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AFC Championship: Keys to the Game – Baltimore @ New England

It would be only fitting for Tucker to hit the game winner today.

AFC Championship: Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

Sunday January 20, 2013 6:30 PM

Line: Ravens +9.5 O/U 56


I still don’t think I’ve calmed down yet. That win was just too much for my poor shattered nerves to handle. Amazing. Without words. Incredible. I could keep going here but you get the point. Now the Ravens find themselves right back where they started. In New England, one game away from the Super Bowl. Will they exercise the final ghost, or will this truly be Ray’s final ride into the sunset? 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: The Obvious

Everyone in the world knows how to beat Tom Brady by this point in his career. You get in his face, you put him on the ground and you force him to make mistakes. If you can pressure him he will fold like a cheap suit. The Ravens must make pressuring the QB priority one. This is the simplest portion of the game plan, and one which could make or break the game.

Obviously this is easier said than done. Brady is insanely difficult to tackle and takes fewer sacks than anyone the Ravens have faced this season. Bar none. Just ask Paul Kruger. Although constantly getting pressure in the backfield, he wasn’t able to get his hands on Brady.

2nd and Long: The Pees Effect

Dean Pees spent three years as the Defensive Coordinator of the New England Patriots. There is legitimately no other person currently coaching in the NFL who is better suited to defending and preparing for Tom Brady than Pees. The Pats are notorious for self-scouting to prepare for various match-ups and various opponents, this means that Pees spent three seasons sitting down with game tape strategizing how to beat the New England offense.

Pees must have a special game plan drawn up to defeat Brady this weekend. He will have to call rapid attack blitzes, keep his defenders disciplined and help them to adequately adjust to the single phrase options that New England runs.

3rd and Short: Pierce & Rice

Everyone worth his salt knows that Ray Rice is one of the top four running backs in the NFL. Furthermore, more so than any other back he has a habit of shredding the Patriots defense. He just manages to consistently find an extra gear when running against New England. The Ravens have got to get him involved and get him involved early. A big part of the game plan involves clock management and Rice will help with that more than anything else. Additionally, looking back to last week, the Pats were completely ineffective aginst Arian Foster when he was catching the ball in space. If a mook like me can see it, then you know damn well that Caldwell saw it. Rice is better in space than anyone. I expect Joe to get him the ball with room to run.

This of course doesn’t mean that you can ignore Bernard Pierce. Although he’s banged up this week, Rice isn’t as strong up the gut as Pierce, so the Ravens will need him to play in order to offset the effectiveness of Vince Wilfork. Pierce is big, he’s strong and he’s fast. If he can rolling down the middle and Ray can bounce out off the guards and tackles, the Ravens will be devastating and difficult to beat.

4th Down: Exploit the Heart of the Field

You can expect that Belichick is going to make sure Torrey, Anquan and Jacoby are all well accounted for downfield so Flacco must step up into the pocket and target his tight ends. If the Pats are going to play deep to protect against the big play, then the middle of the field will be ripe for the picking. Hit em hard where they’re vulnerable, manage the clock, suck the life out of the game, and the Pats will collapse. Trust me.

There’s a reason that the Pats are ranked 29th against the run. Do not be afraid to move into the heart of this shaky linebacker corp.

Extra Point: Crash the Line

Against the Broncos, Peyton Manning spent much of the afternoon picking on wide out Cary Williams. Between the amount of space Williams was conceding at the line and the double moves that were freezing him in place, he was vulnerable all day. This will be where the Patriots attack. They’ll run a lot of quick tosses in his direction and will look to get him out of position against Welker, Branch or even Vereen.

He will negate much of this damage by sticking to the line and crashing the wide receivers. Give them a good solid chuck and force them off their routes. Prevent them from getting separation and the front seven of the Ravens will get right after and will crush Brady.

BGR Predictions

Jonathon Scruggs (11-7)

I’m not giving up my ticket on the Ray train. Despite the odds I still like the Ravens to squeak out a close victory and move on to their second Super Bowl appearance.

Ravens 34 — Patriots 30

Matt Jergensen (12-6)

After last week’s Mile High Miracle it’s hard to not be all in this week. Super Bowl runs often have some good fortune thrown in the mix. The Ravens are their healthiest and Joe Flacco is playing great football. They advance.

Ravens 31 – Patriots 27

Gene Winner (15-3)

The Ravens have momentum and desire for something above a win for the organization, a win for Ray Lewis. It will be no easy task, but much like Denver, the Patriots benefited from playing in a weak division. The Ravens are battle tested; you just have to believe they are due for a big win.

Ravens 34 – Patriots 27

Ben Zinman (13-5)

The Ravens will run Ray Rice and harass Tom Brady. In the end it will be the  Ravens.

Ravens 35 – Patriots 31


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