3 Areas Where the Ravens Must Excel to Defeat the Broncos
A month ago the Denver Broncos traveled to Baltimore and defeated the Baltimore Ravens, 34-17. While Denver beat Baltimore by 17 points, many people forget how competitive the first half of that game was.
Down 10-0 with just seconds remaining in the first half and the ball at the Denver 4-yard line, Joe Flacco telegraphed a pass to Anquan Boldin, who was running an out rout. Denver quarterback Chris Harris easily undercut the rout, intercepting the pass and taking it 98 yards for a momentum halting touchdown.
Let’s just say Baltimore scores on that drive. The score entering halftime would be 10-7 instead of 17-0. Baltimore would have gotten the ball back to begin the second half and would have had the momentum after a last second score.
With the momentum, which is more important than people think, Baltimore may have upset Denver. However, that is not how the game played out, and as we know, the Ravens ended up getting it handed to them by the Broncos.
Heading into Saturday’s matchup, Baltimore, who deservedly enters as the underdog, has a better shot than people think to upset Peyton Manning and the Broncos. In order to accomplish this tall task, the Ravens will have to focus and excel in these three areas.
1. Pressure Peyton Manning and Jam His Receivers at the Line
In the previous game between the two teams, Peyton Manning passed for 208 yards and a touchdown. While Manning did not light up the stat book by any means, he didn’t make any mistakes.
Like most quarterbacks, Manning is at his best when given time to throw. However, when he is rushed, he is very adept at eluding the pass rush by stepping up in the pocket or by quickly finding his hot receiver.
One way the Ravens can disrupt the Broncos' passing attack, is by jamming the Denver receivers at the line and not allowing them to have free releases downfield. By doing so, the timing that Manning and his receivers rely on will be disrupted and could give the Baltimore pass rush a split second extra to get to Manning.
In addition, defensive coordinator Dean Pees needs to dial up his blitzes this week. This season, the Ravens defense has not blitzed as much as in past seasons. When Baltimore does blitz, it is usually effective.
After his best game as a pro, where he recorded 2.5 sacks, four tackles and five hits on Andrew Luck, Paul Kruger must continue to play at a high level. Sacking Manning is easier said than done—he was sacked just 21 times this year. Even if the Ravens can’t sack Manning, they must get pressure on him and at least get some hits on him—this could force him into a rare mistake.
In addition to Kruger, Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs must step up and alleviate some of the pressure on Kruger.
Should Baltimore be able to disrupt the Denver receivers and pressure Manning, they have a better shot at achieving what many deem to be impossible—winning on Saturday.
2. Dominate the Line of Scrimmage on Offense and Run the Ball Effectively
Because the Ravens fell behind in the first meeting, Ray Rice (38 yards rushing) and Bernard Pierce (20 yards rushing) were erased from the game.
On Saturday that can’t happen. Baltimore must enter the game with a mindset that they will run the ball, and keep running the ball. The best way to keep one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game off the field is to have long, time-consuming drives, featuring a steady diet of Rice and Pierce.
In Sunday’s win over the Colts, head coach John Harbaugh elected to start left tackle Bryant McKinnie in place of the injured Jah Reid. With McKinnie starting at left tackle, Michael Oher shifted to right tackle and Kelechi Osemele moved to left guard.
Sunday marked the first time this season the starting five linemen were all on the field at the same time. As a result, the Ravens ran for 172 yards, wearing out the Indianapolis defense.
Now don’t get me wrong, to expect Baltimore to duplicate the success it had on the ground this week against Denver would be foolish. However, if Baltimore can at least run the ball effectively on Saturday, it will take pressure off Flacco.
3. Win the Turnover and Penalty Battles
A month ago, the Ravens turned the ball over twice, compared to zero from the Broncos. While Baltimore (6-61) committed one less penalty than Denver (7-51), the total yards lost from those penalties were higher than Denver.
On Saturday, the Ravens must force turnovers on defense and eliminate turnovers on offense and special teams. If Baltimore can accomplish this, it will prohibit Denver from gaining any quick swings in momentum that could potentially take the life out of Baltimore.
What is more, since Baltimore will be traveling to Sports Authority Field, they will encounter a hostile crowd that will be as loud as any in the league. One way to silence a home crowd is by creating turnovers.
Whether it is a big hit that forces a fumble or an interception, the Ravens must find a way to win the turnover battle.
Furthermore, this season, Baltimore was the second-most penalized team in the NFL, drawing 7.6 flags a game.
I am aware I am stating the obvious, but it is much harder to win games when you are constantly being penalized. It is a very simple problem Baltimore can fix.
The Ravens just need to be more disciplined this week, and I expect that to happen.