Ravens-Colts: 5 keys to the game

Every week, prior to gametime, we give you our 5 keys to the game. 5 things the Ravens need to do to win. This week, what needs to be done to contain Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

1. Confuse and pressure Peyton Manning.
There's a blueprint for defeating the Indianapolis Colts, but it's a highly difficult plan to follow. How to confuse a quarterback who's essentially a football savant? The New England Patriots have been the main defense that's flustered Manning over the past two years. They have run unusual fronts (one defensive lineman, five linebackers) and disguised coverage schemes to bait him into interceptions. Last season, the Ravens limited Manning to one touchdown pass by staying in their dime package (six defensive backs). It's safe to say defensive coordinator Rex Ryan will try a mixture of aggressive 46 alignments to generate pressure with Terrell Suggs along with safeties Ed Reed and Will Demps and flood zones with extra defensive backs. It's the Ravens' best shot to contain the reigning Most Valuable Player in the league. They have the personnel to stay with the Colts on defense, but can they keep the score low enough for the offense to gain and sustain a lead?

2. Protect Kyle Boller from pass rushers, and himself.
The Ravens obviously need to avoid turnovers, and Boller committed five in four preseason games. He's prone to staring down his primary read and at this point likely can't be trusted to throw the slant pass, which was often picked off in practice and games last month. Swing passes, safe out routes and a lot of handoffs are likely the best approach to protect Boller from being hit in the back by Dwight Freeney and avoid a short field or touchdown caused by a turnover.

3. Establish the running game.
Jamal Lewis isn't going to play a full game after only six carries in the preseason, but his workload will definitely increase. He says he's feeling much better and will platoon with Chester Taylor, who led the NFL in the preseason with 270 yards on 39 carries. The Colts ranked 24th against the run last season and remain susceptible to ball control offenses as the linebacking corps is one of the worst in the league and the defensive line doesn't have any players who weigh more than 300 pounds. The Ravens hope they can use their superior size and hard-running backs to wear the Colts out.

4. Account for Edgerrin James.
It's hard to ignore the versatile All-Pro runner, especially since he gained more than 2,000 all-purpose yards last season, but some teams make this mistake by concentrating so much on Manning. The Ravens plan to shadow him with All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, one of the few defenders swift and smart enough to stick with James.

5. Contain Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Brandon Stokley.
The Colts' ultra-productive trio combined for 231 receptions, 3,400 yards and 37 touchdowns last season. It's likely that Chris McAlister will draw Harrison, who beat him for a touchdown last season, with Samari Rolle checking Wayne and nickel backs Deion Sanders and Dale Carter matching up with Stokley most of the time.

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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