Dev's Battle Plans: Ravens at Bears

Every week, long time Ravens Insider site staffer and all-round Ravens guru Dev Panchwagh will break down the Ravens' strategy for the upcoming game. This week the Ravens visit the Chicago Bears.

Offensive Keys:

 

1.) Attacking Urlacher: The Chicago Bears have gotten back to the formula of channeling the defensive action back to All-Pro middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Defensive tackles Tommie Harris and Ian Scott have been able to occupy blockers, enabling Urlacher to tackle ball carriers near or behind the line-of-scrimmage. When Urlacher is kept clean, he is a force to be reckoned with.

 

By the same token, Urlacher struggles when he must defeat a block to get to the ball carrier. He does not look to take on a blocker head on; he looks to move around the blocker to make a stop. In addition, if Urlacher is blocked enough times during the course of a game, he will wear down.


Clearly, the focus of the offensive game-plan for the Ravens is to get a hat on Urlacher. In order to accomplish this goal, the interior line must play with cohesiveness and coordination in order to keep Harris and Scott occupied so a guard or fullback is free to chip at Urlacher on running plays.

 

2.) Picking up the blitz: As blocking Urlacher is necessary in order for the running game to get going, blocking Urlacher on passing plays is equally important. Urlacher has been a dynamic blitzer in the Bears' scheme. He has already recorded six sacks in five games.

 

The Ravens will need to keep an extra blocker or two in the pocket to pick-up Urlacher or any of the Bears' blitzing linebackers, especially on third-down.

 

3.) Passing the ball early to set-up the run: One of the noticeable changes the coaches made in the offensive game-plan versus Cleveland was the use of more pass plays on first or second-down. The Ravens have traditionally stuck to running the ball on first and second-down in order to set-up a manageable third-down conversion, but defenses have taken away the Ravens' running game on first and second-down, leading to many third-and-long conversion situations for the offense to deal with. However, the offense did a nice job of picking up enough yards in the passing game, especially in the first-half last week, to set-up third-and-short conversions.

Wright logged 19 pass attempts in the first-half of the Cleveland game and it would not be a surprise to see him attempt as many passes in the first-half against Chicago. The Ravens need to loosen the Bears' run defense in order to create bigger lanes for Chester Taylor and Jamal Lewis to crash through. If Wright can be efficient early in the ball-game, the Ravens will have the balance needed to attack a stingy Chicago defense.

 

Defensive Keys:

 

1.) Double-teaming Muhsin Muhammad: Even with Ed Reed out of the Ravens' line-up, the Ravens will need to use the free safety to help cover the deep half of the field. Specifically, Chad Williams (who is replacing Reed) will need to be used in coverage to help whichever cornerback is lined up against receiver Muhsin Muhammad.

Muhammad is the Bears' only viable threat in the passing game and Kyle Orton's favorite target. He is a big, physical receiver who is very difficult to defend on virtually any outside route, whether it is intermediate or deep. Muhammad must not be allowed to get free down the field. If the Bears have any success throwing the football, the onus of production must fall on rookie receiver Mark Bradley to succeed.

 

2.) Contain the outside: Despite being projected to be nothing more than the incumbent back who is keeping the seat warm for rookie Cedric Benson, starting tailback Thomas Jones has been a dominant runner in his first five starts. Jones has already gained over 500 yards and has ripped off four carries which have covered 20 yards or more.


The Ravens must not allow Jones to get passed the first line of defense. To stop Jones, the Raven defenders have to play disciplined football. The Bears will look to spring Jones loose off the edges by using inside runs which will cut off of either the right or left side. Jones is adept at allowing his blocks to develop before he makes a definitive cut, so the Raven linebackers must be equally adept at taking proper angles to the ball, and maintain their gaps in order to allow the defensive line to stop Jones behind the line-of-scrimmage while he waits for his blocks to develop.

 

3.) Baiting Orton: The best scenario for the Baltimore defense is to place young Orton in a lot of third-and-long conversion situations. If Orton is forced to pass in these situations, the Ravens' pass-rush may be too much of a match for Chicago's steady offensive line. Without the threat of a running game to account for, the Ravens can play games at the line-of-scrimmage and force Orton to make the wrong pre-snap reads. In addition, if Orton is pressured, he will rush through his progressions and force the ball into a tight spot.

 

One-on-one Match-up to Watch: Muhsin Muhammad versus Chris McAlister

Dev Panchwagh is a long-time member of the Ravens Insider staff.  Talk to him about this article on the RavensInsider message boards where he posts under the super-secret ID 'dev21'.


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