Four Downs: Keys to beating the Ravens (11/17/13)

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A look at four keys for the Bears to beat the Baltimore Ravens.

1. Control the clock, control the tempo

The Bears have shown what they can do and have demonstrated a blueprint for success when they’ve been able to sustain long drives and dictate the tempo of the game. With Jay Cutler sidelined this week because of an ankle injury, Josh McCown will take the reigns of the offense once again, which could be good news in at least one regard: McCown doesn’t have the big-play arm that Cutler does and he is more a methodical quarterback who takes what is available. Against the Packers two weeks ago, McCown helped the Bears own the time of possession due to his precision. The best formula for success from this point forward — due to numerous injuries and holes on defense — is for the Bears to control the clock and tempo.

2. Beware the double threat of Ray Rice

The Ravens haven’t really done much of anything this year offensively. They’re ranked 17th in passing and 30th in rushing. However, despite their low ranking, defenses still have to keep an eye on versatile running back Ray Rice. Although Rice is having a woeful season by his standards, he’s still a threat out of the backfield as both a runner and a receiver. He’s a burden to take down because of his low center of gravity, and his good hands allow him to become one of the top receiving backs in the league and a good outlet for quarterback Joe Flacco. The Bears haven’t been very good defensively, so they can’t afford to take any player for granted, whether that player is having a good year or bad year.

3. Don’t get beat deep

Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco — that’s still embarrassing to say — has one of the strongest arms in the league, and he has some downfield weapons at his disposal. Wide receiver Torrey Smith leads the team with 41 receptions for 753 yards. His 18.4 yards per reception is the third-highest average in the league. The Ravens are fully aware of the problems the Bears have had at safety, and they know cornerback Charles Tillman will not be playing in this game. Expect the Ravens to take their chances, and if they hit the home run ball, they’ll keep themselves in the game.

4. Keep the heat off Josh McCown

With the defending Super Bowl champions clearly in rebuilding mode this year, there have been problem spots everywhere. But one area in which they excel in is rushing the passer. The Ravens like to bring heat from all over the field and they have a pair of linebackers each with at least eight sacks this year in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens as a defense are ranked third in the NFL with 32 sacks. The Bears have done a good job of protecting the passer this year, ranking third in the NFL with just 14 sacks given up. Part of that is attributed to the improved offensive line play and part of it belongs to Marc Trestman’s quick-pass offense. But either way, both facets will have to be sharp this Sunday to keep McCown upright.

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