On this week’s game preview edition of the Arrowhead Pride Laboratory, we talked about three points on offense — and three on defense — to watch as the world champion Kansas City Chiefs battle in Baltimore for a leg up on the one seed in the AFC.
Here are three focus points on both sides of the ball for Monday Night Football:
Playing from out in front can help the Chiefs control the game against a team with a dominant run game like what the Ravens posses. The Chiefs are at an advantage if this game turns into a shootout, and that can only happen if it’s Patrick Mahomes and the offense setting the tone early and dictating how the game is played. The first-15 script will be important to their start — as it was the last time these two teams played. It’s been a pretty basic start offensively with regard to play-calling but that could change this week in what is perhaps the biggest game of the regular season.
Handling the blitz
The good news for the Chiefs is that the Ravens can’t get home with four rushers as consistently as the Chargers were able to in Week 2. That doesn’t mean that the Ravens won’t be able to affect the quarterback — they’ll do anything they can to hit the quarterback. Defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is a fearless play caller and will have no fear sending five or six after the quarterback. He has a package of creative pressures to throw at the Chiefs’ offense. Mahomes will have to be decisive against pressure and beat the blitzes by throwing into them — the best place to beat a blitz is throwing to the void the blitz left.
Wide receivers vs. defensive backs
The Ravens have a talented group of cornerbacks to challenge the Chiefs’ receiving core. Former Kansas City first-round pick Marcus Peters gets another chance to play his former team alongside one of the best cornerbacks in the game — Marlon Humphrey. This would be a good week to have Sammy Watkins available — his status could be an important factor in this game. Inside, the Chiefs should have advantages against the linebackers and safeties in Baltimore against the likes of Travis Kelce and Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs will need to be mindful of Peters falling off in zone or against his man to make a play on the football — he’s one of the best at it.
Containing the run game
The Ravens want to run the ball down your throat, impose their will and dictate the tempo of the game. It is the most diverse, extensive run game in the entire league — especially considering how dynamic of a runner quarterback Lamar Jackson is. The Chiefs found some success last year with scrape exchanges (the defensive end crashes for the running back as the linebacker “scrapes” over to the quarterback) against the zone-read runs of the Ravens. Expect to see that as one of the tactics in defending their run game. Another solution? Score points and force your tempo on Baltimore — make it hard for them run to stay in the game.
Lamar Jackson’s development as a passer
There is no denying that Jackson has shown progress as a passer in the first two weeks of the season. When games have mattered most — the playoffs — Jackson’s flaws as a passer have been magnified and reflected in his 0-2 record. He has made strides in year three. Jackson still is most comfortable operating between the numbers, but he’s shown more accuracy so far this season. His ball placement has largely been improved to all levels of the defense. There are still some balls that sail on him due to mechanical issues on and off schedule, but this week serves as a good chance for him to show he’s ready to take the next step.
Containing Mark Andrews
We just got done discussing the middle field strengths as a passer for Jackson, and his primary target in that area is third-year tight end Mark Andrews. The Oklahoma product has developed a strong rapport with last year’s league MVP. He led all tight ends last year in touchdown catches with 10 and already has two this season. Andrews isn’t the best athlete, but he has strong, soft hands and is a very good route runner with fluid hips. Andrews doesn’t have to open for Jackson to put trust in his favorite target; he’ll challenge even when he’s covered. If the Chiefs can limit Andrews’ touches, that’s a big win for them.
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