AFC Championship: How Baltimore Defense Can Contain Tom Brady and Patriots
The Baltimore Ravens defense will suffocate Tom Brady in the pocket and force the New England Patriots quarterback into uncharacteristic throws. Baltimore's defense will contain the Patriots offense and lead them to an AFC Championship victory.
The Ravens went into Foxboro two years ago and knocked off the Patriots in the Wild Card round. It was the only time the Ravens have ever beaten the Patriots in franchise history.
Baltimore's defense will look to make it two games in a row with a victory on the road in New England come Sunday afternoon.
Tom Brady does not like pressure.
Not one bit.
The New England Patriots quarterback usually gets to sit in the pocket and pick out where he's going to deliver the ball. Brady is not a scrambler, nor does he like to throw outside of the pocket.
Haloti Ngata, Terrence Cody and Cory Redding have to be able to create pressure on their own and collapse the pocket. You must force Brady off his spot.
Baltimore will bring pressure through blitzes off the edge, through the middle and from any where imaginable.
How effective they are at putting Brady on his back will likely be the decisive factor in the AFC Championship.
The face of the Baltimore Ravens for the majority of the franchise's life could end up playing his last game on Sunday. The 36-year-old veteran is on the back half of his career and could be contemplating retirement soon.
Personally, I think he'll only retire this season if the Ravens win the Super Bowl, but I digress.
Ray Lewis knows that he and others on the Baltimore defense will not have too many more opportunities to get back to the "Big Dance." Lewis has been the heartbeat for this team for over a decade, and he will have them ready to play on Sunday.
Lewis will be a key contributor on the field as well as in the locker room. The future Hall of Famer must take away the middle of the field and force Tom Brady to dance around longer in the pocket by taking away reads.
Above all else, he needs to bring the wood and set the tone early. Getting a big hit on an opposing player early in a game sends a message to your own team as well as to the opposing team.
Expect Lewis to be all business on Sunday.
Chuck Pagano has the enviable task of game planning for Tom Brady and the incredibly potent New England Patriots.
The Baltimore Ravens must come up with a scheme to rattle Brady, take away the two tight ends, blanket Wes Welker and cover all the other pieces in the Patriots' arsenal on offense.
Pagano has done an exceptional job during his first season on the job as the Ravens' defensive coordinator. The Ravens had the No. 3 overall defense in the league during the regular season but did not face an offense worth being in the same sentence as New England's.
Baltimore only allowed 16.6 points, 196.2 passing yards and 92.6 rushing yards. All of which were top five in the league.
The Ravens defense was called upon last week to hold off the Houston Texans and Arian Foster as their offense sputtered throughout the game. Pagano's unit will be asked to stop the Patriots from scoring and to give their offense a chance to win the game.
Pagano will no doubt have some wrinkles in store for the Patriots in his scheme.
Whether he can outsmart Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will have to wait until Sunday at Foxboro.
One of the best to ever do it at his position, Ed Reed must be the game-changer for the Baltimore Ravens. Reed has a reputation for being one of the smartest players in the league and being in the right place at the right time.
Reed will need to be opportune with his play on Sunday. The Ravens safety had a crucial interception back in 2010 when the Ravens knocked of the New England Patriots in the Wild Card Round.
Reed has eight interceptions in 10 NFL playoff appearances, including an interception last week to seal the Ravens' victory over the Houston Texans. Half of those interceptions have come in the divisional round.
No. 20 must play at the top of his game and be in the right spots to help limit the Patriots offense.
If Reed can take away the deep ball and add an interception, the Ravens defense will help alleviate the pressure for their offense to keep pace with New England.
Neutralizing the Tight Ends
The New England Patriots were ahead of the curve again during 2011. Bill Belichick unleashed his double-tight end sets on the NFL without remorse.
Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Henrandez have been the Patriots' not-so-secret weapons. The two tight ends have combined for a total of 169 catches, 2,237 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns during the regular season.
Defenses throughout the NFL have game planned for the large 6'6", 265-pound Gronkowski and athletic 6'1", 245-pound Hernandez without much success.
The Baltimore Ravens won't be able to take both of them out of the game completely. However, they will be able to neutralize the two tight ends using bracket coverage on Gronkowski and man-to-man coverage on Hernandez.
Cary Williams is 6'1" and could cover Hernandez one-on-one. Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Jameel McClain will help take the underneath routes away as the Ravens secondary helps over the top on Gronkowski.
Taking away both tight ends will be no easy task, but if any team can do it in the AFC it's the Ravens.
Justin Sparks is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report @JustinSparks22