FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Whenever two teams match up on the gridiron the keys points to coming out on top at the end of the 60 minute match are usually the same. Control the clock, don't turn the ball over and score more than the other guy. Seems pretty simple right?
Well, it becomes hard when both sides have the same goals and the all star caliber players to carry out the plays called by their coaching staff. In New England the relationship between head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady is one of the strongest in the NFL. The two of them always seem to be on the same page and are rarely caught off guard like they were last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Here in Baltimore the chemistry needs to be between offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and and quarterback Joe Flacco. In the times that the Ravens struggle on offense it seems pretty obvious that Joe and Cam just aren't feeling it together. So, the first key to a Ravens victory on Sunday night will be Joe and Cam finding a comfort zone between them in which both of their strengths can be a virtue because no matter how good each may be on his own, they can not coexist without working with each other.
The next big key for a Ravens win, especially against the potent New England offense, is time of possession. If the Ravens want to beat Tom Brady and the Patriots they will need to have long sustained drives in which they use both the running game and the passing game equally. Not necessarily run, run, pass or pass, pass, run but find a way to keep the Pats defense off guard by using both and working in a healthy dose of play action. If the Ravens try and use the quick strike offense too much they will soon realize that they are not the only ones who can do that and their passing game is not quite as well established as that of the Patriots. Plus the Patriots are trying to develop a strong running game this season. If the Ravens can shut that down and make them one dimensional it will go along way towards a win.
To put it simply the Ravens will have to get back to stopping the run and running the ball on offense to win on Sunday night.
Last but not least the Ravens must win the battle of the trenches. Last time these two teams met up Vince Wilfork was a one mas wrecking crew over hobbled center Matt Birk. This can not happen again. Especially with new rookie outside rusher Chandler Jones expected to supply pressure from the corners as well. So far Dean Pees has done a decent job of bringing exotic blitz packages to the line in order to confuse opposing quarterbacks but he will be facing his former team and he had better have a whole new bag of tricks up his sleeve to surprise them. Do whatever it takes to get after Tom Brady and protect Joe Flacco. Then worry about everything else.