Because his effectiveness is more easily recognized, it’s often commented that the performance of a running back or quarterback has been “wasted”. On Sunday, the Ravens wasted a magnificent effort by the offensive line in their loss to the Colts.
Dwight Freeney, nursing injuries, had been limited to a single QH and no tackles in the previous 3 Ravens/Colts games dating back to 1/13/07. Robert Mathis, however, had 13 tackles, including 5 sacks, a QH, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries in the past 4 games between the teams. They entered the game as the most feared pass rushing duo in the NFL with a combined 18 sacks. Neither Freeney nor Mathis registered a defensive statistic of any sort.
The line did an outstanding job of picking up stunts. Remember the old X’s and O’s football game from the 1980’s? There was a play in it called "Double Twist Willy" that included 2 pairs of stunting linemen. The Colts ran multiple stunts, but the Ravens looked like they focused on stopping it in practice. The best example I can give came on an incomplete pass (Q1, 4:12).
Despite having ample time and space to throw, Joe Flacco turned in a pedestrian performance vs. the Colts, capped by the untimely red-zone interception. The performance was reminiscent of the first Cincinnati game, where he threw many short passes.
I did not write an offensive line column after the Cincinnati or Cleveland games, but I am including scoring here both for each of those games. If you are interested to see how my scoring system works, please check out the following link:
The Ravens ran 65 plays from scrimmage, excluding 1 spike.
Gaither: Jared handled everything Freeney had to offer. Subjectively, I’d put this game right next to the domination of Mario Williams (11/9/08) as the best of his 3-year career. In that game, the Texans became so frustrated with the matchup that they moved their superstar to the other side for much of the 2nd half. On Sunday, Freeney stayed opposite Gaither for each of his 38 snaps and tried a variety of bull rushes, spins, and stunts to generate pressure. Nothing worked. As effective as he was as a pass blocker, Gaither swallowed up Freeney and Keyunta Dawson in the run game, often getting them to run out of the play. Mathis, lining up at RDE, forced his way near Flacco once (Q4, 13:20). On that play, Gaither may have been guilty of a hold, but Mathis should also have been called for roughing the passer. The pass was complete to Mason for a gain of 13.
It was a simple, brutal, unfair massacre. Gaither pulled once successfully, he also registered a block in level 2. If you have any doubts about Gaither as a premiere left tackle, review this game. It only takes perhaps half an hour to work through the video and focus on just the offensive plays. If you compare him to Oher, you’ll see another player having a good game against top-flight competition, but Gaither’s performance is a clear cut above. Scoring for the past 3 games:
· Bengals: 49 blocks, 2 missed, ½ sack, 2 holding penalties, 34 points (.64 per play).
· Browns: 54 blocks, 4 missed, 1 false start, 51 points (.88 per play).
· Colts: 63 blocks, 2 missed, 63 points (.97 per play).
Grubbs: Ben played his best game of the season missing just 3 blocks and avoiding any serious errors. He may have gotten away with a hold (Q2, 15:00). His only other disappointing play was the completion to Rice (Q2, 0:43) where he set up the screen well at the LoS, but then whiffed on his assignment in level 2, which probably would have allowed Rice another few yards. He pulled 3 times, all successfully and had 6 level 2 blocks. His play is distinctly better than last season, but he does not belong in the same breath with the top AFC LGs (Mankins, Mathis, or even Lilja) for honors such as the PFW mid-season all pro team. I’m happy he has taken a step forward and it would be great if he could take another. Recent scoring:
· Bengals: 50 blocks, 2 missed, 1 penetrations, 48 points (.91 per play).
· Browns: 54 blocks, 2 missed, 1 penetrations, 1 sack, 1 personal foul, 37 points (.64 per play).
· Colts: 62 blocks, 3 missed, 62 points (.95 per play).
Birk: Matt did a lot of things well Sunday. On Rice’s 7-yard run (Q3, 14:28) he made 2 blocks. He made a total of 4 blocks in level 2. He paved the way for Flacco to gain nearly a full yard on the 1st down QB sneak (Q4, 12:08) which left the Ravens with 2nd and goal from the 1-foot line. I was also impressed with his bailout of Oher (Q2, 0:35) when Brock penetrated, but Birk turned off his double quickly to stop him while Flacco threw 19 yards to Mason. His only significant mistake was a shared penetration on the Ravens next-to-last offensive play (Q4, 3:35) when Rice was dropped for a 2-yard loss to leave the Ravens with 3rd and 7.
· Bengals: 49 blocks, 2 missed, 1/2 penetration, 1/3 sack, 47 points (.89 per play).
· Browns: 56 blocks, 1 missed, 1 penetration, 1 false start, 1 holding, 45 points (.78 per play).
· Colts: 63 blocks, 1 missed, 1/2 penetration, 62 points (.95 per play).
Chester: After starting the season with 5 games with an unweighted (arithmetic average of the per-play scores from each game) average of .88, Chris has played 5 games averaging .71. Word has it the coaches are restless and after the way he got pushed around on Sunday. They should be. Without committing any serious errors (sack, penalties), Chris turned in a poor score. Chris allowed the team’s only QH (Q2, 0:10) when he was beaten by Brock (the QH is not in the gamebook, but is clear from the broadcast). He pulled 5 times, succeeding 4 and allowing a penetration on the 5th. I recorded just 1 level 2 block. Yanda was off to a terrific start at guard when injured last season. The Ravens run and pass games would both benefit from his return. Want a radical alternative? Alternate series and see if both can play better with a little extra rest. Scoring:
· Bengals: 46 blocks, 3 missed, 1/2 penetration, 1.83 sacks (that’s 1 + ½ + 1/3), 34 points (.64 per play).
· Browns: 55 blocks, 1 missed, 1/2 penetration, 1/2 sack, 51 points (.88 per play).
· Colts: 55 blocks, 6 missed, 2.5 penetrations, 1 QH, 47 points (.72 per play).
Oher: Qualitatively, I think it was one of Michael’s best games. However, Oher had another false start and a number of times when he would lunge and miss, ending on the ground. It was his best game as a pass blocker. In just 10 games, Oher has become an intimidator in this league. Take a look at Rice’s 6-yard run (Q1, 5:54). It looks comically like first Mathis and then Bethea are trying to avoid any sort of contact with Michael. Scoring:
· Bengals: 50 blocks, 2 missed, 1/3 sack, 45 points (.85 per play).
· Browns: 57 blocks, 1 missed, 57 points (.98 per play).
· Colts: 56 blocks, 7 missed, 1/2 penetration, 1/2 sack, 47 points (.80 per play).
Freeney was quoted as saying he was not in awe of Gaither’s performance because he "had help" most of the day. Gaither said he could not comment on it because that wasn’t the way he remembered it. I really ought to count the total number of chip and set blockers on Freeney’s side to prove this, but to put it as bluntly as possible, Freeney is full of crap. Most of what little blocking by eleigible receivers that there was went to Oher’s side.
I felt the need to go back and research Freeney’s claim. I don’t normally write down the chip and set blockers nor the side to which they block, but it’s not difficult and I’m going to do so from now on. I’m not going to tag all these with times, but by drive and play number, here are all of the plays on which the Ravens used an eligible receiver to block. All blocks were executed against the DE unless otherwise noted:
D1, P4: R33 (This means McClain was used as a chip blocker to the right side on the 4th play of drive 1)
D1, P9: R33
D1, P10: R27, R33 (an underline indicates a set block, so on this play, Rice chipped and McClain then blocked him and made no attempt to go out for a pass)
D2, P2: R33, R27
D3, P4: R27
D4, P1: R33
D5, P2: L86, R27
D5, P3: M27 (Rice picked up a LB)
D5, P6: R86
D7, P2: L27 (Rice picked up Bullitt blitzing, Freeney not in game)
D8, P2: R33
D8, P3: L33, R86 (This was Mason’s drop)
D8, P4: L27 (Rice picked up blitzing #25 Powers, Freeney not in game)
D8, P10: R82
D8, P12: R86
D9, P1: R86
D9, P3: R86
D9, P5: R27
D9, P6: L86
D9, P7: L86
I noticed 1 running play for which I recorded 2 chip blockers and fixed that and also corrected one of McClains blocks to be a chip rather than a set.
So of 20 plays that involved a set or chip blocker, only 6 involved any sort of help on the left side and on 2 of those, it was Rice picking up a blitzing DB.
This Bud’s for you, Jared.