- They didn’t play as well as they had as a unit
- The Gaither injury is difficult to watch
- The Patriots did an excellent job of reacting to the Ravens 5-man blocking schemes by sending extra pressure
With early reports on Gaither sounding good, the last point is the most serious. Many folks thought the protection afforded Flacco last year was unnecessary, but he benefited from simple reads and time to throw laser shots into holes in enemy zones and deep balls where he could step into his throws. The pressure he faced in New England was by far the worst of the year as the Pats accumulated 2 sacks and 7 other QB hits.
Digging a little deeper, the Ravens used 29 eligible receivers as set blockers on 48 drop backs and executed 10 other chips. I’m defining a set blocker as an eligible receiver who is kept in to block and never attempts to go out (or turn to the QB) for a pass. A chip block occurs when an eligible receiver, usually a back, hits a pass rusher before drifting out into a pattern. Contact within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage between a receiver and defender is not chip blocking unless the contact is clearly initiated by the offensive player for the purpose of slowing down the pass rush. The chip blocker may accomplish several significant outcomes, including pinning a defender who has his counterpart off balance, slowing down a pass rusher who is ahead of the timing for a screen pass, or delivering a significant blow to the side/arm of the opponent’s pass rusher while he is engaged with a lineman. Pass rushing is tiring, but well-delivered chip blocks are the football equivalent to big body blows in boxing.
On Sunday, several of the QHs went unassigned to a lineman as the Ravens did not have enough blockers assigned. If Gaither does not play Sunday, Cameron will probably rely on more protection from his backs to slow down Antwan Odom, the NFL’s sack leader. Le’Ron McClain, in particular, has had a fine season as a blocker and has lined up as a both as a fullback and TE.
If you are interested to see how my scoring system works, please check out the following link:
On to abbreviated scoring detail and notes on each player. All of the Ravens’ 66 offensive snaps are included for scoring purposes.
Gaither: With the depth at tackle, Jared’s injury is one of the most damaging the Ravens could suffer. Prior to getting hurt, Gaither had played poorly, allowing half of a QB hit and committing a false start penalty. The Ravens ran the ball 7 times for 43 yards (6.1 YPC) before he left. He registered 1 level 2 block that I saw. Scoring: 28 plays, 25 blocks, 2 missed, .5 QH, 1 false start penalty, 20.5 points (.73 per play).
Grubbs: Ben was not party to any of the litany of QB hits as I scored it. The game did not start well for Grubbs with 3 missed blocks and a penetration allowed by midway through the 2nd quarter . He slipped and fell which led to McGahee’s 2-yard loss (Q1, 11:36). He pulled successfully on 3 of 3 attempts, made 3 blocks in level 2, and most importantly, he stepped up his game after Gaither’s injury, connecting on all but one block. With the number of passes, the Ravens had few mobility opportunities. Scoring: 62 blocks, 3 missed, 1 penetration, 60 points (.91 per play).
Birk: Birk finally dropped to Earth Sunday after 3 terrific games. He was party to both sacks allowed to Wright. On the Ravens last drive of the first half (Q2, 2:49), Wright and Wilfork stunted and Birk and Chester were unable to react. I scored it as a shared sack. Wright was then called for unnecessary roughness to essentially negate the play. On the Ravens first possession of the 2nd half (Q3, 7:11), Wright beat Birk straight up to record a slow-developing sack. I didn’t tag him with any missed blocks other than the sacks. I recorded a pancake and 1 level 2 block. Scoring: 64 blocks, 1.5 sacks, 55 points (.83 per play).
Chester: Subjectively, I think Chester played better than his score as he was a big part of the Ravens’ success running the ball. He pulled once successfully, connected on 2 blocks in level 2 and was out in front of several screen passes. Scoring: 59 blocks, 5 missed, .5 penetration, .5 sack, 55 points (.83 per play).
Oher: Michael played well in his first NFL action at LT after Gaither’s injury. Before moving over, he missed 2 blocks and allowed a partial QH. After taking over for Gaither, he made all but 2 blocks on the left side. He had 4 level 2 blocks with the highlight (Q3, 1:25) coming as he and Birk simultaneously threw blocks in the second level while Rice glided between them en route to his 50-yard gain. Scoring: 61 blocks, 4 missed, .5 QH, 59.5 points (.90 per play).
Yanda: Marshall took over for Oher at RT when Gaither was hurt and was as good as might have been hoped for a backup tackle. He had some difficulty with Ty Warren, allowing a full QH and a shared penetration. Yanda has not played as well as he did last year by any stretch, but he also hasn’t been at his natural position. Were he back in Chester’s spot, I think he would have benefitted tremendously from presence of Birk and Oher, as Chester has. Scoring: 39 plays, 36 blocks, 1 missed, 1 QH, .5 penetration, 32 points (.82 per play).
· The Ravens played just 3 unbalanced left sets (all 3 passes for 8 total yards). They did not play a single unbalanced set after Gaither’s injury, nor did they play any jumbo sets the entire game.
· I’ve seen a player have 6 catches on a drive before, but I have never seen a single receiver register 6 first downs on 1 drive as Mason did on the Raven’s first drive Sunday.
· Flacco had several underthrown deep balls early in 2008, but the pass to Mason deflected by Meriweather (Q2, 11:58) is the worst I can recall since the playoff completion to Clayton at almost the same spot on the field at Tennessee. He failed to step into the throw and I think it was a byproduct of the pressure he was made to feel to that point. At the stadium, I am often amazed to see how Flacco can thread the ball in traffic or throw the out route with very little interception risk. In this case, however, I was actually stunned with how much ground Meriweather was able to cover to deflect the ball.