The Ravens will look to lean on Lewis some more this Sunday, when they face off against the Colts in a battle between two first place teams.
The Colts' rush defense has been porous to say the least, giving up an average of 145 yards on the ground in four games. More than the statistics though, is the sheer fact that the Ravens' offensive line has a decided size advantage against the Colts' defensive line and linebackers.
Mulitalo, Ogden and Anderson all weigh more than 310-pounds and are three of the best run blockers at their position. They are physical and love driving their man out of their spots at the point of attack. Conversely, the Colts' defensive line predicates itself on getting after the quarterback, not stuffing the run, using speed and quickness to get up field and through the gaps.
The Ravens' line has to win this matchup hands down. They cannot let the defensive tackles and ends collapse around Lewis, giving him little space to run through. They have to physically whip
Lewis will have his way if the line can control the line of scrimmage and don't throw out the possibility of him gaining 200-yards in total offense, despite having to run on an artificial surface.
Another big key for the Ravens will be to establish their wide receivers in the intermediate passing game early, allowing tight end Todd Heap to loosen up in the second half, hitting the seams and the dead areas of the Colts' pass defense. Like the Buccaneers and Broncos, the Colts also play a two deep zone defense, which is used to minimize big plays against the pass.
Defense: The primary mission for the Ravens is to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts' prolific passing attack. The Colts will undoubtedly look to air it out first, grabbing a big lead, enabling them to use tailback Edgerrin James to eat up yards and the clock in the second half.
So how can you even come close to limiting Manning, one of the best quarterbacks in the game, let alone stop him? Use the blueprints laid out by Bill Belichick and Jim Bates, defensive masterminds for the Patriots and Dolphins respectively.
First, you must stop Edgerrin James, the Colts' halfback from establishing himself early. I know, easier said than done. But James isn't all the way back from his ACL injury from a year ago. He still starts and stops his momentum while running the ball better than any tailback in the league. He still has the vision and cutback ability to make you pay dearly. However, James doesn't have all of his homerun hitting speed just yet, so restrict him to running straight up the middle and stay in your gaps when he attempts to glide in and out of his cuts.
Second, use six, seven, even eight defensive backs to defend the pass. Yes, you saw the Ravens' pass defense get cut up like Swiss cheese when they dropped that many defensive backs into coverage last week.
But this week is different. While you can't confuse Manning too much by showing him different formations, you can bait him into making bad decisions and pressuring him to throw into double coverage. Without a running game, Manning's play-action fakes aren't as biting, which means that the safeties can stay at home. If Reed, Demps and Williams are patient enough, they will get the chance to intercept a few of his passes. This time, the defensive backs must hold onto the football if it's in their hands.
Two battles you have to watch:
Tarik Glenn versus Michael McCrary: McCrary is finally starting to get back into a grove after missing all of the 2001 season with a knee injury. He's recorded three sacks and a number of pressures in the last couple of games, displaying his normal power and quick step bull rush. His opponent is one of the better left tackles in the game. Glenn has great feet, size and stays on his blocks. It's no wonder why Manning rarely gets hit from his blindside with Glenn is bullying opposing defensive ends.