Offensive Game Plan
1.) Using play-action on first down: Last season, the Dallas Cowboys had the top pass defense in the league. This season, the Cowboys' pass defense is ranked in the bottom half of the league, and was thoroughly dissected by the Philadelphia offense on Monday night.
The Eagles were able to hit on vertical plays against Dallas by getting the safeties moving out of their coverage assignments. Specifically, in a couple of instances, starters Roy Williams and Tony Dixon were baited into coming up the field to honor Donovan McNabb's play-fake.
Obviously, with the Ravens' ability to run the football, the Cowboys will be more aggressive, and force Kyle Boller to complete throws against man-to-man coverage. On first down especially, the Cowboys will likely deploy safety Roy Williams, who is built like a linebacker, into the box as another run stopper. It is on this down where the Ravens can take advantage of Dallas' Cover One coverage scheme, and attack the Cowboys vertically using the play-action passing game. With everyone eyeing Jamal Lewis' movements in the backfield, young Dallas corners (Terrence Newman and Jacques Reeves) may be vulnerable to being beaten deep by the Ravens' receivers.
2.) Getting the ball to the big targets: Expounding on the point about passing the ball down the field, the Ravens must also get the ball to their taller wideouts: Clarence Moore and Randy Hymes. At 6'3, Hymes seems longer than his height because he has a long wingspan, and has the strong hands to wrestle the ball away from a cornerback in a jump ball situation. Moore not only possesses the length that Hymes has, but he is three inches taller. Moore is a tough receiver to contain in jump ball situations, because he does a nice job of attacking the football while it is at the top of its flight.
Again, with Dallas likely to use more bump and run coverage against the outside receivers, the Ravens may have success attacking the Cowboys down the field using these two as the primary targets, while Kevin Johnson and Travis Taylor work the hash marks on inside routes. Another thing to watch for is Terrence Newman or Jacques Reeves committing a penalty or two, as both corners are prone to hitting or bumping receivers off their routes after they get passed the five yard contact area.
Defensive Game Plan
1.) Attacking Testeverde: Although Dallas' offense has sunken around quarterback Vinny Testeverde, he is not the primary reason for their failures. The long toothed quarterback still possesses a great arm, and has the zip to place the ball in any area of the field. That said; Testeverde is an immobile pocket passer. Behind a leaky offensive line, he is susceptible to getting knocked around, which is precisely what the Ravens need to do in order to disrupt Dallas' passing game.
Employing a heavy blitz rush is perhaps Baltimore's best strategy against Dallas, even with Chris McAlister possibly being out for the game. If the Ravens let Testeverde get into a rhythm, he has the capability to pick them apart.
2.) Defending the trick plays: One of the things that Dallas head coach Bill Parcells is known for doing is to use trickery to catch a defense off guard. Whether that means using a reverse play, a halfback pass or the option, Parcells leaves no stone unturned when he delves deep into his playbook. It will be interesting to see if Parcells bothers to try and fool a Ravens' defense that has the recovery speed, and diagnostic skills to keep themselves from getting beat on double-branched plays.
One of the chief reasons that a trick play may work is because a defense usually has little to no time to practice against it, which is why each Raven defender must stick to their assignments at all times, instead of trying to make a play for someone else.
3.) Keeping an eye on Richie Anderson: Richie Anderson is one of the few dependable players that Bill Parcells can turn to in his offense. Anderson may not be especially talented in any one area of the game, but he is a player that brings versatility to the game. Every time that Anderson touches the ball, he has the ability to run, catch or pass the football. Where he is particularly tough to contain is in the passing game, because he is an adept route runner that can line up as an outside receiver.
The Raven linebackers have been hurt in coverage situations over the past few games, especially in the middle of the field, so look for the Dallas' offensive coaches to use Anderson as much as possibly against someone like Ed Hartwell or Terrell Suggs.
One-on-One Battle to Watch
Flozell Adams versus Terrell Suggs: As was the case last week, this is another match-up that pits two of the best players at their respective positions against each other. Suggs' impact as a pass rusher has cooled down over the past couple of games, but he still remains a force, especially when he takes off out of a three-point stance. It took some time and motivation for Flozell Adams to hone his technique, but since he made the full commitment to round out his game, Adams has developed into one of the top tier blindside tackles in the league. Getting past Adams is tough, because he is an agile wide body that uses his wingspan to keep defenders at bay. He is also tough to bull rush.