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"Familiarity breeds contempt - Aesop"

After beating their division rivals from Pittsburgh in the first round of playoffs, the Ravens will take the field against a very familiar opponent. Today's playoff matchup will be the 4th game between these two opponents. While most teams fear playing within the confines of Foxboro, Baltimore is not one of those teams. The Ravens have found success at Gillette by taking two postseason victories against our beloved Patriots.

How is it that team like the Ravens have so much success against the Pats? It is like the show Breaking Bad. The Ravens are like Heisenberg (aka Walter White). They have a secret formula that just produces the best meth (or victories) against the Patriots. I guess in some ways, New England is like Gus Freng. The Pats are intelligent and savvy, but cannot seem to get rid of Heisenberg (the Ravens) when the time comes.

What is it about the Ravens that allows them to have so much success against New England? What is their secret formula? My quest for answers led to watching the previous two matchups and observing the Ravens. Thank you NFL Rewind!

The Ravens success formula can be written out as: Off(Pr+OL+PA+Db) + Def(DL+Pr+TO+ST) = Ravens Success

Did you get all of that? If not, you are in luck because I plan on breaking down this formula.


Offensive Ingredients (Off)

The Ravens offensive personnel thrives on a few key ingredients:

  • Power running (Pr) 
  • O-line protection (OL)
  • Playaction (PA)
  • Deep balls (Db)


Defensive Ingredients (Def)

The Ravens defensive personnel relies on the following elements:

  • Stout defensive line (DL) 
  • Pass rush (Pr)
  • Turnovers (TO)
  • Special teams (ST)

Now that you have the ingredients, it is time to start the cook!


Power running

The Ravens of old had the luxury of having the services of Ray Rice to help establish their ground game. Despite his off the field troubles, the Ravens have found success with Justin Forsett. Like Rice, Forsett can run between the tackles and also serve as a receiver out of the backfield. Also, let's not forget that Bernard Pierce has some experience against the Pats defense. Baltimore likes to get the ground game going to keep defenses honest while setting them up for playaction. During that 28-13 loss in the AFC Championship, the Ravens rushed 30 times for 109 yards. Expect the Ravens to have the same number of attempts today.

O-line protection + Playaction + Deep balls

After you add a dose of 30 rushing attempts, Baltimore needs their offensive line to establish their pass protection. For the most part, the o-line protected Flacco in the AFC championship, only giving up 2 sacks. The stellar play by their line and the established ground game, afforded Flacco to call playaction and take shots down the field. A well protected Flacco led to 240 yards passing and 3 TD's, two of them going to former Ravens wide receiver, Anquan Boldin. Expect the Ravens to stretch the field with their two Smiths, Steve and Torrey.

With the formula half way done, you then must switch your focus to combining the defensive ingredients that led to the Ravens AFC Championship victory.

Stout defensive line

The return of Haloti Ngata could not have come at a better time. He is truly the anchor of that strong defensive front and one of the few pieces left from that 2012-13 Super Bowl team. Even though the defensive line gave up 108 yards on the ground, they still created havoc for the Patriots aerial attack. Besides Ngata's name, I do not want to hear the announcers even mention Elvis Dumervil. If the Ravens can exploit any weaknesses in the Patriots offensive line, Tom Brady and the bunch will be in for a long day offensively.

Pass rush + Turnovers

During the AFC Championship game, the Ravens did not record a sack. However, their pass rush played a critical role in causing a turnover chain reaction. Anytime you face a defense with names like Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, and Ray Lewis, you can expect the in your face pressure that would cause any person to fold like a cheap suit. Even though those names are no longer printed on the back of Ravens jerseys, Baltimore seems to find suitable replacements like Elvis Dumervil and Daryl Smith. Plus you keep continuity on your defense by resigning a player like Terrell Suggs. Nobody is a bigger villain to the heroic Patriots then "Mr. Ball So Hard" himself. Baltimore will come out defensively and disguise blitzes to keep Tom Brady on his twinkle toes. The Patriots offensive line must do their job so Brady doesn't make pressured throws that usually lead to interceptions.


Special teams

Special teams are often seen as the blue collar jobs of the gridiron. Special teamers always bring their metal lunch pails and their thermos filled with black coffee and get to work. One Raven special teamer that needs to be feared is Jacoby Jones. Jones has made a name for himself by jump-starting his Ravens teammates with key touchdown returns or giving the offense stellar field position. The Patriots cannot afford to yield any points to the Ravens special teams unit.


Conclusion


The formula has been a success for the Baltimore Ravens in years prior. However, New England has adapted on both sides of the ball and should have some success against their nemesis. Expect New England offensively to pick apart Baltimore's secondary. We will see the passing game open things up for our ground game. Let's not forget that Rob Gronkowski did not play the last time these two teams met. He will be the X factor on the offensive. Defensively, the Patriots secondary will shut down the Smith brothers. The days of Flacco picking apart our weak secondary is over. Thank you Revis and Browner.

Patriot fans should feel good knowing that we are healthy and stronger on both sides of the ball. The Ravens are not the same team that we feared in years prior. Everything will be alright Patriot Nation. Once we win, we will quote the Raven... nevermore!



Follow me on Twitter at @michaeljames24

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Michael J. Weathers 1/10/2015 01:50:00 PM Edit
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