Battle Plans against Cincinnati

Offense: Three Offensive Keys to Victory: 1. Spread the field: The Bengals have been gobbled up by opposing running backs like a fat man devours a drumstick on Thanksgiving Thursday.

Cincinnati has given up an average of 140 yards per game against the run, which ranks 31st in the league.


Last Sunday against the Steelers, 220-pound safety JoJuan Armour was inserted inside of the box to help slow down Jerome Bettis, but the move proved to be futile as the Steelers were still able to rush for well over 100 yards, controlling the clock and the game.


Against the Ravens, expect Armour to be used to stymie the run once more. The Bengals will clutter the inside with eight defenders much like the Titans did last Sunday, forcing Baltimore to either run the ball off the edge or to throw the ball over the top.


Armour is the key to Cincinnati's defense. The Ravens must force the Bengals' safety to drop back into coverage in obvious running situations. In general, the Bengals' safeties are stiff, but Armour especially is slow in his backpedal and doesn't have very good instincts.


The Ravens can either spread the field using a three wide set, or they can use a four wide set with Lewis as the single set back in both formations. When the Ravens run the ball or pass the ball out of the spread formation is crucial, as the right mix of calls will keep the Bengals' secondary guessing.


2. Protection: One of the main reasons why Jeff Blake was able to have an efficient game against Cincinnati two weeks ago had to do with his ability to stay in the pocket and throw down the field while skimming through his progressions the entire time. Clearly, Blake was well protected.


Yes, the Bengals sacked Blake a handful of times, but for the most part, the blitzers were kept at bay.


But overall, Baltimore's line has been pathetic at picking up the blitz beyond the Bengals game. They've given up 28 sacks this season, which ranks as 31st in the league. Some of those sacks have been caused due to Blake holding the ball too long, the receivers not creating any separation from the secondary, and the line getting beat off the snap.


Conversely, Cincinnati ranks dead last in sacks recorded, notching just 13 for the entire season, so it will be interesting to see which pitiable unit cracks first.


3. Grab the early lead and keep attacking: While they are a 1-10 team, the Bengals can't be accused of quitting, at least not since Jon Kitna has taken over the reigns as Cincinnati's signal caller.


They've been down against Tennessee, Baltimore, Cleveland and Pittsburgh, and despite facing rather large deficits in all four of those games at one point or another, the Bengals stayed within striking distance.


That's why it is imperative for the Ravens' offense to grab an early lead, and keep attacking from there on out. Cincinnati's defense is a sieve for the most part, but if they can force a few successive three-and-outs, they will gain the confidence necessary to help their offense take over the ballgame.


The offense must be efficient in third down conversions, establishing a solid average on first down and in controlling the time of possession battle if they are to thoroughly dominate Cincinnati's defense.


Defense Three Defensive Keys to Victory:


1. Be aware of Kitna: Since Kitna has taken over the Bengals' offense, they have picked up the pace on offense, averaging around 23 points per game.


The Ravens' secondary will be picked apart some, it's simply an inevitability when you consider who dangerous the Bengals' passing attack has suddenly become.


Receivers Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick specifically have turned on the jets; while Corey Dillon's steady rushing dominance has created a multi-dimensional offensive attack


The key for the young Ravens is to bait Kitna into making some bad decisions, much like they did two weeks ago, and to hold off the Bengals from scoring inside of the red zone.


2. Break on the ball: It hasn't been the deep passes that have killed the Ravens' secondary, but the curls, the post patterns and the comeback routes that have ripped through the corners.


The problem has been the defensive backs' ability to break on the ball with sound acceleration, which is something that corners Gary Baxter and James Trapp did so well the first few weeks of the season.


Because they haven't been able to make a play on the ball, the Ravens have allowed a higher percentage of third downs to be completed and have also allowed offenses to establish a solid average per pass attempt.


With or without McAlister in the lineup, the defensive backs must been quicker in their recovery time and shadow the receivers once they come out of their breaks.


3. Misdirection: The last time the Ravens faced Corey Dillon, they knew they had to contain him, but they could not.

Dillon rushed for over 100 yards, controlled the line of scrimmage and broke through many tackles to gain a decent amount of YAC.


Cincinnati was able to spread the field, and hand the ball off to Dillon through draws and trap plays.


Because the game plan worked the first time, don't expect the Bengals' offensive coaches to deviate too much from the same attack they established the last time.


If anything, they will surely add misdirection runs into their bag of tricks, after watching how Miami gauged the Ravens' front seven two games back.


The Ravens' fast flow front seven must stay in their lanes, and not overreact to whatever run-action fakes they see. Giving Dillon any more room than he already needs to rip off a long gain would be perilous.


Two battles you have to watch:


Willie Anderson versus Peter Boulware: Another week and yet another game has gone by without Boulware registering a sack. He's now gone sackless for four straight games. It's still a matter of when Boulware breaks out rather than if, but at the same time, it's evident that the double teams have taken their toll on the outside backer. His task to break his slump doesn't get easier against Willie Anderson, who is a road-grader in run blocking situations and is adept at sealing off the edge rush in pass blocking situations.


Justin Smith versus Ethan Brooks: The Bengals didn't even bother lining their best pass rusher, Justin Smith, over Jonathan Ogden too many times in their last matchup. Smith beat right tackle Ethan Brooks a number of times instead. Brooks had a tough time stopping Smith because the strong edge rusher used a wide array of bull rushes to simply overpower him at the point of attack. Smith will likely use his same dose of power moves against Brooks, but this time, he will use those moves to setup his outside rush. Look for the Ravens to use a tight end, probably Terry Jones, to help chip block Smith.

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