Battle Plans against Tennessee

1. Pass to set up the running game: The Ravens need to get their ground game running on a full gas tank the rest of the season, if they are to have any hope of improving their offensive output. But against Tennessee, they won't be able to come out and just pound the ball early.

Baltimore has to establish a tempo in their passing attack initially, especially on the first couple of drives in the ballgame to force the Titans to bring their safeties out of the box.


Traditionally, the Ravens have always tried to throw deep on Tennessee's secondary because the Titans blitz often, leaving their corners exposed on an island. Look for that same game plan to be used yet again on Sunday, as quarterback Jeff Blake will look away from attacking Samari Rolle and towards testing Andre Dyson and Tennessee's nickel/dime backs.


Also, with Brandon Stokley back in the lineup, the Ravens can go back to utilizing a three wide or two tight end set. When Stokley has been out of the lineup at times this season, opponents have been able to roll their coverage towards Todd Heap, forcing the wideouts to beat them in space. The emphasis should be placed on getting the ball to Heap once more, but unless the Raven receivers step up and make plays, no one will respect them.


2. Get Blake to move around: Jeff Blake isn't the scrambler he once was, but he is clearly more comfortable while throwing on the move.


And quite frankly, the pocket just hasn't been a safe place for Ravens quarterbacks to reside. Blake was sacked a staggering seven times against the Dolphins, although he brought 2-3 of those pressures onto himself by not throwing the ball away.


The Titans will blitz often on Sunday, so getting Blake to roll out to the perimeters would slow down their pass rush some and allow him to see where he is throwing the ball a little clearer. If Blake doesn't have a man open down the field, it will also be easier for him to simply throw the ball to the sidelines.


3. Utilize the screen pass: For some reason, the Ravens don't institute screen passes in their game plan often, and when they do, they often fail to execute the play properly.


In the NFL theses days, the screen pass has established a strong revival. Teams use their receivers, tight ends and backs to catch passes in the flat. But the play doesn't work well unless you have guards and tackles who can get out into space quickly, allowing the receiver to just run down hill with blockers picking off linebackers and defensive backs along the way.


With the Titans' defense playing more aggressively than ever; using receiver screens and halfback screens up the middle and off the edge could lead to chunks of yardage being chewed up down the field.


Defense Three Defensive Keys to Victory:


1. Keep McNair contained: Steve McNair is quite possibly the most underrated player in the NFL. You never see him mentioned as a top ten quarterback, not mentioned as one of the more dangerous signal callers in the league. Yet, here he is producing another efficient season, with a 60% completion percentage while only been sacked a total 14 times this season.

McNair's vision is much better than it once was and he now throws down the field with a higher proficiency than ever before.


The key to stopping him is to bring him down when you've got him in your sights, whether that's inside of the pocket or in the open field.

McNair's mobility has been hampered by a nasty case of turf toe, so don't expect him to rush for a 75 yard TD run. However, he does a nice job of slipping through a crease and moving ever so slightly to evade the pass rush, so he can allow his receivers to break off of their routes and to make plays down the field.


 The Ravens linebackers will need to stay disciplined when they pursue him and the defensive backs need to stay on the receivers they are covering until McNair doesn't have the option to throw the ball.


2. Winning on first down: Baltimore's first down defense was incompetent against Miami. Either the Dolphins gained a good 4-5 yards running the ball, passing the ball, or Ray Lucas was simply able to gain ten yards to move the chains and refresh the downs.


Against Tennessee, the Ravens will need to clean up their act or the defense will not be able to get off of the field.


The Titans like to throw the ball to setup up their ground attack, so the defensive backs and linebackers should be well aware that play-action fakes will be used heavily. And you better believe that Tennessee studied Miami's usage of misdirection runs, which helped spring Ricky Williams loose for more yardage than he should have gained.


If Tennessee can win the battle on first down, it will be a long day for the Ravens on both sides of the ball.


3. Play physically: The Ravens have always done a nice job of establishing a physical style of play against any opponents they have faced over the years, especially against the Titans. However, the defense was shoved all over the field last Sunday against a more determined, proud Miami offense.

Tennessee will want to punch Baltimore in the mouth as well, making sure to remind them of the battles they've lost to the Ravens over the years.


The young guns on defense will have to match that intensity. Once they get hit hard initially, especially inside the trenches, they cannot back down. This game is a test of willpower.


There is no question that the team that wins on Sunday will be the team that has the shorter injury list come Monday.


Two battles you have to watch:


Derrick Mason versus Chris McAlister: Whether McAlister starts on Sunday is still up in the air, but the chances are pretty good that he would check Mason most of the game. Derrick Mason is Tennessee's go to wideout in clutch situations, especially on third downs and inside of the 20 yard line. Mason doesn't have blazing attributes, but he has a knack for getting open consistently, running polished routes and breaking off of his routes successfully when McNair starts to scramble. McAlister is having a Pro Bowl caliber season and has shut down every receiver he's gone up against with the exception of Plaxico Burress.


Brad Hopkins versus Peter Boulware: You have to wonder when Peter Boulware will have his breakout game of the year, because he hasn't had one so far this season. He's been close to notching 2-3 sack games against Indianapolis and Carolina but close doesn't cut it. As always, Boulware will move around often on both the right and left sides of the line, going up against both offensive tackles. He will be matched up against Brad Hopkins a number of times on Sunday. Hopkins is one of the better left tackles in the NFL, who uses his feet, hands and reach to keep opposing pass rushers at bay. Hopkins was able to contain Joey Porter last Sunday, so facing Boulware may not be the daunting task that it should be.

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