By Samuel Njoku
The odds are staked against them, and it seems that the world is against them as well. If the Ravens have any chance of defeating the Denver Broncos on Saturday, they’ll need a number of things to go right. Here are five things the Ravens have to do in order to win on Sunday.
Confuse Peyton Manning
This is the hardest thing to do and why it’s on the top of the list. Confusing Manning is difficult because he prepares unlike any quarterback in the NFL. He’s seen every blitz and coverage ever conceived by a defensive coordinator. So how do you confuse Manning? You confuse him by disguising your blitzes. The defenders can’t set their defense until the last possible second. You’ll see a lot of Manning barking orders to his offense while Ray does the same to the defense. But more than anything, you should see a defense that is moving around. No one should be standing still. Delayed blitzes and lineman dropping back into coverage is the recipe for success for a defense that has seen their fair share of battles with Manning.
Get Bernard Pierce Involved Early
Ray Rice will get his touches in this game, but the guy the Ravens will need to get going is Bernard Pierce. He’s been the one moving the chains for Baltimore recently. Pierce is definitely the hot hand right now in the backfield. The best way to defeat Manning is to keep him off the field. That requires the offense to move the chains. In that regard, Pierce may be the better option. Ray Rice is the best running back in the league in open space, but Pierce is hitting the hole harder than he is right now. Get Pierce involved and keep Manning off the field.
Protect Joe Flacco
Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil will be hunting Joe Flacco all day. It will be up to the offensive line to keep Flacco clean. When Flacco has time, he could destroy a defense with his deep ball plays to Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin, but for those plays to work, he needs time for plays to develop. That has been the story with this offense in 2012. It seems that Harbaugh finally has let McKinnie out of the dog house and placed the five best linemen on the field. That will pay huge dividends in a game that features two of the better pass rushers in all of football.
The play everyone remembers is the pick-6 in the redzone that sealed the game for Denver last month. Usually the team with the fewest turnovers wins the game. That’s especially true when going against Denver. You can’t give Manning an extra possession to work with. Let alone a possession with great field position. In order to win this game, Flacco will need to be accurate and the skill position players have to keep the ball away from the turf. The coaching staff will be preaching to the players to win the turnover battle.
Catch The Football
How many times have we seen the Ravens season end because players can’t catch the football? The Ravens receivers must challenge themselves to catch everything that gets thrown at them. No more missed opportunities in the postseason. Against a team like Denver, missed opportunities are momentum killers. Catching the football extends drives. It keeps the defense rested and Peyton Manning away from the field.
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Samuel Njoku was born and raised in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Samuel has covered the Ravens for Examiner.com since 2010. Prior to 2010, Samuel was an avid blogger and radio personality in Salisbury, MD. He can be reached for comments at SamuelN870@gmail.com. His work can be found on Examiner.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Ravens_Examiner.