It's easy for a coach to go into a game wanting to avoid a cornerback on the defensive side of the ball. Case in point, Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis doesn't get a ton of passes thrown his way. Sometimes that's by design. Most of the time it's due to his coverage ability. Revis is in that elite category of cornerbacks and is playing in a defense that's utilizing his skill set.
It could easily be a strategy for the Ravens to craft a gameplan where they avoid him on the playing field. That doesn't appear to be the case this week. As quarterback Joe Flacco told reporters this week, it could actually be more detrimental to switch up their strategy that much in one game.
"When you go out there and you try to change things around and avoid a guy or pick your spots to go at a guy, I think you're usually taking away a piece of your offense that you rely on a lot," Flacco said. "You allow them to dictate something by who they match him on or who he happens to be on on that play. So, I think as a play-caller, you have to just go out there, rely on your guys that you have that are out there, rely on the fact that they have ability. And as a quarterback, you have to go out there and just go through your reads."
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak knows he'll get a lot of press coverage from Revis. At the same time, fellow cornerback Brandon Browner isn't someone any offense can just pick on. It should be a challenge for Kubiak as a coordinator to draw up some designs to get open receivers against this talented secondary.
"They are as good as there is in the game. They can lock you down," Kubiak said. "They match them up. Bill [Belichick] moves them around. They match people. They have a lot of confidence in what they’re doing, man coverage-wise. I think we have to go do what we do. We can’t sit here and assume, ‘Well, this guy is going to play that guy.’ We can’t do that. We have to go out and run the things we run and do them well. But that’s a strength of their defense, and if we’re going to find a way to get it done, we’re going to have to beat as good a man coverage as there is in football, and we understand that."
It will be interesting to see if the Patriots match their corners the entire game. With both Torrey Smith and Steve Smith out there, one of the corners could follow one of the receivers the entire game. Or they could line up on one side of the field and guard accordingly. The talent in their secondary allows them to switch up schemes on a week-to-week basis.
If I had a guess to which would happen, the match-up scenario seems more like the Patriots and what Revis would want his team to do. Revis would likely follow deep-threat Torrey Smith with Browner trying to be as physical as possible on Steve Smith, arguably the most physical receiver at the line of scrimmage in the game. The reason I say this is that if you're an opposing team you don't want Torrey Smith burning you deep. And you don't want Steve Smith picking up easy first downs against weaker corners.
Regardless of the coverages shown, Flacco and the offense will try to execute their offense the way they've done throughout the 2014 season.
"If he's open, throw it to him; if he's not, don't," he said. "We're going to have to make contested catches, contested throws — all those things. But I know in the past when we've played against some guys and you've tried to avoid him or done things game plan-wise to get matchups in other places, it usually just takes your attention away from what you should be doing, and I think that has a bigger effect than sometimes the actual guy can."