Here are the three things the Baltimore Ravens must do to win on Sunday:
The Ravens’ season took a bit of a shot to the groin on Sunday night in a hard-to-swallow loss to the New England Patriots. But there are still seven games left in this 2020 season, and still plenty of time for the Ravens to get back on track and geared up for a playoff run. It starts this week against the dream-busting Tennessee Titans.
We know how last season ended. We ALL know how last season ended — with a resounding thud against these Titans in Baltimore, with Earl Thomas serving as a meme device to Derrick Henry. This year, both teams are fighting for playoff spots, and this week’s matchup could go a long way in determining how this season plays out.
Yes, the Ravens are shorthanded due to a pretty drastic rash of injuries. And, yes, they seem to be missing a gear on offense they had much of last season. But all is not lost. And there is a clear, three-pronged approach the Ravens can take to getting a big win this weekend against the Titans: Power, Protect, Press.
I’ll explain it.
Losing Nick Boyle hurts a ton, especially in sealing the edges for those outside runs that can generate big plays for this Ravens offense. But the Titans are not particularly good at stopping the run this season and are surrendering more than 120 yards per game on the ground. I believe the Ravens can line up with big formations — maybe adding D.J. Fluker to the end of the line in that third tackle look, and using Pat Ricard in more of a traditional fullback role.
Push it down the middle behind a pulling Bradley Bozeman with Gus Edwards and Mark Ingram to soften up that defense, and sprinkle in enough JK Dobbins with option pitches behind a leading Ricard to make the defenders have to make decisions on the fly. This should open up RPO possibilities as the game goes on, as well.
With the injuries up front, protection becomes a major key. Fortunately, the Titans are not a great pass-rushing unit, only generating about 1.2 sacks per game, tied for third-worst in the entire NFL. Ricard needs to get a lot of snaps this game, particularly with the loss of Boyle. Keep him in as a blocker, wherever he lines up, and look for those short, quick passes we saw from Jackson in the second half against the Colts.
I would use Marquise Brown, Devin Duvernay, and Mark Andrews in these short routes, allowing them to catch and turn upfield while sprinkling in enough Miles Boykin in a blocking role to allow him to slip upfield in play-action opportunities two or three times a game. Use these receivers in what they do best.
The defensive line has been ravaged horribly by injuries, and those dreams of generating pressure with a four-man rush have gone away, basically. This is not a game for four-man fronts anyway — not with Derrick Henry toting the ball. The Ravens need to crowd the box with eight- and nine-man fronts if necessary, with lots of run blitzes into the gaps. Use Patrick Queen as a missile, not a reactor.
This requires those corners of the Ravens — Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Jimmy Smith — to get in the faces of the receivers they are covering and jam them hard. Play-action from the Titans scares me a ton, particularly with the Ravens needing to sell out so hard against the run this week. The corners need to disrupt that timing from the start, and they have the guys to do it.
• Gus Edwards goes over the century mark on the ground this week, and the Ravens muster more than 200 yards rushing as a team.
• Lamar Jackson has an efficient passing game, completing more than 65 percent of his passes for more than 8 yards an attempt.
• The Ravens give up two passes of more than 40 yards due to their aggressive game plan.
Ravens 26 Titans 23