Things don't get any easier for the Baltimore Ravens as they host the Green Bay Packers in Week 6. It is a big test for the Baltimore defense which has been inconsistent this year. The Ravens will not be able to match the Packers offense if it gets rolling, so the most important aspect of the game plan is to prevent Aaron Rodgers from being…well, Aaron Rodgers.
These are the keys to the game on both sides of the ball for the Ravens. If they can do all these things, they will stand a good chance of winning their 13th consecutive home game against the NFC.
Win the Time of Possession Battle to Keep Aaron Rodgers Off the Field
This starts with running the football. Hopefully, the offensive line can build on its solid run-blocking performance against the Miami Dolphins.
The Ravens had their first game with over 100 rushing yards in Week 5, but they only averaged 3.3 yards per carry. They will need to do better than that against a Packers defense that has been very good against the run this year, giving up an average of 86 yards per game on the ground.
The insertion of Eugene Monroe into the starting lineup should help in that regard. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Monroe he has been a better run blocker than Bryant McKinnie in every year except 2010.
In addition to running the ball, Joe Flacco needs to keep the chains moving on third down. Coming back home to Baltimore may be all they need to improve in that department.
Baltimore plays much better at home—especially on offense. If the Ravens can achieve some success running the football and convert on third downs, they’ll be able to sustain drives and keep Rodgers off the field.
Attack the Secondary
Green Bay is giving up 289 yards per game through the air and has been very susceptible to big plays. They are allowing the fourth-highest yards per attempt average (8.4), and opposing quarterbacks have an average passer rating of 107.2.
This is partly because they have faced four good quarterbacks so far (Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton and Matthew Stafford), but all of them have been inconsistent this year, and they’ve found success against the Packers.
Flacco could be getting Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones and Brandon Stokley back from injury, which would give him more weapons than he’s had at any point in this season.
Additionally, Tandon Doss and Deonte Thompson have both impressed in the last two weeks, so there will be opportunities against this secondary—especially down the field with the speed of Torrey Smith, Thompson and Jones on the outside.
Furthermore, Green Bay will be missing their best defensive player and most destructive pass-rusher in Clay Matthews. The Packers haven’t been able to generate much pressure with him so far, as they’re ranked as the third-worst pass rush in the league this year by Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
They will be even worse without him, so the Ravens offensive line will have no excuse for not giving Flacco enough time to make plays.
Beware of the Cobb
The Packers have three receivers who average over 80 yards per game, and any one of them can explode and have a monster day. That in itself presents a huge challenge to the Ravens secondary which has been prone to a few lapses and given up some big plays.
Of the three, Randall Cobb is the most dangerous, and he presents the biggest matchup problem because of his versatility.
Green Bay likes to move him around, and he lines up on the outside, in the slot and even out of the backfield. He’s not just a gimmick in the backfield either, as he has serious speed and can break big runs if the holes are there, just like he did against the Detroit Lions in Week 5.
David Bakhtiari seals off Ezekiel Ansah (light blue), and center Evan Dietrich-Smith pulls around (green) and blocks DeAndre Levy (No. 54).
Randall Cobb (yellow) has a huge hole to burst through, and he uses his speed to blow by Louis Delmas (No. 26, circled in red) in the open field and pick up 67 yards on the play.
He's a much bigger threat as a receiver, however, and the Packers like to get Cobb the ball in space. They use a number of different screen plays to do that, but one of the plays they’ve used repeatedly this year almost resulted in a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in Week 2.
James Jones immediately starts blocking (pink line), and Cobb runs a flat in Jones’ direction. Rodgers gets the ball to Cobb very quickly, who gets around the block and has room to run.
On this occasion, he actually gets all the way into the end zone, but he barely stepped out of bounds, and so, it resulted in a 17-yard gain instead of a 35-yard touchdown.
Get Pressure on Aaron Rodgers
It took until the fourth quarter for Terrell Suggs to do some damage against Miami, but he feasted on Jonathan Martin (the left tackle for the Dolphins) for two of his sacks.
This week, he lines up against a rookie left tackle who was forced to take over after Bryan Bulaga was lost for the year with a torn ACL.
The rest of the Green Bay O-line has been good in pass protection, all earning positive grades from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Bakhtiari has been the one weak link, earning a minus-6.4 grade and giving up the most sacks, hits and hurries on the team (subscription required).
It will take more than one player to disrupt Rodgers and make his life uncomfortable, but Suggs could, once again, be in for a multi-sack game. At the very least, his presence will be felt in the Green Bay backfield.
Prevent Aaron Rodgers from Making Plays with His Feet
Not only is Rodgers one of the best passers in the league, but he has the ability to make great plays with his legs. We saw the Ravens almost give up their late lead in Week 5, when Ryan Tannehill evaded pressure on 4th-and-10, scrambled outside the pocket and bought enough time to hit a free receiver down the field.
Tannehill showed his mobility a couple of times in that game, but Rodgers is an even bigger threat. When the play breaks down, he has no problem taking off and picking up yardage on the ground. That is a defense’s worst nightmare because big plays can occur even when the coverage is excellent.
On this play against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3, Rodgers drops back and finds that all of his receivers are closely covered (red circles).
He is very patient, but then he sees running room to his left and takes off (yellow). Rodgers is deceptively quick, and he weaves in and out of blocks to pick up 18 yards with his legs.
It’s not just scrambles that the Ravens have to account for either. He likes to get outside the pocket, extend plays and create throwing lanes, like he does on this touchdown pass to James Jones.
The matchup of James Jones against Adam “Pacman” Jones (circled in green) is the one that Rodgers wants to target on this play, and he quickly makes the decision to roll out to his left where he has a better angle to find Jones.
He routinely demonstrates excellent accuracy while throwing on the run and is very dangerous when he’s on the move.