Battle Plans against Miami

Offense: Three Offensive Keys to Victory: 1. Place a hat on Zach Thomas: Zach Thomas controls the way Miami plays against the run. When he's allowed to roam free, the Dolphins stifle running backs in between the tackles and off the edge. When he's blocked by a guard or center one on one, that usually means that the interior lineman are doing an excellent job of progressing to the second level out in space, and Thomas is a non factor.

If the Raven linemen want to get to Thomas, guards Bennie Anderson and Edwin Mulitalo must drive block Tim Bowens and Larry Chester extremely well. If Bowens and Chester can't protect Thomas, center Mike Flynn will get the opportunity to peel off of his initial block at the line of scrimmage and peer out to block the inside linebacker one on one.


2. Beat the press coverage: The Dolphins boosts the best cornerback tandem in the league in Patrick Surtain and Sam Madison.

Both corners will jam the receivers they face extremely well at the line of scrimmage, throwing the timing off of their routes, which forces the QB to hold onto the ball for one to two seconds longer than he would like to. While this suffocating bump and run coverage can disrupt a passing game, it can also leave the safeties that are playing zone coverage in a tough spot if the cornerbacks get beat.


To succeed against the Miami secondary, the Ravens must remain patient with their passing attack, because big plays in the deep passing game will be there for the taking.


It is imperative that Travis Taylor and Javin Hunter don't get tied up consistently by Surtain and Madison, and that they get off of their jam quickly. If they do, both receivers have the speed to go deep, and if they get any kind of separation from the corners, Jeff Blake has the ability to place the ball in their hands.  


3. Break out the T formation: The Ravens used what looked to be a wishbone formation against the Bengals in certain short yardage situations, placing two fullbacks side to side with the halfback lined up right behind them. This alignment is commonly referred to as the T formation, and for the most part, you don't see the play deployed too often in NFL games because teams don't have two fullbacks that are reliable blockers.

The Ravens on the other hand have Sam Gash and Alan Ricard, two solid isolation blockers that are physical at the point of attack in the running game.


With both blockers getting out in space at the same time, the Ravens can use some misdirection runs to keep the Miami linebackers on their toes.


Defense Three Defensive Keys to Victory:


1. Contain the ground game: The Ravens No.1 mission is to stop Ricky Williams on Sunday, and expect them to use eight men in the box with high regularity.


Williams is hard to handle because he sees the creases in a defense extremely quickly, and he hits those holes without hesitating or dancing. The past few weeks, Williams have single handedly created holes for himself by breaking a number of tackles and by making defenders miss in the open field.


For the Raven linebackers to bottle up Williams, they must stay disciplined. They must gang tackle him off the edge, and when stopping him up the middle, the linebackers and safeties must hit Williams at the right angles. 


Trying to trip up Williams or tackle him low may prove to be tough because he's got nice balance and strong legs.  


2. Lucas will roll out: Dolphins' QB Ray Lucas doesn't have good vision, so expect offensive coordinator Norv Turner to use a number of roll out plays to not only create an open sight line for Lucas, but to also give him a chance to throw on the run.


Lucas is a threat to gain yards once he tucks the ball and runs with it, but he's not such a threat that the Raven defenders should come off of their assignments and go after him.


Also, when the Dolphins get Lucas throwing on the move, it will be to his right side, where tight end Randy McMichael will run an out pattern to the short side, while Chris Chambers will run his out pattern deeper down the field.

The plays can be stopped if the Raven linebackers and defensive backs close on the ball quickly and defensive end Tony Weaver stays with Lucas once he's on the go.


3. Play-action will come: Norv Turner's offenses have always stressed establishing a running game early and an intermediate passing game which utilizes the tight ends, fullbacks and running backs as the primary receivers.


However, Turner also utilizes a lot of play-action fakes to free up his receivers down the field.


Rookie safeties Will Demps and Ed Reed have to be aware of Lucas' play-faking ability. They must not cheat to stop the run too aggressively, because if they do, Lucas will hit his receivers deep down the sidelines and over the middle.  


Two battles you have to watch:


Jason Taylor versus Ethan Brooks: Usually, Taylor lines up to battle the other team's left tackle, but don't expect Miami to line him up against Jonathan Ogden, because they won't want their most consistent pass rushing force to be neutralized. Containing Taylor may be a task that Brooks is up to though. Where Brooks struggles the most is keeping his balance against power moves and bull rushes. While Taylor has those potent moves in his arsenal, he is at his best when he flies to the quarterback off the edge. Brooks has decent feet and he slides off of his stance well, so it will be interesting to see if he can force Taylor to the inside.  


Zach Thomas versus Mike Flynn: In last year's playoff victory over the Dolphins, the Ravens rang up a gaudy total of over 200 yards rushing for an average of 4.0 yards per carry. They ran up the middle using a three headed monster of Terry Allen, Jason Brookins and Moe Williams. But the big reason for Baltimore's success that day was due in large part to center Mike Flynn's ability to wall of Zach Thomas up the middle. The fact is; Thomas doesn't shed blocks that well. If Flynn can get to Thomas in the rematch, it will be interesting to see if Thomas can actually disengage him or if history will just repeat itself.  

Ravens Insider Top Stories