Divisional Round: Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Saturday January 12, 2012 4:30 PM
Line: Ravens +10 O/U 46
Truth be told, there was little hope for the Colts last Sunday. Sure they were coming in hot, full of momentum, loaded with solid young rookies, but there was no way in hell that this team would let Ray’s career end that way. It just wasn’t going to happen. So, for the 5th time in as many years the Ravens are playing in the divisional round of the playoffs. Ahead of them wait the Denver Broncos. Winners of 11 straight, captained by MVP finalist Peyton Manning and arguably the best overall team in football. No easy task to be sure. Will they continue their rally around Ray or will the overwhelming odds against them prove to be too daunting? With that in mind, let’s take a look at this week’s keys to the game.
Baltimore Gridiron Report Keys to the Game
1st and Ten: Destroy Peyton Manning
I said it several weeks ago so, and I’ll say it here again, if the Ravens have any prayer of
winning this game, they have got to contain Peyton Manning and drive his ancient ass into the turf. If they allow him to sit back in the pocket untested, then this is going to be a very, very long day. You beat Manning by getting in his face and forcing him to become frustrated and erratic. New England has been doing it for years.
Peyton is one of the all time greats, but he can be beaten, and badly, by teams who get after him, get him out of the pocket, and straight destroy him with bone jarring hits. This isn’t going to be the easiest task in the world, but it is absolutely essential to win.
2nd and Long: Stop the Run
The Ravens’ run defense the past few weeks has been absolutely porous. Due to injuries and ineffectiveness the Ravens Defensive Tackles have been getting absolutely manhandled by the opposition, which has in turn exposed the Linebackers and allowed Backs to clip off big gains. This isn’t even against superior talent here. This is against some no name running backs, like ole what’s his name from Indy. The Ravens had no answer for him.
That can’t happen against Knowshon Moreno. He’s too fast, too elusive, too good. The Ravens have got to bottle him up and force the Broncos into a one dimensional offense. Do that and you rob Peyton of a lot of his tools, for instance…
3rd and Short: Prevent the Play-Action
Peyton’s number one weapon is the play-action pass. It sets up literally everything else that the Broncos do on offense. It keeps him clean, keeps the ball moving, and is devastating against teams with weak corners (i.e. the Ravens). If the Ravens are to pull off the upset they have got to prevent Peyton from running the play-action effectively. They do this in two ways. First they stop the run. By limiting Moreno, they remove the element of surprise from the equation. If the running game is stopped, the Ravens won’t stay back in coverage and will bring the house against Manning every time. Second they press the line and bump the receivers. I swear on all things holy that if I have to watch Cary Williams ten yards deep on a receiver, one more time, I may just snap and go on a tri-state killing spree. To beat Manning you remove his quick outs to receivers and you remove his ability to run the play-action effectively. Pressure in all phases of the game win it.
4th Down: Keep Peyton off the Field
You want to know what the best possibly way to beat the Broncos is? Keep their hall of fame quarterback off the field and on the sidelines. If he doesn’t play he can’t beat you. I’m talking about clock/game management here. The one major area the Ravens have struggled with all season long is time of possession. They keep getting routinely killed in this category. That cannot happen Saturday. They have to get the ball, hold the ball, and make sure each drive they have is not only long and sustained, but also results in points. Three? Seven? Doesn’t matter, but they need to score.
A game dominated by three and outs will ensure that the Ravens are finished. If you give Manning the football he will eventually make you pay for the mistake. Possess, control, win.
Extra Point: Move the Pocket
In addition to a lethally potent offense, the Broncos sport a top five defense as well. They lead all teams in sacks and rally behind their ferocious young linebacker Von Miller. The kid is a sack machine and is especially adept at bull rushing offensive lineman and running right over them. In the last meeting the Broncos registered something ridiculous along the lines of 18 QB hits and three sacks. The Ravens have to do better if they want to win this game.
To negate Denver’s ample pass rush, the Ravens have to move Joe around and stretch the pocket from left to right. Roll out’s screens and QB draws are going to be necessary to keep the pressure off. If the Ravens can manage this, the Broncos give up a lot of yardage through the air. This is where they can be exposed. This is where they can be beaten. Move the pocket, move Joe and move the chains.
Jonathon Scruggs (10-7)
To hell with stats and logic, I’m with Ray all the way. Ravens win at the last possible second to move on to the AFC Championship.
Ravens 20 — Broncos 19
Matt Jergensen (11-6)
It’s the same old story, don’t turn it over and you can win the game. I really feel that if the Ravens can run the football they’ll have an excellent chance to get out of Denver with a win.
Ravens 27 – Broncos 24
Gene Winner (14-3)
I know the Ravens chances aren’t good and it’s partly because they’ve be inconsistent this year. However, the Ravens are a seasoned team and they play in a tougher division. They won’t be intimidated.
Ravens 23 – Broncos 20
Ben Zinman (12-5)
The Ravens take on a different kind of team personality when it’s playoff time. Facing the possibility of elimination seems to bring out best in these Ravens.
Ravens 27 – Broncos 24