The Ravens played well Sunday, but they had help.
The Browns found a number of ways to beat themselves:
· Drops/alligator arms (example, Q4, 7:20)
· Poor clock management (last drive of Q2)
· Failure to find an open target on consecutive opportunities with ample time and space to throw (beginning Q2, 0:17)
· Vickers reaction to the fumble (Q2, 13:27, see below)
· Offensive pass interference to wipe out a 42-yard catch (Q3, 6:42)
· No offensive pass interference to allow an interception (Q1, 10:59)
What these plays have in common is that they all occurred with the Browns on offense. Defensive opportunism hasn’t been the Ravens forte this season, but it’s nice to see it return in such an important game.
On to the statistics, which are based on 56 defensive snaps:
Vs. the Run: 26 plays, 102 yards, 3.9 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 30/178, 5.9 YPP
Overall: 56/280, 5.0 YPPA
By number of defensive backs
Short Yardage (3 DBs): 1/2, 2.0 YPPA
Standard (4 DBs): 26/133, 5.1 YPPA, 1 TO
Nickel (5 DBs): 19/104, 5.5 YPPA, 1 TO
Dime (6 DBs): 10/41, 4.1 YPPA, 2 TO
By number of pass rushers
3: 4/20, 5.0 YPP
4: 13/107, 8.2 YPP, 2 TO
5: 9/46, 5.1 YPP
6: 3/5, 1.7 YPP, 2 TO
7+: 1/0, 0.0 YPP
· This Ravens team is thinner than some past versions in terms of effective pass rushers and linebackers. Because of that, they’d do well to shorten the game, which they did Sunday. The Ravens had only 56 defensive snaps (despite just 58 offensive plays). With a short game, players like Redding, Ngata, Suggs, Lewis, and Johnson can remain fresh despite their heavy workload.
· The Ravens played 1 snap of 4-4-3 with Burgess substituted for Wilson on 3rd and 1 (Q3, 8:10). Vickers ran for 2 yards and the first down.
· The linebacker platoon was effective with the snaps largely split between Ellerbe (23 snaps) and McClain (27). Gooden’s shoulder injury limited him to 5 plays. He had a significant early missed tackle (Q2, 10:33) that allowed the Browns to pick up a 1st down. Tavares’ last play (Q2, 8:17) was Reed’s first interception.
· Ellerbe didn’t play as well as he did against the Saints, but registered 4 tackles. He caught McCoy by the heels on his 4th and 27 scramble (Q3, 5:58) to limit his gain to 5 yards. He also pursued across the field to take down Bell for a gain of 9 (Q3, 3:44). Twice he was made to look bad in coverage. He failed to read the QB or clapping receiver (Q4, 6:45) as McCoy threw to Stuckey in Ellerbe’s zone for 16 yards. He was also beaten by Robiskie in the end zone on the Browns last offensive play of the half (Q2, 0:12), but McCoy was off target. I’m fairly sure he should have had help there, since it seems odd he’d be expected to cover Robiskie on his own.
· McClain had an up-and-down game, but led the team with 7 tackles. Hillis ran over him (Q3, 9:32) and was beating him to the outside (Q1, 14:22) when Reed arrived to take him down. He missed a tackle on Watson (Q4, 9:00) allowing another 6-7 yards after contact. I’m not sure who was responsible for coverage on Bell (Q2, 2:00) who made a 3-yard reception in the right flat with 25 YAC. McClain and Lewis both pursued, but given McClain was lined up left of Lewis, it seems he should have been responsible for either Vickers or Bell. Jameel also had some terrific plays, including an audible hit on Hillis (Q3, 8:52) to take him down for a gain of 2. He had an immediate takedown of Smith (Q4, 9:36) after a reception and scooped the fumble described below (Q2, 13:27).
· The Ravens again played 2 different dime defenses. Cary Williams was in for 2 plays (1 resulted in a penalty). Nakamura played 9 non-penalty snaps and pressured McCoy on Reed’s 2nd interception.
· Continuing their trend from the Saints game, the Ravens used more pressure both with numbers and pre-snap movement. Only 4 times did they rush 3 men and that included the last 2 plays of the game. I scored 6 of their rushes as deceptive. The Ravens didn’t record a sack, but McCoy was held to a QB rating of 27.0.
· Reed had 2 picks despite missing a good opportunity (Q4, 6:10). He also had a solid game in run support. Ed is headed to the Hall of Fame, it’s just a question of when. At this point, Reed’s 1st-ballot HoF status would be secured over the next 6 weeks if the Ravens win the Super Bowl. He has all of the other supporting credentials. Butkus made it without a single playoff game in a 119-game career, but there are many more players in the league now from whom to choose.
· Redding was one of the team’s best run stoppers. He continually found a way to work off his blocks to minimize gains. Highlights included beating St. Claire outside (Q2, 3:17) to take down Bell for a gain of 1, beating Thomas inside (Q2, 1:16) to tackle Bell for a gain of 1, working off St. Claire to tackle Cribbs (Q2, 0:23) for a gain of 3, and again working off Thomas to tackle Bell for a gain of 3 (Q3, 3:06).
· Jarrett Johnson had another fine game with 2 PDs (Q3, 13:22 and Q3, 11:52) on short passes to the outside. He also drew a holding penalty on St. Clair (Q3, 6:10) that wiped out a gain of approximately 12 and left the Browns 3rd and 27 at their own 19. Did anyone find it a little strange that Fouts was questioning the decision to accept 3rd and 27 at the 19 as opposed to 4th and 5 at the 41? Not only did it seem like a good idea given the conditions (weather, young QB, and opportunity for a turnover), I think it would have been the right call against Vick, Manning, Rivers, or Brady. JJ again played every snap.
· Webb is peaking at just the right time with his 3rd straight excellent game. He had spectacular undercutting tackles on Hillis (Q4, 6:07) and Watson (Q4, 5:30), drew offensive pass interference on Robiskie (Q3, 6:42) to negate a 42-yard catch, and had ideal position for the early interception (Q1, 10:59) on Massaquoi. Wilson had another fine game with 2 PDs, including a strip of Williams near the goal line (Q3, 2:26). In addition to the strip of Massaquoi, Carr did a good job to contain and slow Hillis (Q1, 8:34) on what looked like it might be a big play. The black mark on Carr’s day was his inability to locate the football despite tight coverage on the flea-flicker TD to Massaquoi (Q1, 7:11).
· Going back to the Saints game, 3 of the last 4 TDs allowed have come on exceptional catches in the end zone. That’s not a formula likely to repeat itself.
· The containment of Hillis was exceptional. He has bounced off the first tackle all season, but on Sunday, the Ravens took nothing for granted in terms of taking him down with the 2nd and 3rd arrival. Unfortunately, if the Ravens can do it, the Steelers probably can as well.
· The 4-1 turnover margin brings the Ravens to a very respectable +4 for the season.
· I looked back at last week’s article and there is a lot of repetition with the fine play of Wilson, Webb, Johnson, McClain, and Ellerbe all continuing. That’s a very good thing.
The Ravens 3 biggest defensive plays:
· Carr’s strip and McClain’s fumble recovery (Q2, 13:27). The Ravens have Lee Vickers to thank for this play. Carr made the strip and the ball rolled free directly along the sideline. Vickers was the first there and had 3 options, fall on the ball, block out Carr and hope one of the linemen recover (or the ball rolls OOB), and knock the ball out of bounds himself. He chose the only one that might have resulted in a Ravens’ recovery by throwing his shoulder into Carr. McClain was 6 yards from the ball when Vickers arrived. Just 3 plays later, Flacco threw a perfect strike to Houshmandzadeh for the TD.
· Reed’s 2nd pick (Q4, 4:51). The Browns had driven 67 yards from their own 6, evoking visions of another 4th-quarter nightmare. The Ravens lined up in the dime and rushed 6. Nakamura had a free run, but remained in control and got in McCoy’s face as he threw deep right. Webb had good underneath coverage on Massaquoi and Reed collected the overthrow. Reed’s judgment on the return and lateral could be questioned, but those plays provide the most vivid visual memories of the game. For fans that have watched his entire career, try this as an experiment. I can give you a short clue on 10 returns and I’d guess not only do you know which play I mean, but you can also visualize at least 6 of them:
o Miami playoff
o Cincinnati punt
o Patriots playoff
o Philly record
o Seattle punt
o Cleveland Sunday Night
o “No, Ed Reed!”
o Washington, Brunell
o Washington, Portis
o Cleveland Tunnel
When your grandkids are watching the 10th version of the NFL Network’s top 100, I expect them to string together 18 or 20 of his returns and them to think “He couldn’t have had all of those in 1 career, could he?”
· McCoy’s misfire to Robiskie (Q2, 0:12). The Ravens could have entered the half trailing, but McCoy threw the ball well out of bounds with only Ellerbe covering Robiskie in the end zone. Thrown in bounds, it would have been an excellent chance for a completion or pass interference.