The Ravens' offense must put together a ball control clinic if they are to have any hope of winning Sunday's matchup.
That means the ground attack needed to be established, the offensive line mustn't have a great deal of breakdowns in pass protection, thus leading to a barrage of sacks registered by the Saints' defense, and the Ravens must put themselves in manageable third down situations.
More to the point, the Ravens should primarily run the ball on first down and once they have a solid attack firing, they should use play-action fakes to keep the Saints' guessing on alternative first down plays.
If the offense can keep converting plays, even short ones, they will keep the ball that much longer.
2. Recognize the hot reads: With the reinstatement of Dale Carter back into the league and into the Saints' secondary as their lockdown cover corner, the defensive coaches can use man coverage, keep their cornerbacks on an island, and use more elaborate blitz packages to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Usually, Jeff Blake would love having the opportunity to throw deep against bump and run coverage. However, the Ravens' offensive line has been slow and methodical in their ability to pickup the blitz consistently, so when Blake isn't holding onto the ball too long, he is running for his life. Not to mention that he doesn't have a lot of great deep threats to throw the ball to, even if they so happen to get any separation from the secondary.
Offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh has to shorten the passing game, when he chooses to pass the ball at all. Blake should be told to take more three-step drops, recognize where his outlet receivers are and to get rid of the ball quickly, even if it means throwing the ball away completely.
With field position being a big key for both teams, Blake cannot afford to be sacked too many times.
3. Seal off the big boys: The Saints followed the plan that Baltimore and Chicago installed over the last couple of years, feeling that bigger was better at the defensive tackle position. Their two starters, Grady Jackson and Norman Hand, weigh around 330-pounds a piece and were expected to clog up the middle and eat up space.
The two have eaten up space all right, but they haven't helped to shut down the run, surrendering over 100 yards rushing per game so far this season.
But that doesn't mean that the Ravens will be able to run all over the Saints.
The offensive line has been beaten at the point of attack many times this season against defensive lines that are physically more impressive than theirs, so this challenge presents the same problems.
Defense Three Defensive Keys to Victory:
1. Get yourselves off the field: Games are won and lost inside of the trenches and on how efficient teams are at converting third downs.
The great offenses usually keep the chains moving on third down, while the great defenses force a high number of three-and-out plays.
The Ravens don't have a great defense, but they have to force the Saints to punt the ball away as many times as they possibly can.
They ideal way to accomplish this task is to force
2. Watch out for Deuce: Deuce McAlister is one of the league's