Six Points: Ravens vs. Cardinals
The Cardinals controlled play for much of their Week 6 game at the Pittsburgh Steelers before surrendering 22 unanswered second-half points to a third-string quarterback in a 25-13 loss. It was the second defeat in three games for Arizona, which rolled up 126 points in winning its first three games.
The NFL’s schedule-makers are doing no favors for the Ravens, who must fly across country for the second consecutive week following a 25-20 setback at San Francisco in Week 6. Each of Baltimore’s losses have come by six points or fewer and Monday’s night matchup will be the fifth time in seven games it has played on the road.
Here are three keys to the game for both the Ravens and Cardinals.
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1. Somehow get pressure on Palmer
The Ravens secondary has been a mess. The quickest fix at the moment is to get to the quarterback faster and with more frequency. Here’s looking at you, Elvis Dumervil. The more time Palmer has to throw, the greater the chances Fitzgerald and company will burn their defenders.
2. Get Steve Smith Sr. free
It’s become quite obvious that Smith is the only serious weapon in the Ravens’ passing attack. While Patrick Peterson tries to shadow him, offensive coordinator Marc Trestman needs to get Smith freed up by motioning him across formations and using other receivers to run interference on Peterson within their routes.
3. Run, Forsett, Run!
Establishing the ground game is a must for the Ravens. Justin Forsett is dealing with an ankle injury but it didn’t seem to slow him down in San Francisco. Twenty touches is a must for the team’s second-best playmaker on offense.
1. Red zone or bust
The Cardinals have been a model of efficiency inside their opponents’ 20-yard line during their four victories, scoring touchdowns on 16 of 17 possessions. Conversely, in losses to the Rams and Steelers, games in which it committed three turnovers apiece, Arizona has been successful on 2 of 9 red-zone trips.
2. Air it out
Carson Palmer would be wise to follow the blueprint utilized by the 49ers against the Ravens in Week 6. With Baltimore starting Shareece Wright at cornerback five days after he was signed, San Francisco put up 340 passing yards. Cardinals wideout John Brown is coming off a career 10-catch, 196-yard day and Larry Fitzgerald already has 43 receptions through six games.
3. Don’t forget Andre Ellington
Chris Johnson played superbly after starting running back Ellington was hurt in the season opener, going over 100 yards twice in three games. Ellington was eased back into the lineup after missing three games and had only three carries in Week 5, although one was a 63-yard touchdown run. Yet he received only one rushing attempt last week as Arizona was limited to 55 yards on the ground.