FILMSTUDY: Doing More with Less

Filmstudy FILMSTUDY: Doing More with Less

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It was defensive economy at its best. 

The Ravens dressed just 21 defensive players, recorded no defensive injuries, played a limited set of defensive substitution packages, and held the Jets to just 43 real snaps (excludes the end-of-half kneel).  They allowed just 1 drive of more than 5 plays, and that was the game ender (7 plays).  They did not allow a single drive of more than 35 yards.  The Jets recorded a franchise-record-low 6 first downs and the Ravens held them to 1 of 11 on 3rd down.

Predictably, the New York Times reported it as an ugly game where the Jets had self destructed.  That’s partially true, but that anonymous visiting team did a fine job of maximizing the Jets’ weaknesses.  More on that later, but first the stats:

As usual, all play totals exclude kneels, spikes, and plays with offensive yards recorded from a special-teams formation.

Overall:

Versus the Run:  20 plays, 117 yards, 5.9 YPC

Versus the Pass:  23 plays, 60 yards, 2.6 YPP

Overall:  43 plays, 177 yards, 4.1 YPPA

By number of defensive backs:

4 DBs:  24 plays, 134 yards, 5.6 YPPA, 1 TO

5 DBs:  19/43, 2.3 YPPA, 2 sacks

Amazingly, the Ravens did not play any dime, even on the Jets final drive.

By number of pass rushers:

3:  5 plays, 27 yards, 5.4 YPP

4:  13/21, 1.6 YPP, 2 sacks

5:  4/12, 3.0 YPP

6:  1/0, 0.0 YPP

Individual Notes:

·         Never can I recall the Ravens having their non-starters play so few snaps.  That’s what can happen when you play just 43 defensive snaps (excluding penalties).  Of the starting linemen, Suggs sat out just 1 snap, Ngata 6 snaps and Gregg 14.  Redding played 21 snaps in his Ravens debut and Pryce was on the field for 18 plays.

·         Only Gooden and McClain actually platooned with Gooden entering in passing situations.  McClain was one of the reasons the Ravens gave up 5.5 yards per rush (in fact, it was 6.7 yards per rush for the plays he was in).  For the game, Gooden played 18 snaps and McClain 22.  Dannell Ellerbe played just 2 snaps, including Greene’s fumble which he nearly recovered.  The Jets biggest play of the night came on Greene’s run left where McClain was outraced to the point he needed a horse-collar tackle to bring down the runner for a gain of 8 plus 15 more penalty yards.

·         Johnson, Lewis, and the starting secondary of Carr, Landry, Washington, and Zbikowski played the entire game.

·         The Ravens dressed just 3 corners for the game, which I can never recall happening previously (It hasn’t happened in 2006-10 for sure).  Despite having just 3 available, Wilson did not play a single snap, even when the Ravens played nickel.  All of the nickel snaps went to Haruki Nakamura, who was the Ravens’ preseason MVP.  He had a fine game in coverage and was on the field for a total of 11 3rd and 4th down plays, including 10 failed conversions.  I’m sure it happens with some regularity in the NFL, but it’s rare to have a safety that is entrusted to cover the slot receiver with 5 DBs on the field.  I have a vague recollection that the Ravens were prepared to have Bart Scott play nickel in the Ravens’ overtime win against the Jets in 2004 immortalized by NFL Films as the “No that’s Ed Reed” game.  The Ravens suffered a pair of in game CB injuries and Mike Nolan had Gary Baxter switching sides as needed to cover Santana Moss.  How did the Ravens win that game again?  Oh yeah, Quincy Carter was at QB for the Jets.

·         I scored the Ravens as bringing deceptive pressure 3 times.  They did, however, manage to exploit the most significant mismatch on the line, Ngata vs. Jets LG Matt Slauson who was making his first NFL start.  Ngata beat him straight up for a sack (Q4, 4:47) that almost looked designed to allow him space to create 1-on-1 pressure.  Their most unusual blitz of the night saw them stack 3 defenders on the ORS (Suggs, Landry, Gooden) (Q4, 15:00).  On that play Redding dropped to coverage while Johnson and Lewis each rushed with Ferguson picking up Lewis and allowing Johnson a free run at Sanchez.  Meanwhile Suggs beat 3 potential blockers on the ORS to share the sack while both Landry and Gooden dropped.

·         The Ravens played with this officiating crew in last year’s pass-interference fest at Green Bay.  On Monday, the Ravens appeared better prepared for the officiating crew than the Jets.  I can’t help but think their willingness to throw deep often was a function of their experience with the crew.  The Jets threw just 21 passes, and I can recall just one (over)thrown as a jump ball into single coverage (Carr covering Cotchery).  Gruden commented that Sanchez seemed to have check down on the brain and did not attempt to force the ball even when he should have.

·         The biggest statement positives I saw on Monday were the returns of Lewis and Suggs.  Each year brings as many “Ray Lewis is done” articles as proclamations that “the Chargers are going to win the Super Bowl”.  It’s nice to see both sets of prognosticators appear wrong based on Monday.  Lewis’ hit on Keller (Q4, 0:52) and his steamrolling of Richardson (Q3, 5:45) will be 2 images I’ll retain from this game.
 
 

·         Suggs didn’t have a perfect game by any stretch, particularly against the run, but he’s been a sure tackler and effective edge-setter for a long time, so he’ll be fine there.  After last year’s down year as a pass rusher, his effectiveness against one of the league’s better left tackles (Ferguson) is refreshing.

·         What am I concerned about defensively?  The tools that will help the Ravens beat the good quarterbacks were kept in the drawer.  The secondary needs another player who can cover on the outside, but should have 3 more coming in the next 2 weeks with the returns of Webb and Williams as well as the assimilation of Wilson.

·         The pass rush got enough pressure to bother Sanchez, but another QB would have had more success.  More pass rush variation and deception will be needed with some of the other teams, but this was a representation of how the Ravens will mistreat the weaker offensive teams.

·         The run defense faced an effective offensive line and had an off night.  The team will benefit from the return of Cody.  I do not believe the situation at inside linebacker is stable either and we should expect change.  Kelly Gregg had a terrific season in 2009 for tackling productivity per snap, but he was pushed around by Mangold and the guards.

The stadium is spacious and has good sightlines, but as with most newer facilities, the distance from the upper deck is substantial.  For Baltimore fans who grew up with the steep and close upper deck at Memorial Stadium, it’s a difficult transition.  I sat in some upper corner end zone seats with Ravens fans and found myself squinting to make out numbers.  The lower concourse is spacious, but the upper has precious little rain cover in parts.  Egress is atrocious with 2 major choke points.  For those living or staying in Manhattan, there is a $10 round trip bus available from the Port Authority. 

The other stadium experience was the moth invasion that followed the rain.  I can’t speak for the lower deck, but under the light stanchions, the moths were thick and a constant annoyance.  A bug zapper system would be a welcome addition.  Thankfully, the Ravens defense treated the Jets that way as well.

The Ravens 3 biggest defensive plays:

·         3rd down on the Jets’ drive after recovering Flacco’s fumble (Q1, 11:04).  Edwards appeared to have some space in the end zone, but was overthrown by Sanchez.  The Ravens first big mistake had been minimized and their other 2 turnovers would not result in points.

·         Landry’s recovery of Green’s fumble (Q2, 4:17).  After Cromartie’s interception and 66-yard return, the Jets had a chance to extend their 6-0 lead.  The Ravens would drive for the night’s only TD and a 7-6 halftime lead.

·         Ngata’s sack (Q4, 4:47).  The Ravens would hold the ball for 7 plays and 2:50 before the Jets got their final desperation shot with 1:37 to play.

The Ravens 3 biggest matchup wins:

·         Ngata vs. Slauson.  Haloti controlled the line of scrimmage from tackle to tackle and had the best pass rushing game I can recall as a pro with the sack, a QH (Q4, 1:09), and at least 1 pressure (Q4, 11:48).  He played 37 of the 43 snaps.

·         Washington and Carr vs. Braylon Edwards.  He was targeted 3 times with just 1 completion for 9 yards.  He also ran left for a 4-yard gain on the Jets first offensive snap.  He’ll be remembered for an illegal shift that negated a 33-yard pass to Keller and the roughing the kicker penalty that led to the game’s only TD.  With Santonio Holmes out, Braylon’s ineffectiveness was particularly painful to the Jets.

·         Lewis vs. Mangold.  This is a little unfair to one of the league’s best centers, but Mangold is responsible for the blocking assignments and Ray was particularly quick to find the unplugged gaps on Monday.  The Ravens should be even more effective when Cody is healthy and against some of the weaker offensive lines.

 

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick

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