Joe Flacco and the Ravens have a big AFC match up against the Patriots Sunday.
The no-huddle offense that dominated in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals will need to rebound from a poor performance last week when they face the Patriots. The Ravens will need to perform these things in order to win the first match up of two AFC powers.
The Ravens and New England Patriots are a combined three points from 2-0 starts. Both teams lost in Week 2.
The Patriots lost their home opener for the first time in 11 years, 20-18 to the Arizona Cardinals (2-0) after Stephen Gostkowski missed a 42-yard field goal. Baltimore’s final drive fell short giving the Philadelphia Eagles a 24-23 win.
According to Boston.com, Sunday marks the ninth time these two teams have faced each other—six regular season, two postseason. The Patriots have won every regular season contest. The Ravens snagged their only win in the 2010 wild-card game.
In danger of falling to 1-2, the Ravens need to do these three things well in order to pick up their first regular-season win over the Patriots.
Flacco and the Ravens will need to get back to their performance from Week 1, when the no-huddle was effective.
In the Week 2 loss to the Eagles, Baltimore ran 65 offensive snaps and had just under 26 minutes in time of possession. Against Cincinnati, Baltimore ran 58 plays for 27:35.
The Ravens averaged 23.7 seconds per snap against Philadelphia—a loss. In the season-opening win, Flacco’s offense averaged 28.5 seconds per snap.
Limiting Tom Brady’s time of possession will be crucial for the Ravens to get a win. That can only happen if the no-huddle is efficient.
The no-huddle offense is difficult on defenses because it makes substitutions a headache. It’s even more of a headache when drives take six minutes or more.
Controlling the clock and keeping the defense fresh will go a long way for the Ravens.
Ray Rice is an All-Pro running back and has hit the 1,000-yard mark in each of his last three seasons. The fifth-year pro is coming off a career-high 1,394 yards last season on 291 carries.
In his first two games last season, Rice had 42 carries for 127 yards. This season, he has 26 for 167. Typically a slow-starter, Rice breaks into midseason form by Week 3, an encouraging sign for the Ravens.
In last year's Week 3 game against St. Louis, Rice averaged nine yards per carry. In Week 3 of 2010, he rushed at a 5.3 YPC clip.
The Rutgers product is averaging 6.4 yards per carry this season. If he can continue to improve on those numbers from week-to-week, Rice needs to shoulder a larger load in Week 3.
The Ravens will need to run the ball effectively against a Patriots defense that is currently fifth in the NFL in rushing defense (62.5 yards allowed per game). Rice has faced the Patriots twice, including a 103-yard game and a 9.4 yard per carry average in Week 4 of 2009.
After Rice was underutilized in the Eagles game, head coach John Harbaugh began to question the play-calling, especially after Flacco went just 8-for-25 in the second half.
''Anytime it doesn't work, you look back on it and say, 'I wish we'd have done something else,''' Harbaugh said. ''Maybe some kind of a run would have popped through there. Maybe it wouldn't have. I'm pretty sure if we'd have called a run and it hadn't gone, you'd be wondering why we didn't throw.''
The Ravens will need a solid ground game to keep Brady off the field and force him to catch up. Rice is currently 11th in the NFL in rushing (83.5 yards per game). He needs to shoulder a bigger load against New England.
Dennis Pitta needs to have a big day against New England.
The Baltimore Ravens have talented wide receivers in Torrey Smith, Jacoby Jones and Anquan Boldin. Those three make it difficult for teams to cover, but the Ravens need to continue to feed the ball to tight end Dennis Pitta.
Pitta is the team’s top receiver with 13 catches and 138 yards. The Ravens have just three receiving touchdowns this season, one from Pitta.
The 6’4”, 245-lb TE also leads the team in receiving first downs with seven. Sunday night, the Ravens need to find ways to get Pitta involved early.
A steady dose of runs from Ray Rice, short screen passes and intermediate routes from Pitta should be the game plan against the Patriots. Tight ends have been successful against the Pats, and the BYU product could have a big game.
Last week, the Pats gave up 62 yards on five catches to former Raven TE Todd Heap. Heap was a matchup problem for a New England defense heavily focused on Larry Fitzgerald.
In Week 1, another tight end led in receiving against the Patriots. Jared Cook of the struggling Tennessee Titan offense had four catches for 64 yards.
With the outside threats the Ravens have, Pitta could be in similar match up situations. The relationship that has budded early this season with Flacco and Pitta needs to reach another level Sunday.
The third-year pro hasn’t caught a pass against the Patriots in his career. That should change this weekend, especially coming off an eight-catch performance against the Eagles.
Using the workhorses in Rice and Pitta should keep the Ravens' offense on the field. The more first downs earned, the better. Look for a very systematic offensive approach for the Ravens in Week 3.