Ravens Gameplan Week 11 | Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens go to Chicago on Sunday, and I’m here to get you ready like a pro. I have meticulously gone over the film of the Chicago Bears last two games. Through my studies I have developed both an offensive and defensive gameplan for the Ravens. The purpose of this is twofold. I want you be prepared for what you’ll see on Sunday. The more you know going into the game, the more you’ll pick up on during the game. Secondly I do it because it is my job at Common Sense Football. When I prepare for a game with great intensity I can cover the game better as an analyst. Film study allows me to see what the Ravens did well and what the Ravens could have done better.
Scouting Report: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears have a very formidable offense. The Bears have a very strong offensive identity which does not change with backup quarterback Josh McKown under center. The Bears offense is aggressive and sophisticated. This really should not be a shock as former Saints offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer and Marc Trestmen built it. The offensive line is finally solid. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey might be the best receiving duo in football. Martellus Bennett has been a go to guy in the passing game as well and Matt Forte is finally being used correctly.
The Bears know exactly who they are offensively and it shows in their play selection. In the past two games the lions have averaged almost 20 plays a quarter with 5.5 runs per quarter and 13 passes per quarter. Against the Green Bay Packers in week 9 the Bears played 79% of their 72 plays in 11 personnel (1 back, 1 TE, 3 WR). Against the Detroit Lions in week 10 the Bears ran 69% of their 76 plays in 11 personnel.
The Bears love to bring in an extra offensive tackle. Often they will replace Martellus Bennett with the extra tackle. The tackle plays as an eligible receiver but always blocks. It would figure to be a substitution favoring the Bears run game but they call both runs and passes with this look. For the sake of concise charting, I counted the extra offensive tackle as a tight end. The Bears fancy themselves more of a spread out passing team but they run the ball quite effectively. They are not afraid to bring in big run formations to get the job done. The Bears ran 8 plays in 21 personnel (2 backs, 1 TE) in both games. Against the Packers 6 of these plays were passes and against the Lions 5 of these plays were passes. In the Lions game the Bears used both Martellus Bennett and Donte Rosario in 12 personnel much more. The Bears ran 18% of their plays from 12 personnel in this game. It is important to note that a few of these plays the second tight end was the extra offensive tackle.
For the most part the Bears offense is not very predictable. The Bears run the ball just enough to make you honor the run and play-action; also they use many different formations. They love to stack their wide receiver which makes it hard to cover their very athletic and savvy receivers man to man. They also have a handful of plays that put Marshall and Jeffrey on the same side. This is almost unfair because it can create a one on one matchup for Martellus Bennett on the other side. I can also envision a Forte Wheel route to the other side being deadly. In the past two games they have used Jeffrey to open up Brandon Marshall; but maybe they will break that tendency if they realize the opponents expect that. The Bears do have a few go to plays that I would expect to see on Sunday. They love to run all verticals and have Forte wide open in the middle of the field. Against the Packers this play went for 33 yards. Another go to play is a quick screen out to Alshon Jeffrey off play-action.
The Chicago Bears defense is banged up and has seen better days. The Bears have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL (I never thought I would say this about Da Bears). There are several reasons why Chicago struggles to stop the run. For starters the defensive line is too aggressive for its own good. They often backdoor plays (Run themselves too far down field and out of the play). This is probably why the draw play was so effective for both the Lions and the Packers. The Packers Eddie Lacey and James Starks embarrassed the Bears. Players were out of position. Major Wright has taken awful angles coming from the secondary, there were issues with gap responsibility and they could not tackle. The Bears are playing with two high of a pad level and they are throwing high arm tackles. The Bears cannot stop the outside run. Their defensive ends (Even Peppers) have not done a good job in run defense. Shea McLellan may be out for the game and linebacker Lance Briggs will not play on Sunday. With an injured Charles Tillman the Bears vaunted secondary is hurting too.
The Bears play mostly a traditional cover 2 but mix coverage up well. When Aaron Rodgers went down in the week 9 Monday Night Football game the Bears put 8 men in the box and made Seneca Wallace try to beat them. This was the intent but the Bears still could not stop the run. Deep inside routes is the way to attack the Bears secondary. In the cover 2 defense the corners play outside technique to funnel receivers into the two deep zones of the safeties. Many times the inside routes are wide open, however Joe should be careful the linebackers play well in zone coverage.
Game Plan Ravens Defense
The Ravens need to stop the run to win this game. The Bears depend on their running game to set up play-action. Play-action sets up the deep pass and also takes linebackers out of depth so the Bears can throw across the middle of the field to Marshall and Bennett. The Ravens need to be gap sound and they must win up front. If the nose does his job Darryl Smith and Jemeal McClain should be able to make plays in the backfield.
The Ravens need to be physical at the line with these powerful wide receivers. The Ravens pass rush is stellar and McKown can stare down receivers and hold the ball too long. If Baltimore reroutes the receivers at the line it should behoove the pass rush. The Ravens need to move Ladarius Webb around. He is so good in the nickel and he is our best cover corner. If we switch Webb’s responsibility from play to play they will have to account for him on every play. When Webb is the Nickel we need to see him blitz a few times because no one does it better. This will also help our regular pass rushers get free rushes to McKown. The Ravens need to win up front because I want to be able to play our safeties deep. The Bears are a home run hitting offense. We need to make Josh McKown sustain drives to beat us. We cannot give up the big play and must keep everything in front of us. I want two deep safeties however at all times. The Ravens must take away the deep ball, reroute the receivers at the line and blitz the daylights out of McKown. The Bears offensive line is not bad but it has two rookies on the right side. I want to see some overload blitzes to the right side of the offensive line.
Ravens Gameplan Offense
If the Ravens offense can’t get the running game going the run game is officially hopeless. The Bears have so many injuries, and they can’t stop the run healthy. The Ravens need to reinvent themselves in this game; better yet they need to remember the physically dominating team they once were. The Ravens are not a team that can play without a fullback. They cannot spread defenses out in 1 back and 3 wide receiver sets because they’re not built to. They cannot protect Flacco with 5 man protections and Ray Rice and Bernard Peirce are horrible at picking up the blitz. Vonta Leach is the answer. The neglected fullback has had next to no time on the field lately and the Ravens offense has struggled mightily. This is the week the Ravens need to admit they were wrong and feature Vonta Leach in 60% of the offense, for both run blocking and pass protection.
The Ravens need to be able to run the football because if they cannot this game is a hopeless cause. The Bears struggle against the outside run and they’re over aggressive. Let’s use an off balanced line. We can do a couple of toss plays to the strong side- get the defense to be overaggressive- call them on it with a counter to the weak side. Let’s put Tyrod Taylor in for some trickeration, let’s do anything we can to get some creativity into the run game. Imagine what could happen if the Ravens could finally run the football. The passing game would open up and play-action would actually serve a purpose.
The Bears defense is vulnerable to inside routes especially the deep dig route. The Ravens need to attack this vulnerability. Chances are the Ravens will not be able to get the run game going. It’s a sad but honest prediction. If you have watched the Ravens at all this year you know the running game has been that bad. The Ravens need to use a handful of draw plays and not just on the few 3rd and 14 plays the Ravens have come to know so well. This as well as screens will take advantage of an overaggressive defensive front.
Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones are the kind of deep threats that should make a Cover 2 defense sweat. Joe Flacco has the kind of rocket launcher deep ball that should strike fear in the hearts of Chicagoans. That said none of these weapons mean anything at all unless the Ravens can start winning the battle up front. Run the ball, protect Joe and good things will happen. This should be the week of offensive explosion for the Baltimore Ravens but it is dependent on a change of philosophy. If the Ravens keep the same strategy they have played their last three ball games with, if they want to spread Chicago out and ignore the best fullback in football, they will lose another close game on the road. If they change and show some creativity in the run game, if the offensive line finds its big boy pants and the Ravens use good route combinations they will win. It is that simple. It really is.