Divisional Match-UP: Baltimore (10-7) @ Indianapolis (14-2)
Saturday, January 16, 8:15pm ET.
Back To Their Identity
After playing some old fashioned smash mouth football in New England, the Ravens head to Indianapolis to take on this year’s MVP quarterback Payton Manning and a well rested Indy team.
Before we get into the upcoming match-up, Baltimore should be congratulated on their win in New England. New England hadn’t lost a playoff game at home since 1978 and Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. This was an important win for Coach Harbaugh as well; he kept the faith in his players. The Ravens returned to their identity; smash mouth football with a determined running game and a tenacious defense. The secondary was aggressive and had a well thought-out game plan.
The Next Challenge
Now the team faces one of the best quarterbacks in the modern era along with determined Indy team. The precise passing attack lead by Manning has to be one of the most challenging in the league. The Ravens will need to bring the same intensity and smart game plan as they did last week to compete. Earlier this year Indy played in Baltimore and edged the Ravens 17-15. It was a hard fought competitive game but the Ravens settled for field goals instead of touchdowns in the red zone.
Regular Season - Ranked 9th Overall – (Passing Ranked 2nd & Rushing ranked 32nd)
Quarterback Peyton Manning was named Most Valuable Player putting up excellent numbers, leading his team to the Playoffs. Manning’s main weapons are WR Reggie Wayne and TE Dallas Clark; both had 100 receptions and over 1,000 yards receiving this season. Manning can rely on his young receivers as well with second year pro Pierre Garcon and rookie Austin Collie. The offensive line doesn’t give up many sacks, only 13 this year (10 on Manning) and has only taken, as the stats lists “QB Hits,” 43. Teams don’t get many chances to get to Manning. Fourth year pro Charlie Johnson left tackle protects Manning well. The entire offensive line is disciplined and in tune with Manning’s calls.
At the running back position it is Joseph Addai with the majority of the carries and Rookie RB Donald Brown as the change up. Though the team is ranked 32nd in rushing, they know when to run by catching teams off guard with delays and draws. Addai is a good receiver with 51 receptions.
Regular Season – 18th Overall -(14th in Passing yards & 24th in Rushing yards)
8th in Points allowed at 19pts. per game.
Defensive end Dwight Freeney and DE Robert Mathis lead this defense upfront combining for 23 sacks. Middle LB Gary Brackett leads quick line backing core. The unit has stability with OLB Clint Sessions, FS Antoine Bethea, and SS Melvin Bullitt. Like the Ravens, Indy has dealt with injuries in the secondary. Safety Bob Sanders was lost earlier this season along with CB Marlin Jackson. However, CB Kelvin Hayden, rookie CB Jerraud Powers and CB Jacob Lacey have filled in well.
MATCH-UPS: Chalk It Up!
Ravens defensive game plan: Getting pressure on Manning is critical; given too much time in pocket he will pick defenses part. Against New England the Ravens secondary were physical and threw receivers off their routs at the line; we may see some of that for this game too. KEYS: Coverage and pressure on the quarterback.
Secondary vs. TE Dallas Clark & WR Reggie Wayne: Priority will be limiting these two skilled receivers from making receptions. CB Carr, CB Foxworth and CB Walker will have a big challenge. KEYS: The secondary must continue to be aggressive. Ed Reed is playing well after missing some time with an injury.
QB Manning vs. LB Lewis: Manning is the best at deciphering defenses and making adjustments at the line of scrimmage. After the game last Sunday, Ray Lewis said he would be studying game film immediately. In this match-up we will see the Lewis and Manning trying to counter each other on the field.
Terrell Suggs vs. LT Johnson: Suggs is playing well. The challenge gets harder facing a line that has only given up 13 sacks. LT Charlie Johnson has been consistent and protects the pocket well but is coming off a nagging toe injury.
RB Addai vs. D-line: Being ranked 32nd in rushing can be deceiving, Indy does run the ball effectively and has improved this year in short yardage situations. They have a knack for running at the right time catching teams off guard.
Ravens offensive game plan: We will see much of running back’s Ray Rice and Willis McGahee, but the Ravens will take their shots in the passing game. Getting Flacco involved will be important. KEYS: Continue with the run and utilize the passing game. Some shorter routes (slants, crossing routes) by receivers will enable Falcco to have opportunities and will help avoid a good Indy pass rush.
Ravens Receivers vs. Indy Secondary: Indy guarding against the run will commit some extra defenders in the box. That will leave some one-on-one match-ups and opportunities for the WR Clayton, WR Mason TE Heap. KEYS: Indy’s secondary has filled in well after some key injuries, but haven’t played in a playoff environment. Cam Cameron will find a match-up that he likes and we may see a few deep passes.
Freeney vs Gaither & Mathis vs. Oher: DE Dwight Freeney and DE Mathis are great pass rushers. In the previous match-up in Baltimore, LT Gaither held Freeney in check, as did RT Oher with Mathis. Both defensive ends will be motivated this game. KEYS: The Indy defense could employ an extra linebacker to blitz to put more pressure on both Gaither and Oher. Shorter passing routs will aid in avoiding a good Indy pass rush.
Playing Physical & Smart: The team put it all together last game and came into the match-up with an excellent game plan. Both sides of the ball are playing smash mouth and physical football. But, there is more to it than just physical play. The coaching and players have stepped up their game planning and strategies. The same will be needed in this match-up as they face a smart quarterback and opportunistic defense.