By Samuel Njoku
The Ravens shocked the world when the defeated the Denver Broncos last Saturday. Now they head to Foxborough to battle the red hot Patriots. If the Ravens hope to cool them off and earn a trip to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to play championship football. Here are five things that need to go right for them to shock the world one more time.
Protect Joe Flacco
A big reason why the Ravens were so successful last week is because of the offensive lines unbelievable pass blocking. Going up against Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore held the vaunted Broncos defense to just one sack. Flacco was able to stand in the pocket for the majority of the game. His ability to the move the ball down the field so effectively is directly correlated with the play of the offensive line.
Against the Patriots defense, the Ravens won’t have as much problems moving the football. Analysts mention how improved the Patriots defense is, but they remain very beatable. If the offensive line has the same performance they had against Denver, New England will have their hands full.
Be Patient with Ray Rice
Bill Belichick is a great NFL head coach. What makes him so great is his ability to take away the opposing team’s best weapon. In this case, that weapon is Ray Rice. The Patriots will take their chances with Joe Flacco because they know Brady can hold his own in a shootout. But if there is one thing the Patriots can ill afford to have, it’s Ray Rice running for huge chunks of yards up and down the field.
Expect the Patriots to focus their efforts on taking Ray Rice out of the game. Jim Caldwell will need to do a great job of getting him the football anyway. Even if it’s only for 2 or 3 yards a play. Keep the Patriots honest. Not only does it wear down the opposing defense, but it also gives Flacco the ability to work with the play action pass. Caldwell did a great job with Rice against Denver. His approach shouldn’t change against the Patriots.
Improve Clock Management
If there has been one knock on John Harbaugh in his tenure as the head football coach for the Baltimore Ravens, it has been his subpar clock management. Against the Patriots, it is easy to get outcoached if you aren’t doing everything right. Calling timeouts and throwing challenge flags at the appropriate time will be very important against New England. You can’t give this team any extra opportunities to put points on the board. Use your timeouts when you have to in the first half. In the second half, hold the timeouts until the end of the fourth quarter. This also means Flacco has to be aware of the clock. The Ravens were forced to call a timeout against Denver because Flacco wasn’t paying attention to the play-clock, and it almost cost them the game.
Defense Must Step Their Game Up
Lost in the madness that occurred in the game against the Broncos was how well the defense played. They held Peyton Manning to only three touchdowns and scored a touchdown of their own. The Ravens will need similar success against Tom Brady. Similar to Manning, Brady doesn’t push the ball downfield too often. That means the corners of Baltimore have to play fundamentally sound football. There aren’t too many athletic receivers on the Patriots roster that can kill you with speed. But receivers like Welker run some of the best routes in the NFL. The Ravens have to play smart football and force 3 and outs in a hostile environment. That is easier said than done.
Special Teams Should Forget Bad Day
The Ravens allowed two returns for touchdowns that kept Denver in the game. That can’t happen against the Patriots. Expect Special Teams Coach Jerry Rosburg to get into the faces of his players all week in order to push them into a better showing against New England. Don’t expect to see huge plays from the Patriots on special teams this week, but Jacoby Jones may have success against a unit that gave up a couple of big runs last week against Houston.
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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.