It’s not easy to consistently contain a running QB, but Dixon served notice with his long run in the first quarter (Q1, 5:26) that was negated by holding. It’s a little surprising to me that he was able to score so easily in the 4th quarter. The Ravens otherwise adapted well to Dixon as a passer. He completed just 3 of his last 14 passes for 38 yards with 1 interception (9.8 QB rating) in the game’s last 32:40.
After using deceptive pressure only twice in the first half, the Ravens used it 6 times thereafter. The game-turning interception came on an unusual blitz with 3rd and 5 (OT, 10:14). Foxworth rushed from the offensive right side off outside coverage of Holmes (that is a Ryanesque gamble!) while both Kruger and Johnson dropped to coverage. Lewis showed blitz in the right B gap and got RT Willie Colon to turn left (he didn’t block) as Kruger dropped to cover. The lone back, Mewelde Moore committed to block Lewis, affording Foxworth a free run at Dixon. It’s not clear that Dixon felt the pressure, but the ball came out quickly. Kruger read the play and looked as if he was intending to intercept the entire way. It’s just the sort of pass that Ravens fans have seen Kyle Boller make several times before.
The Ravens’ defensive statistics:
Overall: 64 plays, 298 yards, 4.7 YPPA
Vs. the Run: 38 carries, 153 yards, 4.0 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 26 pass plays, 145 yards, 5.6 YPP
By number of Pass Rushers:
4: 14/80, 5.7 YPP, 1 TO
5: 10/65, 6.5 YPP
6: 2/0, 0 YPP
By number of Defensive Backs:
3: 3/5, 1.7 YPPA
4: 31/197, 6.4 YPPA
5: 27/72, 2.7 YPPA, 1 TO
6: 3/24, 8.0 YPPA
· Webb’s performance looked terrific, particular in juxtaposition to Foxworth. However, the Ravens did not play a fixed LCB/RCB as usual. Foxworth was switching to shadow Holmes every play. In standard (4 DB alignments), Webb was typically playing corner on a side with no WR. When the Steelers brought in 3 WR alignments, he was commonly moved to the slot with either Walker or Carr on the outside. I can see value in having him as a pass rush threat from the slot, but I’m not sure why the Ravens don’t yet trust Webb on the outside, particularly considering the alternatives. Webb reacted well to being beat by Wallace, timing the arm swipe well. I wouldn’t call it good that he was beat, but it’s nice to have a corner that will trust his catch-up speed. That was one of 2 plays where Webb let his receiver get behind him. He had 3 PDs, 3 tackles, including 1 for a loss, and had 1 QB pressure that I noticed.
· Foxworth followed up his poor game against the Colts with another sub-par performance. He played very soft all night on Holmes which was frustrating, but as I mentioned, he had the tougher assignment, following the Steelers’ deep threat. Foxworth has a number of detractors, but he’s playing better than most folks are giving him credit for. In 2 important ways he’s similar to Suggs; The team just spent a mess of money on him and he’s not the best player in the league at his position. While he’s having a poor season as a pass rusher, Suggs continues to be an elite run stopper. Did I expect more of Foxworth? Yes, but he’s one of the top 15-30 corners in the league and there are not 5 teams in the league who would not want him as a starter.
· Once again, Mattison ran CB by committee with Carr playing nickel on 13 snaps (non-penalty) and Walker on another 14. They ran the dime 3 times (twice Walker/Zibby and once Carr/Zibby). If running an offense where one of the primary concerns was to keep the pass rush winded, there is no substitute for the no huddle without personnel changes. However, you’ll see the offense will often rotate in a new personnel package and the defense is then granted an opportunity to make changes to react to the offense. I’d be interested to know the time allowed for such changes. Does it matter who is being replaced? For example, if you replace the corner on the other side of the field, do you get a few extra seconds? It seems a prolonged change would both give a little extra rest to pass rushers and allow for better positioning of a young player who is not completely familiar with the system. For the record, I don’t think that’s the reasoning for splitting time between Carr and Walker since they usually play a series at a time.
· Trevor Pryce was in for 52 plays. His previous high for the year was 46 in week 2 versus the Chargers and he only topped 40 one other time (NE, 41). Since week 6, he had averaged less than 28 snaps per game. Trevor showed signs of wear with the additional snaps, going without a sack or QH and recording just 2 tackles. I’d be interested to know how the Ravens manage player participation in game. It may be a matter of feel and watching to see if the players are seeing signs of tiring or they may actually have one of the assistant coaches counting plays as the game is played. In any case, when a player doesn’t perform well and plays this much, I’d expect someone to notice it. Pryce lined up in a 2-point stance on several plays including 2 where he dropped to coverage. I can’t recall a previous time this season when he lined up standing.
· Kruger (23) and Edwards (47) split the remaining DE snaps. Edwards tied his career high (11/8 @ Cin) with 8 tackles and added a PD. In addition to the game’s biggest play, Kruger drew a holding penalty from Spaeth (Q2, 6:27) that backed the Steelers out of field goal position and killed the drive. Jarret Johnson also played some DE, although I don’t have a number of snaps for him in a 3-point stance. Antwan Barnes was again a healthy scratch. If he didn’t dress for a game like this where the Ravens were very short handed, I don’t see how he will escape the doghouse. McClain had a greatly reduced role with just 4 snaps. I’m a little surprised he did not see any action as a down lineman given the circumstances.
· Through the first 7 games of this season, Dwan Edwards had 9 tackles (6 solo), in 182 snaps. My bye week commentary was unflattering. Beginning with the game at Cincinnati, however, he’s piled up 24 tackles (19 solo) in 4 games/188 snaps. Putting that in perspective, that’s 23% of his career tackles in the last 4 games. That’s a radical transformation, and he’s doing it with an increased workload (approximately 80% more snaps per game). For the year, his YPPA numbers are in line with the team as a whole (5.1 both with and without him), but the team has given up both more YPC (3.9 to 3.6 aggregate) and YPP (6.5 to 6.4 aggregate) with him in. It’s nice to see Dwan playing well and even more so when the team so desperately needs it. Who is the last Raven, heck player for any team, who made his first significant positive contributions with the team that initially drafted him, in his 6th NFL season? I’d like to hear your nominations.
· Ray Lewis played another fine game, accumulating 9 tackles and a PD. He also drew a holding penalty (Q2, 5:15) which negated an 18-yard pass play and might have drawn a 2nd. With the exceptions of Pryce, McGahee (neither of whom are hurting the team badly), and Rolle, the Ravens who are both older and highly paid (Gregg, Birk, Heap, Mason, Reed, Lewis, Johnson) are all having years that are pretty good or better. The front office deserves tremendous credit for judicious assessment of wage and productivity.
Kruger’s pick (OT, 10:14)
Webb’s near pick (Q4, 1:41) on 2nd and 10. From their own 25-yard line, the Steelers had ample time to drive for a game winning kick, but Webb’s PD not only brought up 3rd down, it made Arians decide Dixon could not be trusted with a pass play. Strange situation, because the Steelers would have had a significantly better chance to get the 1st down had Dixon run the ball himself after dropping back.
Tie between Spaeth’s hold of Kruger (Q2, 6:27, see above) and Webb’s pressure that forced Dixon’s incomplete (Q3, 9:18). On the latter play, the Steelers failed to convert on 3rd and 6 from the Ravens 26 and settled for 3 points.