Offensive Line Model and Notes vs. Steelers 12/5/10
The Ravens were unable to stop the Steelers’ varied pressure schemes, which ultimately cost them the game. What was the root cause?
Ray Rice had his moments as a pass blocker (picking up Polamalu on the 61-yard pass to Boldin, for example) and certainly gave a good effort, but he’s too small for regular duty and was beaten several times. The loss of Heap on the game’s first play accentuated a bad situation with no fullback activated. Dickson and Pitta became focal points of the blocking schemes and neither did well. That left the Ravens in a quandary with no eligible receivers who are plus pass or run blockers. I didn’t like some of the play calls in the final quarter, but I also think Cam is unfairly criticized for a game where injuries severely restricted what the Ravens could do.
When the Steelers determined how limited the Ravens’ options were, they brought pressure with regularity. What would have been a solution? How about split backs in the shotgun with 3 wide. It’s a good formation for adjusting to pressure and for Flacco’s skill set, additional time in the pocket has more value than additional receivers in the pattern. The TD pass to Houshmandzadeh in the October 3rd game at Pittsburgh was run from that formation and Heap picked up Polamalu’s blitz that day. The Ravens would use the alignment just 7 times, including 5 on the final drive. The results of those plays were: incomplete, pass right for 15, pass left for 16, pass right for 19, McFadden PI for 8, incomplete (QH by Harrison), pass middle for 5.
Oher: Michael played the worst game of his career. That’s not to besmirch his effort or desire to play with the injury, just grade the results. I did not charge him with any complete pass rush events, but he was responsible for 1/3 of Taylor’s sack (Q2, 6:10), he got a half share (with Dickson) of Woodley’s QH (Q3, 7:25, Oher was beaten by Keisel), got 1/3 of Timmons QH (Q4, 11:22), and shared a pressure with Yanda (Q3, 7:28) that resulted in an incomplete. He had 2 false starts and a holding penalty. The holding penalty was declined in what I thought was an odd decision by the Steelers. Assuming the spot of the foul was at or behind the LoS, they could have had a 2nd and 24, but chose instead to leave the Ravens 3rd and 8. I couldn’t tell if the knee was bothering him (which is probably a good thing), but the results are a reasonable indication that he was impaired. After the 3rd penalty, I was asking myself whether or not Cousins might provide more protection. Monday promises to be a big challenge for the Ravens’ line as Mario Williams has had a fine season. Scoring: 45 blocks, 6 missed, ½ penetration, 5/6 QH, 1/3 sack, 2 false starts, 1 holding, 27.5 points (.49 per play). The score was the 2nd lowest I’ve recorded to date behind only Cousins’ effort at Pittsburgh last season (.31).
Grubbs: Collinsworth pointed out Grubbs late bump on Timmons’ delayed blitz (Q4, 8:48). He did a fine job of passing off Keisel to Birk, then spun to Timmons. Ray Rice got a 2nd bump on the linebacker to direct him wide of Flacco. I scored Grubbs for just 1 missed block for the game. His only significant error was a QH allowed to Harrison (Q4, 1:21). Ben made 3 of 3 pulls and now has made 47 of the last 53 stretching back to the 10/3 game at Pittsburgh. He should be part of the Pro Bowl discussion, particularly considering the dearth of talent at guard in the AFC. He made 3 blocks in level 2 and had 1 pancake. Scoring: 54 blocks, 1 missed, 1 QH, 50 points (.91 per play).
Birk: Matt had responsibility for 2 sacks (Q1, 14:44, by Hood and Q4, 2:50, by Farrior). Centers don’t give up many sacks. If you subscribe to PFF, which I highly recommend, you’ll see that Matt was not charged with any sacks, but the total sacks allowed are 2, so I assume it is an oversight. Matt was also charged with Keisel’s PD (Q4, 8:28) and a share of another penetration. While he had a very solid game as a run blocker, this was easily his worst game of the season. Scoring: 52 blocks, 0 missed, 1.5 penetrations/pressures, 2 sacks, 37 points (.66 per play).
Chester: Chris is not Ben Grubbs when it comes to field vision. He converted 3 of 4 pulls on Sunday night, but while Grubbs has been on his current run of successful pulls, Chester is a pedestrian 28 for 37. Chris is also much less successful at finding a block when he moves to level 2. That’s unfortunate, because he has the mobility to help with linebackers and get out in front of a screen pass. There were instances where he gave ground in the pocket (e.g. Woodley’s pressure Q2, 12:51). He was beaten inside by Woodley for a 2nd pressure (Q3, 10:12), but I thought he played fairly well considering the caliber of competition. Scoring: 49 blocks, 5 missed, 2 pressures, 45 points (.80 per play).
Yanda: Marshal had another solid game. Woodley beat him outside as part of the pressure that led to Taylor’s sack (Q2, 6:10). He was beaten outside by Woodley a 2nd time (Q3, 7:28) on a pressure shared with Oher. He had an excellent game as a run blocker with no missed blocks and lots of good push. Scoring: 53 blocks, ½ pressure, 1/3 QH, 1/3 sack, 49 points (.88 per play).
Other Offensive Notes:
· The Ravens lined up in a 2-back set just 11 times on the night. I have not confirmed, but I believe every one of those involved either Dickson or Pitta in the backfield, but never the McGahee/Rice combination.
· For the game, the Ravens used 29 set and 4 chip blockers (0.89 eligible receivers blocking per drop back). The set blockers were 10 left, 7 middle, and 12 right, so Oher wasn’t getting any special assistance due to the injury.
· The Ravens did return to more unbalanced line, however, with 9 such plays, 8 of which had Yanda lined up left of Oher. Those 8 plays gained 7 yards and included the -11 yard reverse to Stallworth (Q4, 12:39). On that reverse, Pitta was lined up at TE on the right side. He shuffled and it appeared he wanted to block Woodley, but blocked left instead. Woodley had a free run into the backfield and a clear line of sight on Stallworth.
· With Ample Time and Space (ATS), Flacco completed 11 of 17 passes for 226 yards (13.3 YPP) and the TD to Boldin (Q1, 2:08) including both of the 60+ yard completions. Flacco had ATS on 17 of 37 drop backs (46%) that resulted in a pass or sack.
· Joe also had his most pronounced ATS differential of the season. Without ATS, he completed 6 of 16 passes for 40 yards and was sacked 4 times for 40 yards (0.0 net YPP) with the game-altering fumble, but no touchdowns or interceptions.
· Flacco did a good job of picking on McFadden who had a hand in both of the long completions, played soft to allow a 15-yard conversion to Mason on 3rd and 10 (Q3,10:00), and was flagged twice for pass interference.
· Much attention is given to the failed conversion on 4th and 2. On that play it appeared Farrior’s hand may have caused Flacco to change the arc of the pass, but with an overcompensation to avoid the overthrow. The previous pass was also off target as Dickson made the catch falling away from the line of gain. But the missed attempt that would have changed the game was his overthrow of Pitta (Q2, 12:55). That would have resulted in a gain of 30+ yards if not a touchdown. The Ravens would punt 2 plays later.
· Should the Ravens have allowed Cundiff the chance to tie from 50 yards? I look at it as a basic win probability question. The Ravens had perhaps 1 chance in 4 to win the game (in regulation or overtime, based on Advanced NFL Stats) from 4th and 2 at the Pittsburgh 32. A successful FG would have probably increased the chance to 45% (I am allowing some chance for Pittsburgh to score given 30 seconds) while a failure reduces it to 0, so I’d have to believe the FG was approximately 55% likely to view the decision as a break-even proposition. Since I wouldn’t expect Cundiff to succeed that often under the windy conditions Sunday night, I like the decision to go for it, just not the result.