Battle Plans against Atlanta

Offense: Three Offensive Keys to Victory: 1. Getting to the second level: The Falcons primarily line up in a 3-4 defense, much like the Ravens do. Both defenses also rely on quickness from their front three, rather than brute strength to attack the line of scrimmage.

For the Ravens' offensive line, that means that they have to be able to get their hats on the Falcons' defensive lineman before they start to penetrate through the gaps, when they are trying to establish their power rushing attack.

Once guards Bennie Anderson and Edwin Mulitalo have controlled their opponents at the line of scrimmage, they can work downhill, picking off the Falcons' evasive linebackers in space.

If Jamal Lewis can getting rolling up the middle, he will be nearly impossible for safeties Ron Carpenter and Gerald McBurrows to bring down in the open field.


2. Roll out: With Jeff Blake taking over at the quarterback position this Sunday, the Ravens can loosen up their offense some. While they will stick to their game plan of getting Jamal Lewis the football around 20-25 times a game, and for the most part, controlling the Falcons' defense through their ground attack, the Ravens will look for Blake to have an efficient day passing the ball too.


The Ravens will also try to take advantage of the Falcons' over aggressiveness on defense by getting Blake out in space, where he is usually a more efficient player because he can use his mobility to keep the linebackers and defensive backs on their toes.


If the Ravens can run the ball effectively, expect to see a lot of fake toss sweeps, waggles, play-action fakes and bootleg plays called to help shake the receivers open down the field.


3. Get down the field, Heap: It's becoming clearer each week that Todd Heap is just one of those tight ends that is tough to contain, let alone stop. He finds the dead areas of the zone defense in the intermediate areas, he can run deep down the middle of the field and challenge safeties, and he can even go one on one against some corners.


The Ravens will look to establish their game breaking tight end in every game, and this week's challenge against the Falcons is no different.


Atlanta's safeties are more solid against the run than they are against the pass, which means that Heap will have his chances to snatch catches down the seams and be a factor in the intermediate area, where the Falcons' speedy linebackers will try to chase him down.


Defense Three Defensive Keys to Victory:


1. The Vick rules: Remember when the Detroit Pistons of the late 80's (a.k.a. the Bad Boys) and more specifically, head coach Chuck Dailey devised a game plan to try and contain Michael Jordan? Dailey admitted that trying to stop Jordan from scoring points was futile, because no defender or defenders on this planet could keep up with the dazzling basketball god. However, he did concede Jordan his points, but he would make him earn them for a price.


Basically, that's what the Ravens will have to do against another Michael this Sunday.


Vick can't be stopped. Just forget about that happening. He'll make his plays, whether running or throwing the ball, no matter how tough the defense plays him.


However, the Ravens can limit him. They'll have to force Vick to stay in the pocket, not letting the human highlight film of the new millennium scramble and dance outside of the line of scrimmage too many times.


Raven pass rushers like Peter Boulware, Adalius Thomas and Anthony Weaver will have to blitz Vick from all angles, but they must also stay disciplined when pursing him, not creating a crease for Vick to dash through to escape the pressure. And the most important key to slowing down Vick is to nail him once you have him in your sight line.     


2. To spy or not to spy? The Ravens will have no choice but to use a spy to keep an eye on Vick whenever he drops back to pass the ball. The best candidate for the job seems to be Peter Boulware at this point, simply because he rushes the passer on two out of three snaps on every down. He'll be right at the line of scrimmage, so he'll have Vick in his sights at all times.


However, Boulware also tends to take poor pursuit angles when he gets after the quarterback and in recent weeks, teams have run right at him because it slows down his up the field burst and takes advantage of his over aggressiveness.


They key for Boulware is to keep his eyes open at all times and to diagnose the plays that unfurl in front of him.


3. Vick isn't the only problem: The biggest problem with defending Vick isn't always trying to stop him, but contain the other guys around him. With so much focus placed on one player, clearly, the game opens up for guys like Warrick Dunn, T.J. Duckett and Alge Crumpler to take advantage of.


Dunn is coming off of a 140-yard rushing performance against the Saints last Sunday, and seems to have his confidence back after not getting much playing time for most of the season. Dunn has the speed and elusiveness to make defenders miss tackles in the open field and he's a dangerous receiver coming out of the backfield as well.

Duckett is
Atlanta's straight ahead punishing back, much like Jamal Anderson was for the Falcons for the past several seasons. He can hammer a defense off the edge or up the middle, and he hits the creases in front of him with a full head of steam.

Than there's Crumpler, the big tight end that Vick uses as a safety net in the passing game. With a spy used to keep track of Vick, and the Ravens looking to stop
Atlanta's ground attack first, Crumpler could become a tough receiving threat for safeties Ed Reed and Will Demps to stymie down the middle of the field.


Two battles you have to watch:


Patrick Kerney versus Jon Ogden: The Falcons have been applying a decent pass rush all season, and Patrick Kerney is a big key to the dirty birds getting after opposing quarterbacks consistently. Against Ogden though, he'll have a stiff test. Kerney uses good balance and power to setup his speed rush, which gets him around the corner and into the backfield on passing downs. Ogden, meanwhile, has had his share of struggles against some defensive ends when he can't keep his balance. However, to get by Ogden, you have to be at your absolute best.


Bob Whitfield and Todd Wiener versus Peter Boulware: In the Ravens' 3-4 defense, Boulware moves around more than any other player. He'll rush the passer from the left side, the right side, in a three point stance and standing up. And not too surprisingly, as goes Boulware, so goes the Ravens' pass rush. While he's racked up 5 sacks this season, he has yet to have his breakout game just yet because defenses have been keying on him all season long. Whitfield and Wiener will each face Boulware a multitude of times on Sunday, and both are solid pass blockers who have rarely been burned by speed rushers this season. Let the chess match begin.


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