Defensive Analysis 1/10/10 vs. New England
Were the Ravens even playing this game?
· Will Brady be able to play through his multiple injuries (broken ribs, ring finger)?
· Will the loss of Wes Welker devastate the Pats offense?
· Have Randy Moss and Tom Brady really patched things up?
· Will the referees call a pro-Brady game?
· Will Brady get in the heads of the Ravens’ defenders with his pre-game penalty comments?
· Will the Patriots be able to continue their winning streaks (Brady at home, team at home, playoffs at home, against the Ravens, etc.)?—These weren’t questions as much as facts reported so frequently that they turn a non-story into a story. For example…tell me, Wes Welker, why are the Patriots so successful at home? I don’t know what Wes has to say on the matter, but there won’t be a single football secret divulged and good analysts can probably hypothesize better than he can.
· How does all of this relate to the impending Patriots/Colts matchup?
This frivolity avoided the following questions, all of which were more significant:
- Who will win the battle between the Ravens’ fully-assembled offensive line and the Patriots’ defensive line?
- Can the Patriots exploit the Ravens’ secondary and simplistic pass rush?
- Which team is more able to play from behind and which would be effective at running out the clock?
Next time, let’s cover a football game as a contest of contrasting styles and skills and not pretend that each of the preconditions represents the tentacle of an octopus sent to physically constrain the limbs of the players and guide the game to an inevitable outcome.
The Ravens’ defensive statistics:
Overall: 63 plays, 198 yards, 3.1 YPPA
Vs. the Run: 18 carries, 64 yards, 3.6 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 45 pass plays, 132 yards, 2.9 YPP!!
By number of Pass Rushers:
3: 7/27, 3.9, 1 sack, 2 TO
4: 31/95, 3.1 YPP, 1 sack, 2 TO
5: 6/6, 1.0 YPP, 1 sack
6: 1/4, 4.0 YPP
By number of Defensive Backs:
4: 8/3, 0.4 YPPA, 1 sacks, 1 TO
5: 50/174, 3.5 YPPA, 1 sack, 2 TO
6: 4/-5, -1.3 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
7: 1/24, 24.0 (this was the 4th and 17 completion to Edelman)
Simply put, everything the Ravens tried, worked. The Patriots’ 24-yard conversion on 4th and 17 was their only play of 20+ yards.
· As you can see above, the Ravens played nickel, dime, or quarter for 55 of 63 snaps. Even with other teams that feature 3-wide sets on 1st down, the Ravens typically have played more with 4 DBs.
· The Ravens pass rush alternated with streaks of vanilla and chunky monkey. What the Ravens didn’t do was bring numbers (38 of 45 drop backs the Ravens rushed 4 or less). On the Patriots’ first 6 drop backs, the Ravens brought deceptive pressure 3 times, resulting in Lewis’ sack and 2 incomplete passes. Each of those included dropping 2 rush ends to coverage and bringing pressure up the middle. The Ravens then went 13 drop backs (through the end of the 1st half) without a deceptive blitz. They would switch to a virtually set pass rush in the 2nd half, as they would rush 4 with no pre-snap movement or drops to cover on 17 of 26 pass plays. For the game, I scored only 5 of the Ravens pass rush schemes as deceptive (total -2 yards). Another way to look at it is that the Ravens’ 40 non-deceptive rushes held the Pats to 134 yards (3.4 YPP), which is also absurdly good.
· I’d summarize the efforts of the Ravens secondary by saying they kept everything in front of them and had a terrific day of tackling both in the open field and in run support. Individually, Carr had an up and down game, falling while switching assignments on Edelman’s 2nd TD (Q3, 1:32) and negating Edwards’ sack with an illegal contact penalty (Q3, 3:36). He also had the interception to set up the Ravens 3rd score (Q1, 7:00), dropped Faulk for a 5-yard loss on a well-diagnosed screen (Q1, 0:25), and drew the illegal block penalty (Q4, 9:00) that put the Patriots in a 4th and 17 hole.
· Frank Walker played his best game as a Raven, playing tight, physical coverage, primarily on Aiken. He dropped what would have been a circus interception and delivered one of the game’s memorable hits, upending Aiken (Q4, 9:06).
· Foxworth was also excellent both in run support and coverage. He had 9 tackles, with several holding the Pats to short gains on the outside (gains on his tackles were 0, 2, 5, 2, 14, 6, 5, 4, and -1 yards). For much of the game, the Patriots used 3 wide sets with Moss to one side and 2 receivers opposite. When that happened, the Ravens typically had Foxworth on Moss and Reed as the safety to that side. It shouldn’t be any great surprise that Moss was essentially taken out of the game. I think his lack of enthusiasm was a symptom of that frustration.
· Zibby, who saw regular playing time with Reed inactive, played just 2 snaps (1 penalty) with 7 DBs. Ivy, by comparison, was used 8 times in the dime and quarter (including 3 penalties).
· Reed had a terrific PD (Q1, 9:19) on the pass intended for Aiken. Had Reed not intervened, it probably would have been the Pats’ longest play of the day. His interception was a combination of Aiken’s inability to focus with Foxworth’s hand in the vicinity of the ball and Ed’s sure hands. As usual we were treated to an exciting return and lateral. Reed now has 6 INTs in 6 career playoff games.
· There were 10 possessions in the first quarter alone, an average of just 90 seconds each, despite the fact that the Ravens rushed on 14 of their 18 offensive snaps.
· Barnes played just 4 snaps before mop-up time. I’m not sure if Mattison was intending to keep a fresh pass rusher for use in the 2nd half, but I like the strategy. Kruger was inactive. Gooden did not see any defensive snaps, but was active on special teams. McClain entered for just 3 snaps.
· Despite getting 4 turnovers, the Ravens left some on the field. Walker, Reed, Suggs, and Bannan each were close to other interceptions.
· Edwards played only 34 of 63 snaps (54%), but had 7 more tackles including a game-closing sack. He also had a sack nullified by illegal contact. Let’s put that pass rushing effort in perspective…had he recorded both those sacks, it would have matched his career total. Regardless of how you define his position, he’s playing the best football of his career and in the top 10-15 of all defensive lineman since the bye.
· Mattison held Ngata to 33 defensive snaps, but he was used for 6 offensive snaps. Gregg played only 10 snaps in the game and only 2 of those after halftime.
The Ravens 3 biggest defensive plays:
· Suggs sack/FF/FR (Q1, 13:20). The Ravens drove 17 yards to lead 14-0.
· Landry’s INT (Q3, 10:02). With the Patriots moving at their 44, Landry returned the ball to the Pats’ 22.
· Carr’s INT (Q1, 7:00). Brady’s attempt to ground the ball was foiled and the Ravens would extend their lead to 21-0 with the ensuing 21-yard drive.