As the Ravens prepare for the Houston Texans, Sunday’s opponent in the AFC divisional round, defensive end Cory Redding didn't mind revealing the defense’s not-so-secret game plan to a roomful of reporters Monday.
“That’s the objective -- first and foremost is to stop the run,” Redding said (to the surprise of no one, really).
The Ravens aren’t afraid to tell an opposing offense what they plan to do it ahead of time (after all, it shows up plain as day on the game tape). They want to stomp out the run, make the offense one-dimensional, then hammer their quarterback. The wins over the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers quickly come to mind.
The Ravens were able to do that when they defeated the Texans, 29-14, at M&T Bank Stadium in October, though the defense wasn’t as smothering as it was in those two dominant wins I mentioned.
In the win over the Texans, the Ravens slowed down running back Arian Foster, a second-team All-Pro in 2011, then sacked QB Matt Schaub four times. The Ravens pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Foster rushed for 49 yards on 15 carries in that Week 6 game. His explanation to reporters in the locker room after the game: “I played terrible. … It was obvious. That will never happen again.”
Following that game, the second-year back reeled off three straight 100-yard rushing performances. Foster piled up 919 rushing yards in his final nine games of the regular season and rushed for 153 yards and two scores in Houston’s wild card round win over the Cincinnati Bengals. In his 10 games since Week 6 -- Foster sat out the season finale -- he scored touchdowns in nine games and had 13 total touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving).
“Arian Foster has been [great],” coach John Harbaugh said. “It’s been interesting in that system, how they’ve been able to plug backs in, but it is a certain type of back. And, it’s a big, fast, downhill, one-cut kind of runner who makes quick decisions. And, that’s what he does. ... You are impressed with his athleticism. His speed, he accelerates, he runs really hard. So, he’s a premier back in a really good running system with a really good offensive line.”
Redding said the key to stepping Foster, a dangerous cut-back runner, is to stay disciplined and maintain gap integrity. They did that in the Week 6 win and plugged up Foster’s running lanes.
“When you are playing a zone team, like Coach Harbaugh said, they try to get you running sideways,” he said. “You have to stay disciplined, hold your gap and control your man. Whenever the [running back] decides to cut, come off the guy aggressively, [be] able to cut back and keep your base and then make a tackle. That’s what everybody did. Everybody really flowed well to the ball. We stayed in our gap leverages and guys were staying square. As long as you can do that, you have a good chance against this scheme.”