Let me start by saying that:
I don’t believe the moon landing was a hoax;
I don’t believe in alien abductions;
I don’t believe in any of the Freemason conspiracy theories I have heard.
After Sunday’s game, however, it’s difficult not to consider one popular conspiracy theory.
The Ravens went through a surreal game of one-sided spots and questionable penalty calls. I’m not going to opine on the Bodden interception or the first down on the fake field goal, both of which looked OK to me, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty more from which to choose:
· Morris was spotted ¾ of a yard ahead (Q2,10:16) on a 3rd and 7 play that originated at the NE 12. Had the ball been spotted properly, it would have made or missed a first down by less than 6 inches. As spotted, it was good by 27 inches. It’s actually difficult for a linesman to miss by that much, particularly when the play is right in front of him.
· Clayton was spotted approximately ½ yard short (Q4, 2:57). The Ravens got the first down on Flacco’s 3rd-down sneak on the next play (3rd and 1), but may have lost a valuable chance to try a play down the field.
· The 4th down spot on McGahee (Q4, 5:17) was probably ½ a yard short as placed, but would have resulted in a change of possession nonetheless.
· The worst spot of all came on Brady’s 5-yard scramble (Q2, 15:00) which immediately preceded his TD run. On that play, Brady began his slide with the ball at approximately the 3 and a half yard line and his knee touched with the ball squarely at the 3 yard line. The NFL rulebook (section 4, article 1) has the various dead ball situations. These include:
(c) whenever a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead at the spot of the ball at the instant the runner so touches the ground.
The spot allowed the Patriots to run the QB sneak against the Ravens nickel on the very next play. Had the ball been spotted at the 3, the Patriots probably wouldn’t have run the sneak. All 4 of those spots were reviewable, but the Ravens only had 2 challenges, not 6.
As for penalties:
· I don’t think I have anything new to say about the Roughing the Passer penalty on Suggs, but I believe it was marginal at best.
· Chris Carr was called for illegal contact (Q3, 13:38) on 3rd and 10 to extend a drive. Carr appeared to make contact with Welker, but Welker pushed off hard to gain separation. When the flag was thrown, it appeared Welker was upset and thought he was being penalized.
· On a similar play, Mason was called for offensive pass interference (Q3, 1:52) when he pushed lightly at most as he moved to the outside.
Let’s talk some defense and hope we can find a bright spot. The play totals exclude the Patriots’ 2 kneels:
Overall: 63 plays, 321 yards, 5.1 YPPA
Vs. the Run: 28 carries, 83 yards, 3.0 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 35 pass plays, 234 yards, 6.7 YPP
By number of Pass Rushers:
4: 15/81, 5.4 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO
5: 16/130, 8.1 YPP, 1 sack
6: 1/12, 12.0 YPP
7+: 1/14, 14.0 YPP
By number of Defensive Backs:
4: 29 plays, 179 yards, 6.2 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
5: 25 plays, 108 yards, 4.3 YPPA, 1 sack
6: 10 plays, 34 yards, 3.4 YPPA, 1 sack
· Foxworth has been terrific this season. He lost inside position on Moss to allow the TD (Q3, 2:31) which put the Patriots up 24-14. It was his first major mistake of the season, but he held the Pats’ number 1 to just 3 catches for 50 yards. He also drew a PI call on Moss that was declined when the pass went incomplete. Both Baltimore’s opponents (with their primary receivers) and the Ravens’ defensive schemes have tested him. Through 3 weeks he had allowed just 8 of 15 receptions to his targets with an interception and no TDs allowed. Moss entered with 26 receptions in 3 games. On Sunday he was targeted just 5 times with the aforementioned 3 catches.
· The Ravens brought deceptive pressure on just 8 of 35 pass plays as I scored it. Of their 3 sacks, only Johnson’s (Q3, 11:04) qualified as a deceptive rush.
· The injury to Ayanbadejo is a significant blow to the Ravens pass defense. Through the season’s first 3 weeks, Ayanbadejo was in for 60 pass plays. He rushed on a few of those, but was primarily used in coverage where his assignment was targeted just 3 times (INT, Incomplete, 22-yard catch). While the Ravens have plenty of depth at LB, it’s not apparent to me who may be able to cover. Ellerbe was used as a 2-down player prior to Brendon’s injury Sunday. McClain is a useful pass rusher and has played the run well this season, but has never impressed me in coverage. Ray Lewis disrupts by reading the QB and remains very effective sniffing screens and jumping lanes, but he does not have the speed to cover a single receiver effectively. As unknowns, Burgess and Ellerbe may get shots and I would expect the Ravens will try more dime and quarter sets with Zibby or Walker. There are actually very few NFL linebackers for whom coverage is their primary area of strength. With the schedule the Ravens face the remainder of the year, this loss is going to hurt.
· Ellerbe had 5 tackles, including 1 for a loss. On the Patriots 2nd drive of the game, he recorded the first 2 tackles, taking down Welker in coverage (Q2, 11:42) and making the initial hit on Faulk for a 1-yard loss on the next play. His 36 defensive snaps Sunday are 36 more than the career total of Prescott Burgess. He missed an open-field tackle on Maroney (Q1, 5:05), but got good pressure twice with a slightly delayed middle rush (Q2, 6:22) and (Q3, 5:26). Both times he arrived a moment late and each pass was completed, but I’m impressed that he found a clear path both times. His size is not ideal for pass deflections. I believe he’s earned some more snaps even when Gooden returns.
· Kruger played 4 snaps, each spelling Suggs. A brief accounting of those plays:
1. (Q2, 8:54) Lined up at RDE. Brady faked a pass and handed off to Morris who ran middle for 6 yards. Kruger fought off Light’s block and arrived in time to pile on. He was credited with an assist on the tackle, but he was the 4th Raven to hit Morris on the way down.
2. (Q3, 12:26) Lined up at LDE. Faked rush and dropped into a short zone on the ORS. The pass went over his head to Watson, covered by Washington, for a gain of 17.
3. (Q3, 12:00) RDE. Rushed and was blocked by Light. He moved by on the outside, but Kaczur blocked Edwards into him. The pressure was slow to develop as Brady took 6 full seconds to deliver the football.
5. (Q4, 12:19) RDE. Rushed wide again blocked by Light. Brady stepped up and pitched the ball to Welker for a 4-yard gain.
On those plays, the Patriots threw 3 times for 43 yards and ran once for 6 yards. He failed to get timely pressure on either of his 2 rushes. Both of Kruger’s speed rushes remind me of Barnes in that he was maneuvered past the QB on the outside or had his rush delayed by a circuitous route to the QB. Those sorts of rushes will pick up an occasional cleanup sack against a QB who holds the ball too long, but don’t typically pressure the QB into a poor throw. All 4 of Kruger’s snaps would normally have been Barnes substitutions, but he was relegated to special teams.
· The Ravens played a lot of what I refer to as non-mandatory nickel in this game with Carr inserted on 14 plays that were either 1st and 10 or 2nd and 6 or less with no clock pressure. This was true of the 2007 game as well when the Ravens played just 4 plays all game in 4-DB sets.
· Webb was not used defensively, but may be the primary returner now.
· The Ravens used Edwards and Bannan on the same line for 16 snaps. Included were 10 drop backs, with 7 of 9 completed passes for 120 yards in addition to the sack/fumble/TD recovered by Edwards. It’s safe to say Edwards recovery was the highlight of his 6-year career to date.
· Ravens played 2 different dime packages with Nakamura inserted 5 times and Zibby 4 times. All 9 plays were obvious passing situations and I can’t detect a pattern based on down and distance, so it may simply have been a case where the coaches wanted to get both players some work.
· Frank Walker entered for Washington for 3 plays (beginning Q1, 2:49). It may have been an equipment problem.
The Ravens 3 biggest defensive plays:
Suggs’ sack/fumble recovered by Edwards for a TD (Q3, 6:27)
Pryce’s sack to close the book on Carr’s fumble (Q1, 14:05). The Patriots were held to 3 points and the Ravens immediately drove for a TD. Life was looking good at that point.
Suggs PD at the LoS on 3rd and 4. The Patriots were again held to a FG attempt (after the fake/penalty) and the Ravens had a chance to drive for the winning score.
The Ravens will lose a few games this season. This probably won’t be the worst, but it sure stings now.