Sunday could not have gone much better for the Ravens offense. The team set records for yards (501), first downs (32, 3 more than the previous high), and offensive plays (85, 1 more than the previous record).
Despite a defensive effort that was nearly in the same class, the Ravens found themselves facing 3rd and 8 at the KC 31 (Q4, 2:14) and facing the possibility of a long field goal attempt from the franchise’s first new kicker. On that play, the Chiefs showed an 8-man blitz and 7 men actually rushed. Kelly Washington, who was in motion, threw a cut block that slowed down Derrick Johnson. The remainder of the offensive line along with Heap and Rice also held as the Ravens ran a 2-man pattern. Flacco’s pass came out early and arced easily over Brandon Carr to the outstretched arms of Mark Clayton who pulled it in for 6. Despite the pass rush, the Chiefs did not even manage to knock down Flacco. It was by far the most important play of the game and the biggest test for the young line.
The Ravens ran 44 plays that resulted in a pass or sack. Those plays included just 1 sack, 1 ball tipped at the LoS, and not a single QH. The Ravens were not called for any false starts and the 2 illegal formation penalties were both the result of receivers failing to cover the tackle, not the frequent “cheating tackle” version. While the Ravens’ linemen were called twice for holding, they gave up just 1 other tackle for loss and paved the way for 198 rushing yards on 41 plays (4.8 YPC). The 2008 Ravens had 2 games where they had as few flaws, (9/21 vs. the Browns and 12/7 vs. the Redskins), but none where they were as dominant. For a young line with a new captain to play the way they did speaks volumes about the Ravens’ chances in 2009.
If you are interested to see how my scoring system works, please check out the following link:
The Ravens’ 85 offensive snaps were all “real” (no kneels, spikes, fakes, etc.) and all the starters played every play.
Gaither: Jared had the toughest game of any lineman. He spent much of the day blocking Tamba Hali, the Chiefs’ best pass rusher. Hali would beat him for a sack (Q2, 5:52) and was the subject of a holding penalty (Q2, 14:51). Gaither was otherwise solid, getting good push on his run blocks and standing up his opponents in pass blocking. The relative size of Oher and Gaither is more apparent to me when each spends a moment standing next to Flacco. Joe is clearly taller than Oher (about 2 inches), but Gaither looks like Shrek standing next to Flacco (cast in the unfortunate role of Donkey for these purposes). Jared can be seen using his size effectively on the peel he threw on Dorsey during Rice’s 22-yard run (Q4, 8:29). I noted 2 pancake blocks and 1 block in level 2. Scoring: 80/85 blocks, 4 missed, 1 sack, 1 holding penalty, 68 points (.80 per play).
Grubbs: Ben had one of his better games as a pro. He did a better job of choosing when to move to the second level (5 blocks in L2), found a block on all 7 of his pulls, and generally stayed with his run blocks for longer and with greater effect than I can recall in 2008. He was beaten by Williams for a penetration (Q1, 11:08) that resulted in Rice’s 2-yard loss on the Ravens’ first drive. Thereafter he would complete 74 of 78 blocks successfully. His highlight block came on Clayton’s 9-yard run on the Ravens’ game-winning drive (Q4, 4:42). On that play he pinned a lineman on Birk (missed the number) then moved to level 2 where he dove (some might say fell) to slow up both Mays and Williams. Scoring: 80/85 blocks, 4 missed, 1 penetration, 78 points (.92 per play). He scored a little better 5 times in 2008, but I can’t recall him playing better.
Birk: Matt Birk is a 6-time Pro Bowler, but has a tough assignment following Jason Brown, who was the Ravens most effective lineman in 2008. He couldn’t have had a better debut, displaying excellent footwork and judgment. He missed just 2 of 85 blocks by my count and led the team with 6 blocks in level 2. There wasn’t much fancy about it, but Birk was able to regularly frustrate Tank Tyler. Tyler registered 7 tackles, but none behind the line of scrimmage (he’s credited with 1 in the Gamebook, but it was the touchup after Flacco’s fumble recovery on the only sack). Birk, as all the linemen did, looked mobile blocking on screen passes. Scoring: 83/85 blocks, 2 missed, 83 points (.98 per play).
Chester: The decision to start Chester over Yanda was odd to me and it’s possible it was motivated by a desire to keep Yanda healthy. Chester’s only serious mistake was his holding penalty (Q3, 11:20), but he otherwise played well. He registered 4 blocks in level 2 and found a block on 3 of 4 occasions that he pulled. Chris did not give ground in the pocket as he did often in 2008. He delivered 4 pancake blocks by my count, often finding a way to take down a man who was doubled. Scoring: 81 blocks, 4 missed, 1 holding penalty, 75 points (.88 per play).
Oher: I don’t think it’s common that an NFL tackle has as good a debut. Oher had only 1 significant mistake when he allowed Mike Vrabel to tip a pass at the LoS (Q2, 3:58, went unnoticed in the Gamebook). He otherwise registered 3 blocks in level 2, delivered 2 pancake blocks, found a block the one time he pulled, and made all 17 blocks when he lined up on the left side (unbalanced or 7-man). He stuck with his run blocks, positioned himself well on screens, and allowed his opponents to play themselves out of the action when appropriate (a decent example is Q3, 13:40). Scoring: 79 blocks, 5 missed, 1 penetration/tip, 77 points (.91 per play). Welcome to Baltimore, Michael. I hope you’ll come to call it home.
Yanda: He saw action on 6 plays, all in 6 and 7-man alignments. He recorded a block on each play. McGahee’s game-sealing TD (Q4, 0:36) was run over the Yanda/Ngata gap. With Yanda apparently healthy and Chester playing well, the Ravens are faced with a happy dilemma. As they sort it out, the Ravens have intriguing 6 and 7-man flexibility. Scoring: 6 blocks, 6 points (1.00 per play).
Ngata: Played 3 goal line snaps and connected on 2 blocks (.67 per play). The Ravens scored both times he made a block (Q1, 2:16 and Q4, 0:36). Ngata was required for just 29 defensive snaps Sunday, so he was well rested.
· 5-Man Unbalanced Left: 15 plays, 43 yards, 3.9 YPPA. There were no gains over 9 yards and all 3 passes were incomplete.
· 5-Man Unbalanced Right: 1 run for 5 yards
· 6-Man Balanced (Yanda eligible as a TE to either side of an otherwise balanced line): 3 plays, 7 yards, 2.3 YPPA.
· 7-Man (twice balanced with Oher Left and Ngata/Yanda right): 3 plays, 5 yards, 1.67 YPPA
· I noted Flacco had ample time to throw on 24 of 43 pass plays. In addition, he ran after ample time in the pocket on 3 others. By comparison, Flacco had just 6 “ADs” (all day) marked on my scoresheet for last year’s playoff game at Tennessee. Surprisingly, Joe was not particularly effective on those plays Sunday, totaling 145 passing yards (6.0 YPP) along with his only interception.
· The Ravens lined up McClain frequently as a TE and Backup Edgar Jones did not see action on offense. McClain had a very good day as a blocker, particularly in pass protection.
· Flacco’s clutch TD throw to Clayton was the Ravens longest play of the day, going for 31 yards (6.2% of the team’s 501 total yards). I doubt if there have been 2 other instances in NFL history where a team generated 450+ yards of total offense and had their longest play be less than 7% of their total. The previous Ravens’ record of 479 vs. the Cowboys in 2000 included pass plays of 59, 40, and 32 yards (to Sharpe, Ismail, and Stokely, respectively). The Chiefs certainly contributed, but it was a devastating onslaught of medium distance plays as the Ravens ran 34 plays (40% of their 85) which gained 6 or more yards.