Anatomy of a Divisional Round win: What the Bills need to do to stop the Ravens offense

Mark Schofield
·2 min read

The Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs is considered by many to be the best weekend of the football year. This weekend might not be an exception to that rule, given some of the matchups we will see over Saturday and Sunday.

According to the minds in Las Vegas, the closest game of the weekend takes place when the Baltimore Ravens head to upstate New York to take on the Buffalo Bills. The Bills are as of this moment favored slightly, and with weather a potential issue (early forecasts have snow in the mix) this could be a tight affair.

When the Baltimore Ravens have the football, the Bills will need to be ready for a number of different offensive designs. One of them is, of course, Baltimore’s “counter bash.” That was something we covered last week, and as you might imagine, it was part of the Ravens’ game plan for Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

However, the Titans did a pretty good job at slowing it down. How? In these three examples we’ll see how they accomplished that task. Defenders stayed home as much as possible, and their safeties did a good job of “running the alleys:”

Of course, any time you ask your safeties to be aggressive in run support, you are opening yourself up to the play-action passing game. We know that is going to be another trick Greg Roman has up his sleeve, and Buffalo’s talented tandem of safeties Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are going to be asked to do a lot in this game.

Recently I was watching a coaching clinic put together by Jared Keyte, the special teams coordinator/safeties coach at the University of Maine. In the clinic coach Keyte covered how he teaches the defensive backs at Maine to play press quarters coverage.

I was thinking of that clinic, which I watched on a rollicking Friday night at Casa de Schofield, when reviewing Baltimore’s game against the Titans. Playing zone coverage against Lamar Jackson is often a good idea, because you wnat to keep eyes on him as much as possible. But showing press coverage might be something the Bills want to do. Why? In Keyte’s clinic he stressed that playing press took away “free access” throws from the quarterback. Without a big pre-snap cushion, the QB was forced to work through reads and make tight window throws.

One of the ways the Ravens got Jackson and Marquise Brown going was on a run/pass option design, but with Brown running a quick speed route to the flat. If Jackson saw that free access, he would take it:

The Bills might want to watch that clinic…