There is one way the Ravens beat the Patriots today, and that’s by getting pressure on Tom Brady.
Last week against the Steelers, the Ravens displayed everything they can do to get to the quarterback. They were able to break down the Steelers’ protection through blitzes and stunts and get free rushers to the quarterback. They were able to isolate Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on Pittsburgh tackles. They used stunts and games along the defensive line to get inside pressure. They pushed the pocket from in front of Roethlisberger and from the edge. They didn’t allow Big Ben to calmly sit in the pocket and find his receivers downfield.
Tom Brady is a different animal though. He gets the ball out of his hands quickly. This often negates the effects of a blitz. This will be key for the Patriots today. They likely won’t have much success on the ground against arguably the best front-7 in football. With that being the case, they’ll need Brady to pick up quick yards through the air on first and second down to stay in manageable 3rd down situations. Those manageable situations are critical, because 3rd and short or medium means the short and quick passing game is still in play. If Brady has to wait in the pocket to push the ball downfield in 3rd-and-long situations, the Ravens will get to him either through the blitz or through a relentless 4-man rush.
3rd down is always a critical down in the NFL. But first and second down between the Patriots offense and Ravens defense will have a huge impact on the outcome of this game. The fact of the matter is that the Ravens can break down protection with scheme and with talent. They have a deep front-7, so players stay fresh and there is no rest for the offensive line. If Brady doesn’t have the luxury of getting the ball out of his hands quickly, Baltimore pass rushers will get to him.