Santonio Holmes believes the team has a better chance of winning the more the ball is in his hands. To the former Super Bowl MVP, as he will tell you, it makes sense. Last year he was instrumental in many late-game comebacks, accounting for nearly five wins on his own heroics — earning him a $45 million extension and a front page photo of him topping off a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal from 2002.
Holmes, who was targeted only twice in the 34-24 loss to the Raiders last week, has a long history with the Baltimore Ravens and is ready to use his experience to exploit the vaunted Ravens defense.
Experience aside, he has made a career at being a thorn in the side of the Ravens — pulling in a touchdown reception in seven straight games (including postseason). That’s more than any other player in the league. It makes sense, then, why Holmes would be stressing more attention this week.
“I don’t think they’re going to want to play a lot of man versus us. They’re going to come out in different coverages like they did when I played in Pittsburgh,” said Holmes, who was drafted by the Steelers in 2006. “It’s going to be blitzing, zones, man-to-man, Cover-2, one-high playing as if he’s a hole player. They’re going to be a lot of mixtures of coverages come Sunday, so we just definitely have to be prepared for it.”
But according to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the offense sputtered last week after the Raiders secondary switched from their base man-to-man coverage to a zone scheme. This led to only two targets for Holmes last week.
“Once we got up on [the Raiders], they started playing a lot of zone. We had hit kind of a stale spot. There were clearly some things that I wish we probably would’ve recognized as a staff quicker,” Schottenheimer said.
Against a Super Bowl-favorite, like the Ravens and the Patriots next week, Schottenheimer and the offense are not going to have a choice to react slower. Mark Sanchez needs to get into early rhythms with either/or Holmes and tight end Dustin Keller in order for the offense to start clicking. The two offensive weapons have accounted for 37% of Sanchez’s completions so far. Schottenheimer recognizes the solution to the problem.
“Tone [Holmes] is a huge part of what we do. He’s a guy that we want to get the ball to. We have huge plays and huge packages for him,” Schottenheimer said.”You can’t be a fan of the league to recognize a punt return here and a big touchdown to win the game a couple of years ago on fourth down. He’s a great player. He’s had success against a lot of teams.”
The problem shouldn’t be Holmes getting open, he’s going against two young corners in Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams, but getting Holmes the ball. Despite the inexperience on the corners, the Ravens defense has been efficient at stopping receivers. That is mostly due to their tough front seven, who’s adept at rushing the passer. Pressure up the middle from Haloti Ngata and Ray Lewis will be tough on the rookie center, Colin Baxter. Nick Mangold (high ankle sprain) may be able to help, as he’s been labeled a game-time decision for Sunday’s contest. If it’s not from the inside, Terrell Suggs will be pressuring the corners all game.
With Holmes’ experience against the stingy Ravens defense, he knows it just focusing one play at a time taking everything yard by yard. “Every week, when it was time to play against those guys, it was always do what you can, help the team, everything else, it just falls in place,” he said.