Did your parents say “You’ve learned an expensive lesson today”? I can’t recall my folks ever saying so, since I was never good at listening to their advice, but I do recall it from an episode of Happy Days.
The Ravens’ secondary was taken to school by the hapless Bills Sunday, but the lesson was given at minimal cost. There was enough poor tackling and coverage to be spread around, but I need to limit the focus.
So what happened on the 4 touchdown passes?
· (Q1: 5:11) Landry lined up on the right side of the defensive line and rushed Fitzpatrick. He appeared to call and audible with Washington in press coverage on Evans. Reed was the single high safety and had a long way to reach the left sideline. I saw no move by Evans as he simply outraced Washington to the spot and JF dropped the ball in the bucket for a 33-yard TD. This almost looked like a timing route to beat a particular corner. Based on the timing of his release, Fitzpatrick knew Reed would not be a factor in the play. For the Ravens to stop that play, Washington would have had to have been more physical at the LoS to disrupt the play.
· (Q2, 9:52) Landry again lined up on the right side of the defensive line and blitzed. Reed was again the single deep safety. Webb’s coverage of Steve Johnson was somewhat better than Washington, but the ball was again dropped in perfectly for a 33-yard TD. Webb was in press coverage, but made no attempt to get his hands on Johnson. Again, Johnson made no move to do anything but run to a specific spot to which RF would deliver the ball to make sure Reed was not a factor. I could have shortened this significantly by saying “same play, other side.” It’s amusing to me that folks are saying that Reed’s “gambling” might have hurt the Ravens on these plays. In point of fact, aside from contact, the only way to stop these plays would have been for Reed to gamble and pick a side to defend at the snap like a soccer goalie trying to defend a penalty kick.
· (Q2, 5:01) Washington lined up 8 yards off Evans. Reed lined up opposite Roscoe Parrish on the ORS. Landry was the safety on Washington’s side. Evans got a half step on Washington, whose coverage wasn’t bad, but Landry arrived too late. McClain leaped underneath, but was not able to reach the ball. Watching that play at the stadium I was convinced that ball was tipped at the LoS. The ball was wobbling a little, but it didn’t seem to lose any velocity.
· (Q4, 5:51) Landry again lined up on the right side of the defensive line and blitzed (anyone noticing a pattern here) along with Dannell Ellerbe, the other player who might have disrupted the pass. Washington was in soft coverage on Evans to the left side. There were 3 receivers on the right side. Evans moved a yard past the LoS, turned, took the throw from JF, then made Washington miss for a 17-yard TD. Reed was the next closest Raven to the play, but had no chance to get over.
Fitzpatrick’s end-of-half kneel is excluded from the Bills’ statistics, leaving Buffalo with 78 snaps:
Vs. the Run: 34 plays, 133 yards, 3.9 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 44 plays, 374 yards, 8.5 YPP
Overall: 78 plays, 507 yards, 6.5 YPPA
By number of defensive backs
Standard (4 DBs): 30/160, 5.3 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
Nickel (5 DBs): 39/262, 6.2 YPPA, 2 TO
Dime (6 DBs): 9/85, 9.4 YPPA
By number of pass rushers
3 or fewer: 7 plays, 48 yards, 6.9 YPP
4: 19/165 8.7 YPPA, 2 TO
5: 15/111, 7.4 YPPA, 1 sack
6: 3/50, 16.7 YPPA, 1 TO
· Fabian Washington may have lost his starting job to Wilson. He was replaced at RCB for the last 2 drives. Harbaugh ended CMac’s career as a starter after the Indianapolis game in 2008. Washington endured a scorching of epic proportions at the hands of Lee Evans and Steve Johnson (some of which is detailed above), but I like the fact that he’s not denying how difficult a day he had. He’s been hot and cold this season, with a terrific game vs. Denver just 2 weeks ago. With 5 guys competing for playing time at corner, there’s never a good time for a bad game.
· Wilson played well in relief and when splitting snaps with Webb in nickel alignments. He deflected a ball in the end zone (Q1, 2:08) on the drive following his fumble to keep the Bills from scoring 6. Of the 12 snaps he played before replacing Washington, the Ravens allowed completions of 14, 12, 33, 9, and 43. That’s a mess of yards, but none of those was his coverage assignment. On those last 2 drives he stayed close enough to deliver a quick hit on the receiver each time. Specifically, he took down Evans for a gain of 12 in bounds (Q4, 0:45) to force their last timeout and dislodged the ball from Evans (Q4, 0:37) on the next play where a completion would have given Buffalo a first down at the 32. He had good coverage on Evans (OT, 13:48), went for the interception, missed, and was still able to hold up the receiver until help arrived.
· Reed’s impact on the secondary and the game dynamics in general would be difficult to overstate. It looks to me as if the Bills prepared for Reed’s return based on their first 2 TD passes. He showed the legendary ball skills on the first interception (Q3, 15:00) when he cleanly picked Ray’s deflection from the air. His second pick (Q3, 0:13) was pure centerfielder as he collected the overthrow for Nelson and returned it 40 yards. Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves that Ed Reed’s desire to get himself or a teammate in the end zone on defense is valuable and worthy of risk. Flacco and McGahee would mishandle the exchange on the next snap and a game that should have been sealed was again in play. With all of the helmet-to-helmet consciousness over the past week, Reed reminded us just how effective his helmet-to-ball technique can be as he not only denied a first down to Parrish (Q1, 11:21), but also started the ball backwards on its journey from the point of contact at the 38 to Fitzpatrick’s recovery at the 15. Ed also played a minor supporting role in the Bills 4th and final turnover (OT, 13:02) by arriving first to slow down Nelson.
· Cody got a career-high 10 snaps. He assisted on 1 tackle (Q2, 10:35) which was the first of his NFL career.
· Kruger played 30 snaps, the second most action of his career (GB 12/7/09, 44 snaps). He batted down a pass (Q3, 8:26), but otherwise stayed off the grid, or at least the stat sheet. There is a play I really liked, however. He lined up at RDE on 3rd and 4 (Q4, 10:02). Ellerbe was lined up standing to his right. At the snap, Kruger crossed the face of LT Demetrius Bell and feigned a rush through the left B gap. Bell bit and blocked Kruger as Fred Jackson picked up Ellerbe. That allowed Ray Lewis to streak in delayed, but untouched, to hit Fitzgerald as he threw incomplete. Ray got the credit, but it would be literally accurate to say he got by with a little help from his friends.
· Ayanbadejo, Burgess, Phillips, and Williams were used exclusively on special teams.
· The Ravens used 4+ pass rush on every drop back until the final drive of Q4, when they reverted to primarily a 3-man rush on the final drive. That was 31 drop backs consisting of 15 4s, 13 5’s, and 3 6s. The final drive they rush 3 7 times, 4 once, and 5 twice. To Mattison’s credit, he did try to mix it up with 2 deceptive blitzes (Q4, 1:07 and Q4, 0:37). That entire drive it looked like Buffalo was playing for the tie with numerous short, in-bounds throws.
· Those calling for McClain to get some chances to rush off the edge got their wish Sunday as he twice lined up as a down lineman in the nickel, replacing Jarrett Johnson. I do not recall any other such snaps in 2010. He lined up at RDE (Q4, 7:36) and was stonewalled by Bell. The next play (Q4, 7:12) he again lined up at RDE and beat Shawn Nelson to penetrate. It looked like Jackson wanted to run left, but he turned inside. Those 2 snaps were the first 2 JJ has missed all season.
· Regarding the forward progress play, the Bills have their interior line to blame. Levitre, Hangartner, and Wood all pushed the pile forward, creating the illusion of additional forward progress. Nelson, in point of fact, did not have his feet on the ground. To make matters worse, Hangartner then removed his helmet and slammed it to the ground to move the Ravens into FG range.
The Ravens’ 3 biggest defensive plays:
· Lewis FF/FR (OT, 13:02). He kept playing until the whistle and it won the Ravens the game.
· Reed’s 2nd pick (Q3, 0:13). Had the Ravens closed out the game as they should have from the Bills 9-yard line, this would have been the top play.
· Reed’s 1st interception off Lewis PD (Q3, 14:51). The Ravens would score on the flea flicker to Boldin on the very next play.