Ravens vs. Bengals: Breaking Down Baltimore's Game Plan

Shehan Peiris@@shehan_peiris_Correspondent IIIDecember 26, 2013

Jan 1, 2012; Cincinnati, OH USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, left, is hugged by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, right, at Paul Brown Stadium. The Ravens won 24-16. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens travel to Cincinnati for what might be their last game of the 2013 season. The playoffs are still a very real possibility, but Baltimore no longer controls its own destiny. While it may be tough to focus on the game at hand (and keep their eyes off the scoreboard of the other AFC games), all the Ravens can do is handle their business, and that means beating the Cincinnati Bengals.

Here are a few things to watch out for in the quest for the playoffs.

Giovani Bernard, the All-Purpose Back

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 08: Giovani Bernard #25 of the Cincinnati Bengals catches a pass during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts  at Paul Brown Stadium on December 8, 2013 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When these teams met in Week 10, Giovani Bernard accumulated 95 total yards and a touchdown. Containing the rookie's dynamic playmaking abilities will be a priority for the Ravens defense, and the key is to focus on both his skills as a runner and as a receiver.

Versatile Threat
Rushing YardsRushing TDsReceptionsReceiving YardsReceiving TDs

Bernard can make game-changing plays, so keeping him quiet will go a long way toward a Ravens victory. He's a checkdown option for Andy Dalton, but the Bengals draw up a lot of screens that are designed to get him the ball in space so he can make defenders miss (like on this reception in Week 16):

Kyle Newport/Bleacher Report

A.J. Green vs. Jimmy Smith

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 1:  A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals prepares to head onto the field before their game against the San Diego Chargers on December 1, 2013 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Head coach John Harbaugh has been vocal about his respect for A.J. Green, calling him the best receiver in the NFL. Now Coach Harbaugh needs to figure out how he's going to cover one of the best receivers in the league.

The Ravens probably won't make Jimmy Smith shadow Green like he did Calvin Johnson, but it's certainly something to consider. If we see it happen on Sunday, it might be a sign that Smith is taking over as the Ravens' shutdown corner.

More likely, however, is that we'll see different cornerbacks on Green throughout the game. The former Georgia receiver torched Baltimore for 151 yards and a touchdown (on the Hail Mary play at the end of regulation), so keeping Green under wraps is a priority for defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

Get Creative With Blitzes

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 10:  Quarterback Andy Dalton #14 of the Cincinnati Bengals is sacked by outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil #58 of the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of the Ravens 20-17 overtime win at M&T Bank Stadium on November 10, 2013
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Like most quarterbacks, Dalton has struggled when the pass rush has gotten to him early and often. As a result, Pees needs to release the hounds early in the game and unleash his full arsenal of blitzes in an effort to get to Dalton.

Dalton's Worst 2 Games of the Year
OpponentSacks AllowedYardsTDsINTsPasser Rating
Miami Dolphins53380355.4
Baltimore Ravens52742352,2

The Ravens sacked Dalton five times in Week 10, and it was one of his worst games of the year. If the pass rush can bring down the "Red Rifle," Baltimore will be able to keep him off-balance and force turnovers.


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