.

Shut down the Bears like they shut down the Vikings

This rush offense is a predominantly wide zone attack that the Ravens have seen a lot of and, outside of a couple of big plays, recently played well against when facing one of the best proponents of this attack in the league, in the Vikings.

They need to resurrect the plan from Vikings week for this game (I wrote about it in the Vikings Battle Plan) to stop the wide zone attack which includes good edge-setting, staying stout at the point of attack and backside discipline. But every wide zone team has a change-up that they run to keep you honest when defending the outside zone run.

For the Bears, this is the Duo run play that gets two double teams working inside. I seem to say this most weeks but occupying double teams inside is paramount this week. The Bears can run duo pretty effectively (though I actually think Khalil Herbert runs this better than David Montgomery) and get to the second level well, getting hats on Linebackers.

The Ravens need to keep their Linebackers clean this week and occupy those double teams – possibly running out both Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis to keep the middle clogged as best they can in more obvious running situations and, on occasion, on 1st and 10.

Matchup of the Week

Darnell Mooney vs Anthony Averett

This is one area the Bears have managed to find a way to utilize Fields’ talent. The guy to watch downfield for the Bears is second year speedster, Darnell Mooney. Mooney continues to add receiving skills to his considerable physical gifts and it makes him a more all-around threat, but it’s still the deep shot that he is most dangerous on. Allen Robinson, while in the midst of a down-year, would still be a risk that needs to be accounted for most often with Marlon Humphrey. He is listed as Doubtful though. If he plays, that means Mooney will see a lot of Anthony Averett. If not, the Ravens can afford to more evenly split the load here.

Averett has been a big contributor for the Ravens this season after Marcus Peters went down, but this is a big test for him and his development in defending comeback routes on the outside. Mooney’s speed has to be respected but he’s similarly developing into his role as an all-around receiver and therefore getting open on the whole route tree.

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