Patriots @ Ravens

Team Stats:

ehh…..let’s not

Well, the day that looked so appetizing when we first glimpsed the 2007 schedule is finally upon us. The chance to take on perennial contender New England, with their golden boy quarterback and prickly, insufferable coach, in our house, on national television, with huge playoff implications. Oooooh, we Ravens fans were giddy with anticipation.

Needless to say, things haven’t played out quite as we had hoped leading up to this Monday Night Football match up. The Pats have held up their end of the bargain (and then some), coming into B-More with an unblemished 11-0 record. Not only are they undefeated, but they have been absolutely mauling most opponents, averaging 40.2 (!!!) points per game while allowing only 16.8. They come to M&T off their first real scare of the season, having scraped by a feisty Philadelphia Eagles team by just 3 points, 31-28, last Sunday night. The Eagles played extremely well, and all we can hope is that they laid a blueprint that Rex Ryan and the other Ravens coaches can use to keep the purple and black in this one. As a matter of fact, NFL writer John Czarnecki took the game and made a list of the things a team must do to have a chance against the New England juggernaut. The Nest will preview this game a bit differently, walking through each of the “Czar’s” points and looking at how ready the Ravens are to put them into action.

Without further adieu…..

John Czarnecki’s 5 rules to beat the Patriots:

1. Teams must be physical with Randy Moss and other New England receivers
2. You must vary your blitzes on Tom Brady
3. You must gamble and go deeper with your passing game
4. You must be able to pass block on the edges
5. You need a versatile running back

So how do the Ravens stack up in these rules?

Be Physical with the Receivers
This is one that has been evident all season, and several writers have pointed it out before Czarnecki (most notably writer Gregg Easterbrook). Teams have been giving Moss, Stallworth, and Welker a cushion at the line of scrimmage, and paying a heavy price. Philadelphia pressed on the corners, and made Moss look very pedestrian, holding him to 43 yards on 5 catches. The Ravens have one of the biggest, most physical cornerbacks in the league in Chris McAlister. C-Mac is very capable of locking up Moss and giving him all sorts of trouble getting off the line. That is, if he plays. The latest is that he is hopeful to start Monday (knee) but we have heard that before. If he can’t play, Ravens fans should probably abandon any hope they may be holding on to (on the bright side though, we may get to see some history, as Moss will probably break Jerry Rice’s single season touchdown record by pulling in 7…in the first half). On the other side, Samari Rolle is a smaller CB who plays with more finesse, and, especially at this point in his career, is more comfortable giving his man some room. Corey Ivy will likely be matched up on slot man Wes Welker, who took full advantage of the Eagles fixation on Moss, catching 13 balls for 149 yards. This could actually be a good match up for Ivy, who is small and quick, like Welker, but has had trouble covering teams’ #1 and #2 receivers in a starting role.

Vary your blitzes on Tom Brady
Rex Ryan has one of the best defensive minds in the game today. If there is a way to get to Brady, he will find it. However, the Ravens as a team have had trouble pressuring the quarterback all season, and the loss of Trevor Pryce for the season only magnifies this shortcoming. The Ravens may be without linebacker Jarrett Johnson (thumb), which won’t help matters either. Bart Scott and Terrell Suggs, who each had 9.5 sacks in ’06, have just 1 and 4 this season, respectively. Ryan may have to gamble more than he wants to against the Pats, leaving the corners vulnerable, but if the Ravens can’t get to Brady, this one won’t even be close. Let’s see some blitzes, and let the secondary try to redeem themselves.

Gamble, in the passing game and in general
The conservative approach will lose to this years Patriots 99 times out of 100. The Eagles threw long on several occasions, and executed an onside kick in the first half. To win, a team must score early and often, and do anything they can to keep the ball out of Brady’s hands. For the Ravens, this goes against everything they have stood for over the past 9 years. Too bad. The old game plan WON’T WORK. There is no question Kyle Boller has the arm to get the ball down the field. However, the Ravens will probably be without their main deep threat, Demetrius Williams (ankle), and their field-stretching tight end, Todd Heap (hamstring), yet again. Derrick Mason, a superior possession receiver at this point in his career, and Mark Clayton, an elusive yards-after-catch kinda guy, won’t be able to get it done. Why not line up return man Yamon Figurs at wideout on a few snaps? The guy can flat out fly, and his speed would force the Patriots to respect the deep ball. For Mason and Clayton, John Madden pointed out repeatedly Sunday night that the New England corners shade to the sidelines and give up the middle of the field. Hopefully, the Ravens noticed this as well.

Pass block the edges
Another area where the ’06 Ravens were so good, and the ’07 Ravens have been so bad. Left tackle Jonathan Ogden had one of the worst games of his career (and probably his worst ever against someone not named Freeney) last week in San Diego, as Shawne Merriman got a little revenge. We can hope that JO is just now rounding into game shape, having missed a good portion of the season, but we fear his frustration with the playcalling (we feel ya, big man) has drained his passion for the game, and it will continue to show as he plays out what is likely his final season. On the other edge, Adam Terry and/or Marshall Yanda will look to protect Boller’s front side. Yanda replaced Terry as the starter last week, and he is a hard-nosed kid who can make some blocks – but he is also young and inexperienced and will make some mistakes. Not the best combination against a (very) veteran New England front seven. It isn’t just the edges the Ravens need to protect though, as the pressure has been coming at Boller from every angle this season.

Have a versatile running back
CHECK!!! Finally, one that we can give a resounding “Yes” to. Willis McGahee, the Ravens’ lone bright spot on offense this season, can do it all. Willis has carried the ball 213 times this season for 910 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per carry, and has added 33 receptions for 201 yards. While not quite as dynamic and explosive out of the backfield as the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook, McGahee is a very versatile back that the Patriots will be keying on. He has been very good at pass blocking this season as well, picking up the blitzes when he needs to, and laying a bone-jarring hit or two in the process. McGahee’s worst enemy this season has been his own head coach, as Brian Billick has forgotten about Willis in key short yardage situations. The Ravens will absolutely HAVE to keep the chains moving to hold that Pats offense on the sidelines as long as possible, and remembering that they have Willis in the backfield will work greatly in their favor. We would much rather see McGahee try to push the line 3 yards on a 3rd-and-2 than grimace as Kyle “Touch? What’s that?” Boller overthrows another 5 yard out. Speaking of which, is it written somewhere in the Ravens bylaws that the #1 running back has to come out on 3rd down? This is another head scratcher for us at the Nest. We know, we know, Musa Smith is the “3rd down back,” but WHY? Leave Willis in there, let him get the 1st down, then give smith a carry on 1st-and-10 if McGahee’s out of shape behind needs a breather. Guess that’s why we’re just fans here, and not coaches.

So there you have it. The Ravens, unfortunately, don’t seem to measure up too well in the Czar’s “Beat the Pats” book. We’ll leave you with some cliché’s, if that helps any.

“On any given Sunday….”
“That’s why they play the games…”
“The bigger they are, the harder they fall”

Patriots – whatever they want (we’ll say they want……38) Ravens 20


One Response to “Patriots @ Ravens”

  1. Randy Nichols Says:

    Nice Blog. I like the layout you used. Did you make that yourself?

    – Randy Nichols.

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