Ravens will be looking for top playmaker

Goal will be to get Rice one on one with Patriots' Mayo in space

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Joe Flacco and the Ravens have to win one-on-one matchups in the AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium when the Patriots send pressure. Look for Cover-1 blitz schemes from Bill Belichick's defense in the red zone that test the ability of Ravens receivers and backs to create leverage within the route stem.

As shown here, the Ravens have their Posse personnel (three receivers, one tight end, one back) on the field in a Doubles Slot formation. The Patriots counter with their nickel sub package (five defensive backs) sending five-man pressure with free safety help in the middle of the field. Using a five-man protection scheme, Flacco will target Anquan Boldin (H) on the corner route or throw underneath to hit Ray Rice (R) between the numbers.

Patriots' blitz scheme

The Patriots are sending five-man pressure with the Mike backer (M) hitting the "B" gap to the closed (strong) side of the formation. To the open (weak) side, Will backer Jerod Mayo (W) has Rice in coverage. If the Ravens running back stays in on protection, Mayo will use a Green Dog technique (rush to coverage) and add to the blitz front. However, with Rice releasing into the route scheme, Mayo will peel on the back and match in coverage.

Free safety help

In any man-free pressure scheme, the defenders in coverage play with an outside shade and funnel receivers to their safety help. With the field shrinking inside of the 10-yard line, Patriots free safety Devin McCourty will shorten his depth, read the quarterback and create angles to break downhill on inside breaking concepts (slant, dig, seam).

Ravens' route scheme

The Ravens will occupy McCourty in the middle of the field with tight end Dennis Pitta (Y) on the inside seam route and wide receiver Torrey Smith (X) on the intermediate dig route (square-in). That gives Flacco the one-on-one matchups he wants with Boldin on the 7 cut (corner route) and Rice working underneath on the angle (or dodge) route.

Targeting Boldin

Boldin doesn't run at an elite level but he can win on the 7 cut by creating some separation at the top of the route stem. With nickel back Kyle Arrington (N) playing to an outside leverage position, Boldin will stem to the post and work to stack on top of the defensive back when he breaks to the 7 route. This gives Flacco the option of throwing to the corner or putting the ball on the back shoulder for Boldin to finish the play against man coverage.

Rice versus Mayo

The Rice-Mayo matchup favors the Ravens with Rice working against a linebacker in open space on the angle route. From a chowed alignment (outside leg of the tackle), Rice will burst to the flat, force Mayo to drive hard to the upfield shoulder and then break back inside of the numbers. This is a tough matchup for Mayo because of Rice's lateral ability and quickness. If the blitz doesn't get home, the Ravens can test Mayo's technique and target their top playmaker in the open field for six points.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.

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