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Ravens perimeter attack must topple Titans

It’s a weakness on weakness matchup

Tennessee Titans v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Titans defense is strong up the spine. Jeffrey Simmons, Rashaan Evans and Kevin Byard give the Titans a stout constitution up the gut. Simmons can beat blocks, especially against zone blocking concepts. Evans is an old school linebacker, who plugs gaps and is a trustworthy tackler. Byard is a well rounded safety with a combination of range, instincts and tackling prowess. Other than that? Holes everywhere. Particularly on the perimeter.

The Titans defensive backs particularly struggle underneath. That appears to be influenced by the decision to have the Titans play soft off coverage. This leaves them incredibly vulnerable to quick hitting passes to the sideline. The issue? Baltimore’s perimeter passing game struggles to consistently punish defenses that play soft coverage. They prefer to attack vertically, between the numbers.

This was highlighted in the 2020 divisional round loss Baltimore suffered to Tennessee. Baltimore’s run game failed to generate consistent yardage between the tackles, while they failed to convert perimeter throws in key situations. The Ravens simply failed to make the Titans pay for playing off. Time and time again, the Titans gave plenty of room for Ravens receivers on the perimeter. Seldom did the Ravens take advantage.

Drops (seven according to Greg Roman) and general miscues compounded. The Titans executed over and over again. The Ravens couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot. The Titans were prepared for the Ravens read option attack, holding Baltimore without a first down on such plays.

Lamar Jackson was off, and the Titans capitalized. Two interceptions, two fourth down miscues and general indecision plagued Jackson, who had little margin for error as the Ravens defense continued to falter.

The Titans had the Ravens number on offense. There was no doubt about it. Many Ravens and pundits have said something along the line of, “7/10 times, the Ravens win that game.” I find that to be false. The Titans were prepared to stop the option. The Ravens couldn’t operate on the perimeter. The Ravens defense also tried to match 21 and 12 personnel with nickel and dime, which led to them getting run through. The Ravens were out planned, out coached and out played.

Fast forward to Week 11 of this season. The Ravens find themselves able to take advantage of the Titans soft alignments a few times.

The last clip, the touchdown to Andrews, highlights the discipline that the Titans lack in zone coverage routinely. The Ravens were able to take advantage of a blown coverage, but still left too many easy throws on the table.

The Titans leave guys open. Plain and simple. The Ravens just don’t consistently find them. The good news is that the Ravens passing offense has been endlessly more efficient and functional attacking the perimeter and all areas throughout their playoff push. Furthermore, their perimeter run game has truly excelled. It’s propelled the Ravens into the greatest five game stretch in terms of rushing yards in NFL history, racking up over 1,300 yards with their bash and veer option game.

This is dangerous for the Titans, who have suffocated the Ravens read option calls, holding them without a first down on such plays in their previous two matchups. The Ravens have leaned more heavily into their perimeter option attack, which has opened up their passing game down the middle of the field. Lamar Jackson has also been. . . just better since returning from COVID-19. He leads the NFL in total QBR (93) since his return and has been getting the ball out in rhythm and on time to all three levels.

If the Ravens can have a functional quick perimeter passing game in their matchup with the Titans, their offense will create incredible conflict for a defense that has surrendered a league high 36 touchdown passes and sports a historically bad third down defense. The Titans defense is coming off of a horrid performance against the Houston Texans, who lit the Titans up underneath and outside all game.

If they can’t beat the Titans with quick perimeter passing, then the Ravens will find themselves in another volatile offensive performance and put pressure on their defense to stop one of the NFL’s top offenses. J.K. Dobbins should have a big day, as his burst and acceleration to the corner exploit the weakness of the Titans defense. The famous Albert Einstein quote, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result” applies to this game. If the Ravens expect to use the read option game and attack the Titans between the C-gaps and win, they might belong in a white room.