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Key Areas to Watch in Colts vs. Ravens Showdown

The Colts must find a way to contain one of the most electric quarterbacks in the NFL while stuffing the best rushing attack they have seen all year if they want to win on Monday Night Football. (Video via Indianapolis Colts YouTube)

When the NFL schedule was announced back in May, we all saw right away how difficult the Indianapolis Colts’ first five games would be.

All five games would be against teams that won 10 games in 2020, four of which made the playoffs. It was going to be a tough road even if the Colts weren’t banged up.

However, with a new quarterback, All-Pros and Pro Bowlers injured, and players not playing up to their potential, the Colts have stumbled out to a 1-3 start. The last game of the daunting five-game stretch takes place on Monday Night Football against the Baltimore Ravens.

The Ravens stand at 3-1 and are looking to build on the success they had last year against this Indy team. So, what will the Colts have to do to come out on top? Let’s take a look at the key areas to watch.

Containing Lamar Jackson

Jackson has become one of the most dangerous players in the entire league. His ability to run the ball at the quarterback position has been a major threat for years. He has also added a downfield passing element to his game this year that did not previously exist.

“That boy special,” Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard said Friday. “You see it. I don’t feel like he gets the respect that he deserves from this league. Playing against him last year seeing how explosive he is, seeing how fast he is, seeing how much of a playmaker he is – he throws the ball well and he runs the ball well. He can be a leading passer in the league and rusher. Just have to make sure you minimize that as well as you can and try and make sure you keep him in the well.”

Containing Jackson will be a huge determinant in the Colts’ success. Last year when these two teams faced off, the Colts held Jackson to 51 passing yards in the first half and led 10-7. The second half is when Jackson got loose, resulting in a 24-10 defeat for Indy.

Leonard will certainly be a major part in making sure Jackson does not take over the game. While Leonard has been hampered by a nagging ankle injury all year, he seems to be getting healthier each week. He’ll need to have his best game of the year if the Colts want to limit Jackson.

Rush Defense of 2020

The Colts’ defense ranked second against the run in 2020, giving up only 90.8 yards per game. This year, the Colts have taken a step back in that category as they are giving up 114 yards per game, 15th best in the NFL. The Colts will need to revert to their dominant ways on Monday night.

The Ravens currently rank third in the league in rushing at 164.5 yards per game. They have lost running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards for the year with torn ACLs, but that has not slowed them down. Along with Jackson at quarterback (69.8 ypg), the Ravens rely on the trio of running backs of Ty’Son Williams, Latavius Murray, and Devonta Freeman to lead their rushing attack.

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This will be the best ground game the Colts have faced so far in 2021. It is going to take a very disciplined approach by the Colts to take the Ravens out of their game.

“They’re real diverse,” Colts All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner mentioned. “They’ve got that option going. Lamar (Jackson), obviously we all know he’s an elite quarterback, but I mean he’s an elite runner. We’ve got to treat him obviously like a running back. This week is all about assignment football. Guys have to be in the right fits at the right time, got to read your keys and the main thing is we have to trust one another.”

The Colts are hoping to stay disciplined and play at the level they did in 2020.

Attacking the Blitz

The Ravens defense isn’t what it used to be, but it is still a very talented unit. One of the main characteristics of this defense is its blitz rate. The Ravens blitz more than any team in the league in the hope of causing chaos and creating pressure on the opposing quarterback.

“Fast, flying around type of defense,” quarterback Carson Wentz said on Thursday. “I’ve played them a couple of times in my career now. They’re going to be physical, they’re going to come after the quarterback. You know you’re going to get all that stuff. You’re going to get some different looks, some exotic packages, all sorts of stuff. They’re going to mix up their personnel a lot, play a lot of linebackers, a lot of safeties – kind of keep you on your toes in that regard.”

With the Ravens’ blitz-heavy defense, the Colts’ offensive line and Carson Wentz must be prepared for everything thrown at them. Communication about where the pressure is coming from and getting the ball out quickly will be very important.

“For us, it’s just about execution,” Wentz continued. “Keeping it simple in some respects. Communication is going to be huge for us on the road in a noisy environment, and just playing fast and making plays. It’ll be a fun matchup.”

It’s no secret the offensive line of the Colts has struggled this season. Injuries and poor execution have hampered the unit and the offense as a whole. Another step forward must be taken to ensure the Ravens defense doesn’t have opportunities for success.

Have thoughts on the key areas to the game for the Indianapolis Colts' matchup against the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football? Drop a line in the comments section below letting us know how you feel! 

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