Battle Plans against Tampa Bay

Offensive and Defensive Keys to the Victory: Offense: Last week against the Carolina Panthers, the Ravens were able to establish the pass early, but failed to open up the running game until the second half. This week, they will need to reverse their fortunes.

If the Buccaneers' defense has one weakness, it's their inability to handle power rushing teams. The Ravens, who pride themselves on running the ball up the middle on any team, will need to get Jamal Lewis the ball at least twenty times on Sunday.

Lewis had no holes to run through last week in
Carolina. Whatever long gains he had, he got it through cutting back against the grain and rushing through the pile. The Ravens' interior lineman, specifically Mike Flynn and Casey Rabach, failed to get any push up the middle to help Lewis.

Tampa, the Ravens may need to rush off the edges a little more than they did last week. Both Simeon Rice and Greg Spires are undersized defensive ends who are quick, but can be walled off. Plus, Rabach and Flynn are more adept at pulling and getting to the second level than they are at drive blocking.


Chester Taylor, the Ravens' third down back, should also be given at least five carries to help change things up. If the Ravens can establish the running game early and often, Tampa's safeties could bite on Chris Redman's playaction fakes.


Another integral key player will be tight end Todd Heap. Last week, Heap had three catches, but they were all in the first half. Heap will get his chances to snag a couple of passes in the middle of the Buccaneers' two deep zone defense, and could find himself matched up with a linebacker numerous times.


Defense: The Ravens' defensive line lost the pivotal battle up front against Carolina's underrated offensive line. They will need to stop the run against Tampa Bay at all costs this Sunday.

More importantly, the Ravens' linebackers cannot miss as many tackles as they did last week. Both Mike Alstott and Michael Pittman are shifty, power rushers that keep their feet moving all the time. They duo will definitely provide a tougher challenge than Lamar Smith did last week, and Smith was able to run for over 80 yards.


The good news for the Ravens is that they should fair much better against the Buccaneers' passing attack. Thus far, the Buccaneers have proven to have a much better run blocking line than they do a pass blocking unit. Last Sunday, the Bucs couldn't handle the Saints' inside pass rush, which was in Brad Johnson's face all day long. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will employ a lot of stunts, loops and six man rushes to try to generate the same type of havoc.


If the Ravens can successfully get to quarterback Brad Johnson, he could make a mistake or two. On the flip side, the Ravens' secondary may not have as tough a matchup against receivers Keyshawn Johnson, Keenan McCardell and Joe Jurevicius as many are anticipating.

While all three are solid route runners that make plays in the middle of the field through running slants and in routes, they don't have great deep play speed. Brad Johnson rarely looks to throw over the top, so all of his passes will likely be placed in front of the Ravens' corners.


For Johnson to successfully hit on a couple of deep passes, the Ravens' secondary will have to have some kind of breakdown in communication with each other.


Two battles you have to watch:


Keyshawn Johnson versus Chris McAlister: In last year's battle against Tampa Bay, McAlister held the trash talking Johnson to just four catches for a total of 29 yards. This Sunday, the two will likely be matched up against each other frequently. Using his size and straight line speed, McAlister should be able to put up a good fight against Johnson. Still, McAlister has been inconsistent and needs to prove his worth with another solid outing against the Pro Bowl receiver.


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