Pounce, Poke, Punish: Three keys for the Ravens to take down the Colts
How do the Ravens beat the Colts? Here’s how:
The Ravens had the magic formula to take down the rival Steelers last week, but turnovers, penalties and missed opportunities doomed them at the end. We have found another alliterative formula for the Ravens to use this week against the Indianapolis Colts, and we think it can provide another road map to victory.
Pounce. Poke. Punish.
And as an older fan of professional football in Baltimore, let me state emphatically that any punishment that can be dealt to the Colts and the Polian family (football-related only, obviously), I am here for. So, let’s take a closer look.
The Colts are getting good play as of late from their seasoned quarterback, Philip Rivers. We know Rivers is a fierce competitor — an annoyingly fierce competitor, many would say. And we know he’s been around the block a few times. He isn’t going to get as mesmerized by the Ravens’ blitz and coverage combinations as some younger signal-callers might.
But we also know this about Rivers: He gets aggressive when blitzed, trying to make big plays, and he coughs up the ball sometimes because of it. The Ravens are particularly good at this. They do a good job of slipping into “empty” spots in zones and getting their hands on balls, and they do a good job of confusing quarterbacks into holding the ball a second later, allowing the potential for strip-sacks and deflected passes.
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The Ravens must pounce at these opportunities. The difference between dog-poo Rivers and Hall-of-Fame Rivers often depends on teams pouncing on these opportunities or not. The Ravens must be pouncers in this game, particularly with so many questions on defense with injuries and COVID-19 concerns.
The Colts have a very good defense — and it probably wouldn’t be wrong to consider it one of the league’s elite units. They rank second in fewest total yards, and rushing yards, allowed per game and fifth in fewest points given up per game. Darius Leonard is a stud at linebacker, and they have a formidable line, led by DeForest Buckner. Yes, the Ravens pounded the Steelers terrific defense last week on the ground, and they could very well do that to the Colts, too.
But they also showed last week that they need something other than the run game to beat good teams. This week, the Ravens need to poke around the defense a little bit with some safe, yard-gaining plays that don’t just come from the run game.
I look for the Ravens to try to get Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle more involved this week, with another helping from Willie Snead — who I believe is their best option right now to fill that seam role that left with the trade of Hayden Hurst. I’d also like to see an end-around or two with Devin Duvernay and Marquise Brown — even if it is a fake, just to keep the Colts having to deal with the motion. They need to change things around sometimes.
They need to poke around the defense.
The Colts have a physical team, with a bruising offensive line and a hard-hitting defense. The Ravens need to show them who the more physical team is, and usually is. They must punish the Colts players with hard hits, fierce blocking and that general bully behavior that coach John Harbaugh loves to generate in Baltimore.
Yes, continue to batter the Colts with the run game, mix around those poking plays to keep them off balance and go for a “kill shot” or two downfield. I actually wouldn’t be surprised to see a deep one to Miles Boykin this week.
But punish them. Hit until the whistle, block until the play is over and get bodies on Rivers every legal chance they get. It’s delicate, because penalties have been biting this team the past few weeks, but it can’t stop them from doing what Ravens teams are known for: punishing opponents.
• Miles Boykin does get a deep one this game, and finishes with more than 60 yards on two catches.
• Yannick Ngakoue gets a sack and a half this week, combining with his old running mate Calais Campbell on a big third-down stop.
• DeShon Elliott gets a defensive touchdown late.
• Lamar Jackson completes more than 70 percent of his passes, runs for more than 60 yards and has no turnovers in a nice, clean performance.
Ravens 27 Colts 19