The Ravens are going to look to put pressure on Tom Brady Sunday so it’s up to the Patriots to find ways to counter what the Ravens have historically been able to do against the Patriots and Tom Brady.
In the last three matchups between the Patriots verses the Ravens, Brady and the Patriots offense have turned the ball over six times and have allowed five sacks on Brady. That includes the 2011 postseason win and the 2012 regular season and postseason losses. The Ravens now rank sixth in sacks in the NFL with 42 on the season.
Most of the Ravens pressure comes from its second line defenders, or linebackers, so the Patriots need to scheme ways to tie them up in coverage. Of course, one way to do that is to have a double tight end set with a single back in the backfield. That would tie up three of the four linebackers in coverage, but since the Patriots don’t seem to have two capable tight ends, they’ll have to be creative.
An interesting person to look at would be James Develin, the Patriots full back. So far this season, the Patriots have underutilized Develin, but he could be a good matchup to get some heat off of Brady potentially. He can run for passes out of the backfield, or keep him in there to help the pass rush. I don’t think any of us know his full potential, but this is a good game to try it out.
Backs out of the backfield are going to almost always take a linebacker with them in coverage, but sometimes defenses can put a safety on a tight end full time. Since running backs require those pass rushers attention, Vereen needs to be used way more than last game where he only got targeted seven times in the passing game.
If the Ravens do opt to put a safety on the Patriots tight ends, that should open up opportunities in the long ball. The Patriots seem like they’ll be getting back Dobson and Thompkins this week and depending on which path the Ravens take, those two receivers could be vital to the win.
A win would clinch the AFC East and get revenge on the Ravens for knocking the Patriots out of the playoffs last season. If you beat the Ravens, then they are pretty much out of the playoffs since the Bengals are playing the Vikings this week. A Bengals win and a Ravens loss would clinch the Bengals as the AFC North winners.
I’d look for the Patriots to try to utilize two running back sets and two tight end sets (if they can) to slow down the pass rush. It’s a way to help a problem that the Patriots have struggled with the past two seasons. The line won’t be completely healthy so it comes down to offensive scheme.