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Get running back Stevan Ridley 20 carries
Stevan Ridley has carried the football 20 or more times in a game in six contests for the Patriots this season—all were wins. In the four losses the Patriots suffered during the 2012 season, Ridley averaged 14 carries at under 3.9 yards per attempt.
The Ravens defense has played worse versus the run in their two playoff games, allowing 138.5 rushing yards on average. This is opposed to allowing 122.8 yards a game during the regular season.
Both the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos were able to get their rushing attacks going against the Ravens. If the Patriots can get Ridley over 20 carries, the Patriots offense will be hard for the Ravens to contain.
Patriots need to run the ball behind right tackle Sebastian Vollmer and right guard Dan Connolly. They also need to attack outside linebacker Paul Kruger. Kruger is having a monster postseason as a pass-rusher, but he can be driven out of the play as a run defender.
Get tight end Aaron Hernandez involved all day in the passing game
Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is a future Hall of Fame player, but he is no match for Hernandez in coverage. The loss of the Patriots' other tight end, Rob Gronkowski, to a broken forearm will allow Hernandez to be more of a focal point of the offense.
With the secondary of the Ravens focused on stopping receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, who torched them in Week 3, Brady needs to look to Hernandez over the middle of the field. Hernandez has the speed and size to get open against a linebacker corps that has been susceptible to the passing game all season long.
With the safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard having to help the cornerbacks with Welker and Lloyd, Hernandez should be able to find the holes in the Ravens' zone defense. He may not average over 10 yards a catch, but if he has over 100 yards receiving, the Patriots will win the game with ease.
Play basic coverages
In the Ravens' losses this season, the opposing defense has taken running back Ray Rice out of the game and forced quarterback Joe Flacco to win the game on his own. In the six losses on the season for the Ravens, Rice only gained 383 yards.
If the Patriots defense can contain and control Rice with their front seven, this will allow safeties Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty to play deeper and read Flacco’s eyes. Head coach Bill Belichick is known as a defensive coach, but in this matchup, less may be more.
Flacco is not the type of quarterback to make a lot of plays on the move, and his accuracy goes way down outside the pocket. If the Patriots can keep the football out of Rice’s hands, the Patriots should be able to win without using any run stunts or run blitzes.
When Flacco drops back to pass, the Patriots will not need to blitz much either. This will allow the linebackers to widen their coverage responsibilities and take away passing lanes from Flacco. As a result, Gregory and McCourty can easily defend the long passes that Flacco will force. The Patriots need to get at least one interception to win this game.
Rally to tackle returner Jacoby Jones hard
Jones has single-handedly won two games for the Ravens this year. His abilities as a punt and kick returner made him a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro this season.
Jones averaged 30.7 yards a kickoff return this season and had two touchdowns. The Patriots' special teams units have not played poorly this season, but they have had lapses, like the long return allowed versus the San Francisco 49ers.
Jones has the ability to score anytime he touches the football. On kickoffs, kicker Stephen Gostkowski needs to kick the football out of the back of the end zone. On punts, where Jones has shown the propensity to fumble, special teams aces Niko Koutouvides and Matthew Slater need to get in the face of Jones and force him into making poor decisions.
One big special teams play can mean the difference in this game.