By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens are up against it. That’s what it feels like. They have to take on the team that has represented the AFC in the past two Super Bowls, without Ronnie Stanley (On top of all their other injuries). The offensive line already seemed too problematic. Now it feels like a crippling blow.
No game in the NFL is a gimme, so the Ravens have to take this seriously. What are the keys to the Ravens’ offense in this game? Their job is to make it work, so how do they honestly go about their job? Here are three keys to the game.
1. Use Jackson’s athleticism to counter the offensive line issues:
The Baltimore Ravens have Alejandro Villanueva playing left tackle on Sunday. After seeing Villanueva struggle against the Las Vegas Raiders, that’s a seriously tough ask of Villanueva. It looks like Pat Mekari is the right tackle -after the injury of Tyre Phillips, there aren’t many other options. This offensive line isn’t going to function smoothly. There is no evidence to suggest that this offensive line can work together in unison. Jackson can’t stay in the pocket all day. He has to be an ever-moving target for the Chiefs.
Any play that allows Jackson to roll out and move the pocket is a good thing. It’s almost inhumane to leave him behind this offensive line in the pocket. He’s going to be running for his life all day anyway, there’s no getting around it. Jackson is going to have to get involved in the running game and he’s going to have to be able to move out of the pocket as a passer.
If Jackson doesn’t rush for 100 yards in this game, the Ravens will have problems. Does Jackson want to show that he can do it from the pocket against the Chiefs? You know that he does. If you’ve been paying attention, you know Jackson can do that. The only thing that matters is keeping Jackson upright the whole game. To do that, Jackson has to be a moving target. His athleticism has to save the day by design rather than out of desperation because the play broke down.
2. The Baltimore Ravens need to run the ball like the Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can’t keep the defense on the field too much against Patrick Mahomes. Even with a valiant effort, the defensive dam will break. They might not want to attempt long drives that can expose this offensive line but they have no choice. They need to win the Ravens’ way. I’m talking about an elite running game and drives that suck the life out of the other team’s chances.
The good news for the Ravens is twofold. First, Patrick Mekari is a good run blocker. If he is going to be the right tackle, that could work for the ground attack. Secondly, the Chiefs couldn’t stop the run against the Browns. While the Kansas City defense seems to step up when they need to, they have a ton of problems defensively.
A lot of Ravens fans may not want to hear this, but they need to go full Greg Roman to win this game. They need a creative and nontraditional offense focused on the running game. They need to stick with it too, no matter what. Otherwise, Jackson is in a very unfair position behind an offensive line that is the pass blocking equivalent to asking the Powerpuff Girls to stop the Avengers. If a running back gets a hot hand, stick with that running back.
3. Tire out the Chiefs and negate pass rush with play-calls
The Ravens need to get some screen passes going in this game. How about some wide receiver screens? I’m thinking a pop pass to Mark Andrews when it looks like he’s going to be a blocker initially. I’m thinking about a jet sweep to Tylan Wallace and a fake built off of it. If you want to see if Marquise Brown or Sammy Watkins can throw a pass, it’s not a bad time for a trick play. The point is that the Ravens need to keep the Chiefs guessing and chasing.
Short passes out to the receivers with some blocking built-in will get the Chiefs chasing speed. Screens are also a timely call that negates blitzing and nullifies weakness on the offensive line. The run game will tire out the Chiefs if the Ravens do what they need to do in this game. As bleak as it looks, the Ravens have enough talent on offense to make this work. If they come into the game with the plan of attack they had for the Raiders though they’re in trouble. They need to get creative and do things to get play-makers in space.
The injuries don’t need to be an excuse. Let’s see how creative the Ravens can get. Should the Ravens answer the call, it may work out in a surprising fashion. If the Ravens don’t have fun with it and don’t do some of these things it could be a long day. That’s the bottom line, if the Ravens are inspired making some fun changes on the offense could help overcome injuries and throw the Chiefs off balance defensively.