Friday, September 12, 2008

Keys to game: Ravens @ Texans

The Ravens are leaving for Houston on Sunday to take on the Texans in a rescheduled contest set to begin at 8:30 PM Eastern Time on Monday night. The game will be televised on local CBS stations in the primary and secondary markets of the Texans (Houston, Beaumont-Port Arthur, and Bryan, Texas) and the Ravens (Baltimore; Washington, DC; Salisbury, MD; and Harrisburg, PA).

Depending upon the severity of the storm there is a slight chance that the game could be played on Tuesday in a location other than Houston. But for the sake of all involved, particularly the citizens of Texas, let’s hope we’re watching Ravens’ football on Monday night.

It’s too bad ESPN isn’t carrying the game. Then Redskins fans forced to watch the Ravens would feel the pain that Baltimoreans felt when their sorry ass teams were jammed down our throats week after week when Baltimore was without a team.

But I digress…

The Ravens at Texans match-up on paper looks like a slam dunk win for the Ravens. The Texans are coming off a 38-17 dismantling by the Steelers, a game during which Willie Parker ran for 3 TD’s before the midway mark of the third quarter. After three quarters Mike Tomlin called off the dogs while leading 35-3. Meanwhile the Ravens pummeled the Bengals for 229 net yards rushing.

The Texans without Ahman Green are almost completely dependent upon the performances of Andre Johnson and Mario Williams. Shut them down and the Texans have no chance unless the Ravens show up in a philanthropic mood and give the football away at an alarming rate and they are penalized excessively.

However the Texans do have home field advantage. Houston was 6-2 at home last year and the crowd will certainly be even more galvanized and emotional on the heels of Hurricane Ike.

Without emotion and Ravens’ miscues, the game could be a blow out particularly if the Ravens hit the rewind button on the Bengals’ game and execute an identical game plan against Houston.

With that in mind, here are the keys to the game as I see it:

1. Neutralize DE Mario Williams and WR Andre Johnson: Look for the Ravens to chip Williams with tight ends and the hard hitting jumbo backs, Le’Ron McClain and Lorenzo Neal. McClain and Neal need to hit Williams and make it hurt with the ultimate goal being to get him off his game by slowing him down not only physically but mentally. If Williams needs to worry about where the chips are coming from, he can’t react to the play developing around him as quickly. Running at Williams has been effective in the past because he will oftentimes penetrate the backfield from the perimeter. If he wants to go that way, let him and then run inside of the pursuit.

As for Andre Johnson, the Ravens should handle him much the same way that they handled Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Hit Johnson early with a linebacker and bracket him beyond 10 yards.

2. Collapse the pocket on Matt Schaub: The Texans have a young offensive line averaging 25 years of age. The center C. Myers has an angular build (6’4”, 287 pounds) and he should be no match for Haloti Ngata. If Ngata and sidekick Trevor Pryce can break down the pocket coupled with jamming Johnson on the outside, Schaub will be in a world of trouble in his 3 step drops which you can expect a lot of given the struggles of the Texans’ offensive line.

3. Run the football: The Steelers ran easily on the Texans and the Ravens need to establish a similar rhythm rushing the football. That will make Joe Flacco’s polished ball handling skills that much more effective during play action particularly early in the down and distance sequence. It will also take the hostile crowd out of the game and mitigate the issues rookie quarterbacks normally experience on the road.

Follow this plan and the Ravens win 26-9.

Ignore it and the Texans will cover the 4 1/2 point spread that has trap written all over it.


J Monae said...

I agree the formula on D is the same and they should not be as good an offense as the Bungles will prove to be.

The offensive gameplan outside of chipping away at Mario with every extra blocker we have, will be to stretch the feild.

Last week the Ravens went after the Bungles soft spot, but the Texans have different personel strengths. The Bungle corners played very well, and better than I expect the Texan coverage to.
Will Demps was not very good at coverage before he hurt his knee, and should give up the long ball over the top, early and often on simple play action and vertical routes from the slot and TE spots.

Houston has seen the tape and will try to force Flacco to beat them in the air, and I think he is more than capable. They are going to bring pressure from an 8 man front, and unlike Billick who would try to dink and dunk against this defense, Cam will go deep right at the seem the saftey is vacating. Sometimes they will hit the deep one, other times it will be a WR filling in behind the vetical route, but they are going to pay for the blitz.
Lorenzo and mcClain will be able to handle the Lbs a lot better than they will be able to handle ours.

Just like last week, the strength up the middle on short yardage situations will be the difference, and as long as the turnovers or big plays on special teams dont get out of hand, the Ravens should walk all over this team that has not proven to be strong enough up front on either side of the middle of the line.