Offensive Game Plan
1.) Running draws, delay running plays: One of the issues that the Ravens will have to deal with right off the bat against the Eagles is facing its high pressure, attacking defense. Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson uses an assortment of blitz packages to augment his pass rush. Plus, Johnson has a front four that is deep, and can get pressure on the quarterback without needing help from the back seven players. With so much flexibility, Johnson's schemes are that much harder for an offense to counter.
One of the plays that can be used successfully to beat the blitz is a draw or delay running play out of a spread formation, especially on third down, when the defense is prone to bringing extra defenders to get to the quarterback. The Ravens have used the draw play sparingly, but in the couple of instances that they have run the ball out of this setup, the backs (either Taylor or Lewis) have been able to gain a good chunk of yardage up field.
2.) Using the fade route: Although the duo of Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard has been solid so far for the Eagles, the two cornerbacks have had the benefit of playing with a tremendous pass rush in front of them, so they have not been tested that often. Specifically, when either player is isolated in man-to-man coverage situations.
In passing situations against the Eagles, the Raven wideouts will have opportunities to exploit either player, because the Eagles will use a heavy blitz, leaving Sheppard and Brown on an island. Both Brown and Sheppard are undersized, so ideally, the Ravens would try to get their bigger targets like Randy Hymes, Travis Taylor, Todd Heap or Clarence Moore running fade routes on the outside against the two corners.
3.): Keeping the game plan simple: In a game against the Eagles, it is easy for an offense to get lulled into thinking that it needs to be aggressive and attack in order to keep up with Philadelphia's quick strike, high powered offense. However, the best way to keep the Eagles' offense grounded is to eat up the clock, which is something the Ravens do well.
Obviously, the big key will be to establish a solid and consistent ground attack against a suspect Eagles' rush defense. With Jonathan Ogden being out, the coaches will need to be versatile when it comes to calling the run plays; there needs to be a mix of different plays run out of different formations to keep the Eagles off balance. Considering that Orlando Brown is playing so well, the Ravens may need to run the ball more behind the right side of the line.
Overall, the Ravens will need to keep the offense tight and conservative. Winning the field position battle, and not turning the ball over will be paramount, because the Ravens defense will not be able to consistently shut down the Eagles' offense.
Defensive Game Plan
1.) Staying in Nickle: With Brian Westbrook being out, the Ravens will not face an Eagles' attack that is as multi-dimensional as it normally is. Then again, even with Westbrook in the lineup, the Eagles are a pass first team. Although the Eagles will not completely abandon its running game against Baltimore, it is unlikely that they will rely on it to move the ball against the Ravens' 3-4 defense. Aside from seeing some changeup running plays on passing downs, the Ravens should prepare to defend the short passing game, which Eagles' offensive coordinator uses as an extension of his ground attack.
Against the Ravens' base defense, Childress will likely look to spread the field using the three-wide, one tight end and one back formation. This is perhaps the Eagles' toughest formation to defend, as Terrell Owens, Todd Pinkston, Freddie Mitchell and L.J. Smith are all dangerous receivers.
The Ravens will need to primarily stay in a nickel formation to match-up against the Eagles spread passing attack. That means Deion Sanders will need to be on the field more often, just as he was last week against Buffalo. Being in a nickel formation also means that the Ravens may need to slide Terrell Suggs to the defensive end spot more often.
2.) Bracket coverage against Owens: One of the keys for why the Ravens had so much success in shutting down Terrell Owens in last year's match-up against the 49ers (while Owens was with San Francisco) was due to the play of Ed Reed. Reed stayed true to his deep zone coverage responsibilities, shifting with either Chris McAlister or Gary Baxter to help cover Owens on vertical routes.
The same type of bracket coverage should be used to slow down Owens on Sunday. As many other defenses have tried, but have been unsuccessful, the Ravens must force all of the other Eagle weapons but Owens to burn them.
3.) Containing McNabb: You could argue that aside from Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb has been the best quarterback in the NFL. McNabb has honed his accuracy, coverage reading and mechanics to play at the highest level he has played at before. In addition, McNabb is still a dangerous runner out of the pocket, which makes the task of containing him all that more challenging.
That said; the Ravens defense has a nice track record against mobile quarterbacks, because the front seven plays with speed and discipline. Against Philadelphia's offense, it will be imperative for the oncoming rushers to stay in their lanes and not run past McNabb, allowing him to step up in the pocket and run through an open crease. Tackling McNabb cleanly will also be of importance, as he is not an easy player to bring down in the open field.
However, perhaps the toughest aspect of defending the former top five draft pick is keeping him from converting key pass attempts right before he crosses the line of scrimmage. The Ravens in coverage will need to stay with the receivers at all times, not allowing them to break off their routes successfully in order to come back to McNabb. If a linebacker or defensive back is caught in a position where he has to decide whether to let McNabb cross the line and run, or pass the ball, letting McNabb run is the better move, because he can move the ball further down the field by passing it.
One-on-One Match-up to Watch
Terrell Owens versus Ray Lewis: Okay, so maybe this is not technically a one-on-one match-up worth watching, considering that the two stars will not consistently line up against one another. However, with all the hype surrounding their verbal sparring matches through the summer, this has become the "encounter" to watch. With Owens being a receiver that runs his patterns over the middle of the field, one should be prepared to see him face Lewis, who mans that territory when he drops into zone coverage. Lewis is a tough player to shake loose against, because he plays with such great technique, takes great angles to the ball and rarely misses a tackle. It is difficult to contain Owens in the open field, because he is tough to bring down, and uses an array of moves to get past a defender that is in his way.
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