KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It is a game that has arguably been circled on many football fans' calendars since early May. A rare early season match-up that pits two Super Bowl contenders against one another.
Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid will take one of his former protegés, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, for the fourth time since joining the Chiefs. Reid is 3-0 during that time. Both have MVP quarterbacks that are redefining the position.
Here are some of the things Kansas City will need to routinely accomplish to come away with their fourth victory in the Andy Reid tenure.
Contain on the edge
This goes for both the run and the pass. Lamar Jackson is a talented runner and wrecks defenses when they give him the edge. The Ravens are able to stretch the run defenses with all of their threats and occasional ghost motions. Baltimore typically likes to double at the point of attack, threaten with Jackson to the edge and hit teams with dives, blast and cutbacks. They will sprinkle in ghost motions when they think the defense will abandon gap responsibilities or become overly aggressive. Defenses have to be sound in their gap responsibilities. Otherwise two gaps will be open and the Ravens will be gaining five plus yards per run play. The Chiefs defensive line will have to hold the line of scrimmage to slow down this rushing attack.
Wide nine and bring five
If the Chiefs want to sack Lamar Jackson they can only bring five defenders to attack. The ends need to contain up field. The tackles can take a rush lane and the blitzer needs to cut off the lane the defensive tackle vacates. Or the potential blitzer needs to wait as a spy to buy the defensive line time to get to Jackson.
Know where to find 89
Mark Andrews is one of the keys to their play-action offense. He converts the crucial downs and scores the red zone touchdowns when not given proper respect. Teams crash so hard on the run that over time, Andrews can take full advantage of the voids left in between the numbers. If Lamar doesn't turn to his legs to make the play, he is looking for 89.
Run away from double tight
Baltimore seems to have some trouble when teams run to the weak side. They get caught up in the wash on their backside pursuit and have a lot of traffic in their pursuit angles. The Ravens want to win the edge at all cost and leave the backside open more times than they should for cutback lanes and screen passes. This might be an effective way for the Chiefs to establish their run game and screen game to keep a favorable down and distance. After it has been established, the Ravens will back off on the strong side and Kansas City should be able to try the off tackle runs.
Move the pocket
The Ravens are likely going to routinely blitz the Chiefs on third downs based on their tendencies. Baltimore's coverage begin to fall apart on bootlegs, rollouts and when a quarterback scrambles outside of the pocket. The Chiefs can take some of the stream out of the Ravens by utilizing this strategy early.
Pick em for the underneath
A reliable way teams have found consistent success in the pass game is to push a receiver vertically to create room on crossers, slants and dig routes but they have to be well timed on the breaks. Baltimore will show respect in their zone coverage and struggle to recover quickly from the route combinations that are well timed.
Both sides of the ball have a tough task head of them because of the pressure Baltimore is able to create at a 47% blitz rate on defense. And rushing attack on offense that averages 5.1 yards per carry. This will not be an easy match-up but it never is when you sit on the mountain top.