Chalk Talk With Babes. How The Ravens Can Limit Peyton Manning and the Denver Offense On Sunday

Sports and Bets — September 10, 2015 at 9:49 pm by

The Ravens open up the season this Sunday in the Mile High City with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. I’m not saying the Ravens win the game hands down, but I love Baltimore’s chances for multiple reasons. Yes, our offensive cohesion is non-existent right now. Yes, Joe Flacco isn’t going to have anybody to throw those long, picturesque bombs, 65-yards through the Denver air to, but I still love our chances.

When you’re talking Broncos football, you’re talking Peyton Manning. The 39-year-old signal caller’s health is definitely in question after he, quite frankly, looked like a bad MAC quarterback down the stretch last season. He supposedly has his arm strength and leg power back to whip the ball around the yard like he did at the beginning of last year. If I’m Dean Pees, I’m making him prove that point Sunday. Every single one of my coverages called would be focused on funneling every throw to the outside and to the boundaries. The Ravens need to force Peyton to make the long throws to the sidelines, and across the opposite hash marks. Make him prove he can beat you that way, because I don’t think he can.

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How does a defense go about executing this type of game plan? First and foremost,  everywhere on the field, the corners must play inside technique to force out-breaking routes. By making the receivers force their way across the faces of the defender, the defense will throw off the timing of the routes on throws like slants, digs, and drags. These are routes that Peyton is planning on making a living off of this season. (I can guarantee you that because they are shorter throws.) Of course, you can’t always stop a receiver from getting inside of you as a DB, but if the Ravens overplay the technique pre-snap, it will force Peyton to adjust pre-snap to routes like outs, comebacks, and corner routes, and that will force him to make longer throws. I can live with Peyton completing passes on the outside, as long the Ravens make the tackle. What we can’t have, is Peyton hitting his receivers in stride, over the middle, with real estate in front of them to run.

Another pro to making Peyton throw predominantly to the outside is that Denver’s sup-par offensive line will have to hold up that much longer against the Ravens pass rush. The Broncos will be asking second round rookie left tackle Ty Sambralio to protect Peyton’s blindside against Suggs and Dumervil – good luck dude. They will eat him alive in his first NFL start. The only thing he has going for him is veteran stud guard Evan Mathis will be playing next to him. Mathis may be able to assist him once in awhile if the Ravens only come with a three man rush. Otherwise, Mathis will have his hands full dealing with Brandon Williams and crew inside. Coach Kubiak is going to have to dedicate a player to help Sambralio all day in pass protection. The most likely candidate is tight end Virgil Green. My guess is Green will be parked next to Sambralio for the majority of the protections.

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Of course, with a ferocious pass rush, the equalizer is an active screen game. This is what Daryl Smith and CJ Mosley have to be on top of all day. I see screens being called to the left side multiple times to slow down that rush. Screens not only to backs out of the backfield, but wide receiver screens and tight end screens as well. We all saw Kubiak toss in those TE screens on many occasions last year, and I’m sure that’s coming in this game. Another candidate to watch in the screen game is wily vet “H” back, James Casey. He’s another guy who’s spent years under Kubiak and will be involved in the game plan. The entire defensive line needs to feel the screen coming as they’re allowed to rush upfield too easily, and pursue downfield to help out the secondary.

Maybe the most important aspect of stopping the Broncos offense on Sunday will be to stop the run, and neutralizing the play-action game. Of course, this is the first thing in any defensive coordinators mind when devising a game plan. Stopping CJ Anderson and the zone stretch plays are going to be imperative to the Ravens success. The Ravens will have a clear advantage in doing this though, as once again I’ll bring up Peyton Manning’s age. In Kubiak’s system, the backside defensive end must stay home on running plays to defend the bootleg play-action. This is a big reason why a huge cutback lane appears on the backside, and Kubiak’s backs often take advantage of it. Let’s be honest, Peyton will not fake a run front side, and bootleg around the backside, attacking the line of scrimmage and squaring his shoulders to make an effective throw. Therefore without this threat, the backside end can pursue down the line of scrimmage and close down any cutback lane. As long as he doesn’t overrun the play, the Ravens should really only have to worry about shutting down the front side of running plays. Simple gap responsibility discipline should enable the Ravens to limit Denver’s running game.

If the Ravens for some reason aren’t able to stop the run, then the play action pass off the front side run is where Peyton can pick them apart. If the running game is effective, that means the linebackers have to cheat forward to play the run game. That is when Peyton can pull back the ball, and hit crossing receivers and tight ends over the middle of the field – the same area that the linebackers have vacated to cheat up for the run. (This goes back to the secondary playing inside position, and not letting receivers get inside of them).

One play in particular that the Broncos will probably attempt is one of the most notorious cover-2 beater plays. It has many names in different offenses, but the concept is always the same. A team playing cover 2 is always asking their middle linebacker to get back and cover the deep seam down the middle. Manning has made a living on this play.  Manning has the backside guard pull into the line and he fakes the inside trap play. The pulling guard action holds the middle linebacker (because he has to honor his first responsibility of the run), and then Manning quickly pulls the ball up and hits a streaking receiver or tight end over top of the linebacker. This is another throw the Ravens simply cannot afford to Peyton and the Denver offense. Some disguised cover 2 with a robber is the answer to this play, so perhaps the Ravens safeties can jump one of those passes and make a play.

If the Ravens can slow down the running game, and force Peyton into longer, tougher throws, then I see the Ravens offense doing just enough against a tough Denver defense to win the game. If they make the entire field assessable to Peyton, then he may still have enough in him to hang forty plus on us again. Time, specifically Sunday afternoon, will tell, Babes.

 

cover pic: gtbets

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