Battle Plans against Cleveland

Offensive and Defensive Keys to the Victory: Offense: The Ravens' rush offense showed signs of life last week against Denver, gaining over 80 yards on the ground. But against Cleveland, Jamal Lewis and whoever else gets the chance to carry the ball will have to thoroughly control the game.

To do this, the Ravens' offensive line might need to take a page out of Cleveland's book and run off tackle to open up the cutback lanes. So far, the running lanes up the middle haven't been opening up enough for the Ravens to just plow straight ahead every time.

However, if the Browns feel threatened by Lewis' ability to dominate the game, they will drop strong safety Robert Griffith in the box to help contain him.
Griffith is a hard hitter that has a nose for the ball, but if he is up at the line of scrimmage, the Ravens must attack him by using misdirection runs and screen passes.


Without a sound running game to keep the Browns honest, the Ravens' pass protection could crumble. The Browns' defensive line is among the best in football, sporting top notch players like Gerard Warren and Courtney Brown. Warren especially is a guy that Mike Flynn and Bennie Anderson will need to control. Last year, the 300-pound defensive tackle used his quickness and power to scrap through the middle every time.


Chris Redman will likely have a tough time throwing the deep pass, as the Browns don't take a lot of gambles in coverage. This is probably a good thing because the Browns will give up some yardage underneath, which Redman can exploit if given time.


However, you can bet that tight end Todd Heap will be blanketed the whole game, perhaps even double teamed. That means that someone from the wide receiver core has to step up and make plays after the catch.


Defense: The Ravens can all but forget about the Browns trying to run at them straight up. They will use the same formula from last year. Off tackle runs will be used at a premium to avoid Ray Lewis and to isolate him in space.


Last year, the Browns' offensive linemen were able to chip away from Lewis and the other linebackers by cutting them down.


This year, it will be imperative for the linebackers to avoid the cut blocks and keep their heads on a swivel. If the backs can get to the perimeter, things could get hairy.

What the Ravens' defensive coordinator Mike Nolan would ideally want is to force the action inside. Both William Green and Jamel White aren't adept at taking the poundage up the gut and neither can manufacture enough yards on their own.

If the run defense can frustrate the Browns enough from running the ball much, they will have won part of the battle.


The other part will be the ability of the secondary to hold the big plays down to a minimum. The Browns' receivers all have very good deep play speed, so getting caught in one on one coverage with them could prove costly at some point in the game.


As long as the receivers are kept in front of them, the DBs should be able to hold quarterback Tim Couch in check as much as they possibly can. Clearly is Couch gets enough time to throw over the top, the Ravens will have their hands full trying to disrupt his rhythm.


Two battles you have to watch:


Dennis Northcutt versus the Ravens' coverage teams: This may not necessarily be a one on one matchup to watch, but whoever gets the best of this tiff may win the game. Northcutt has been a return ace for the Browns in recent weeks, taking back a key punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee. He's also among the league leaders in return average. Northcutt has the type of speed and change of direction to make life difficult for opposing coverage men. The Ravens meanwhile, have already given up one score for a touchdown against Tampa Bay, although they bounced back with a good game against the Broncos.  


Quincy Morgan and Andre Davis versus Gary Baxter: In two starts, Baxter has been fairly impressive, using his size and straight line speed to hold up well against the wideouts of Tampa Bay and Denver. But this week, Baxter will face receivers that are quicker and can stop and start their routes on a dime. Both Davis and Morgan have also been effective deep play receivers for Tim Couch, displaying outstanding vertical acceleration, so Baxter will need to be on top of his game to keep any big plays from occurring.  


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