Ravens vs. Titans Week 2 Preview: 5 Keys to a Baltimore Win
The Baltimore Ravens season opening 35-7 dismantling of the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers was quite possibly the most impressive display of football ever seen in the fair city of Baltimore.
Now, the Ravens set their sights on the Tennessee Titans. With the exception of Chris Johnson and Kenny Britt, the Titans lack star power. That does not mean the Ravens can take this game for granted.
The Titans are a scrappy team coming off a 6-10 season in which they lost four games by less than a touchdown. With the NFL's fastest running back in Johnson, they have a chance to pull the upset if everything goes their way on Sunday.
Here is what the Ravens must do to get out of Tennessee with a win.
The Secondary Must Keep Kenny Britt in Front of Them
The Ravens secondary did an excellent job bottling up the Steelers deep threat, Mike Wallace. Doing the same against Kenny Britt will be just as challenging.
Britt dealt with his offseason issues and had a huge game against the Jaguars, capping his 136 yard day with an 80-yard touchdown catch. In his young career, Britt has averaged over 18 yards per catch. Once Britt gets behind an opposing secondary, he has as good a chance to score as the best receivers in the league.
Britt is going to get his catches on Sunday. The Ravens cannot let him wiggle free on a go route. If the throw is on the money, Britt will not be caught once he is behind the secondary.
With the exception of Britt, the Titans do not have a strong receiving corps. The Ravens will be able to focus their full pass defense on the Titans best receiver. Ed Reed providing help over the top should be enough to keep Britt from shaking loose for a long bomb.
Turn Up the Heat on Hasselback
Terrell Suggs was basically unblockable against the Steelers. His three sacks and two forced fumbles were some of the biggest plays in the blowout. With Suggs breathing down his neck, Ben Roethlisberger was never able to get comfortable in the pocket. The three interceptions thrown by Big Ben were just as much a result of the pass rush as the secondary playing well.
The defensive line could have the same impact against Tennessee. Titans quarterback Matt Hasselback is not nearly as mobile as Roethlisberger. He will not be able to prolong plays by scrambling around the pocket.
Get a Repeat Performance from the Offensive Line
Going into the regular season, it was thought that the offensive line would be the unit that held the Ravens back in 2011. After their excellent performance against the Steelers, it is clear that the group has come a long way since the preseason.
The addition of Bryant McKinnie at left tackle may have been the catalyst for the unit's rapid transformation. Ray Rice repeatedly gashed the left side of the Steelers defense for huge gains. The tone for the game was set by his 36-yard carry on the game's first play.
In all, the line paved the way for an unheard of 170 rushing yards against the Steelers. Joe Flacco was sacked only once and hit three other times. The time he had in the pocket was one of the biggest reasons he was able to pick apart the Steelers secondary.
The Titans defensive front is not nearly as good as the Steelers. The offensive line cannot rest on their laurels, but the pressure is now off. It is clear that what was once perceived as a weakness is actually a strength for the Ravens.
Keep the Playbook Open
When Joe Flacco dropped back to pass on Sunday, more often than not, he was looking to take a shot down the field. His downfield passing resulted in a very good day for Anquan Boldin. It also helped open the field for the rushing attack.
Although Lee Evans did not catch a pass, it is clear that the Ravens offense has undergone some major changes over the offseason. The days of Flacco being content to dump the ball off for a five or six yard play are gone. He is looking to let it fly in 2011.
The Ravens need to prove their Week 1 offensive showing was not a one hit wonder. They must keep the throttle wide open and attack the Titans with all of the firepower they showed off against the Steelers.
Bottle Up Chris Johnson
Chris Johnson is the most explosive running back in the NFL. He makes busting a 50-yard run seem commonplace. To really impress us these days, he needs to score from at least 80 yards out.
Even that doesn't seem so unlikely when considering the mind blowing speed of Chris Johnson.
Watching a Chris Johnson highlight video is enough to make Ravens fans realize that the Titans have a chance to win every game they play. Johnson is most dangerous when he breaks the grasp of the first tackler. Defenses have been able to stop Johnson by gang tackling.
The Ravens pride themselves on flying to the ball on defense. If they tackle like they did against the Steelers, Johnson will not break off a huge run. The key to stopping a running back like Chris Johnson is to prevent the big plays. Johnson will get his yards. The Ravens cannot allow him to pick them up in huge chunks, especially when given a chance to bring him down in the backfield.