FILMSTUDY: Defensive Notes vs. Chiefs 1/9/11

Filmstudy FILMSTUDY: Defensive Notes vs. Chiefs 1/9/11

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Despite the short week, the Ravens should enter their game with the Steelers even better rested than they were for the Chiefs.

On January 2nd the Ravens sent out a short-handed defense for 75 snaps against the 4-12 Bengals to finish the season with a win that left questions about the freshness we would see from the defense in Kansas City. Several Ravens (Wilson, Ellerbe, Ngata, Reed) left the game with injuries and did not return.

On Sunday, all of the dinged players would return and the Ravens played a game that would have fit well with their 2000 championship run, dismantling the Chiefs with an efficient defensive effort while the offense stayed on the field for almost 42 minutes. The Ravens ran 76 meaningful offensive snaps to just 39 by the Chiefs (excludes kneels). The latter is the lowest number to which the Ravens have held an opponent from 2000 on and almost certainly the best in franchise history. The ’00 Ravens held opponents under 50 snaps three times (Cin 44, Ten 44, and Cle 48, all at home). The ’10 Ravens had previously held the Jets to 43 snaps in the opener.

The other big story from this game was the throttling of the Chiefs’ passing attack. Dwayne Bowe was held without a catch and the Chiefs’ WRs had a combined 2 catches for 8 yards.

Dare I say the Ravens secondary is now the best of the remaining playoff teams? The Chiefs had a legitimate claim, but they’re out now. The Jets are the other team that deserves consideration. While Revis is playing much better than he did early in the season, Cromartie has been up and down. Ex-Brown Brodney Pool has played well as has Dwight Lowery, but I’d take Reed and Landry over that pair any day. Unlike all of the remaining playoff teams, the 3rd corner (Webb) is not a big dropoff in ability. That gives the Ravens 5 plus players at the base 4 plus nickel. They also have 2 backup corners (Washington, Williams) and a safety (Nakamura), all of whom would start for a number of other teams.

Last season it was the offensive line that would determine the playoff fate of the Ravens. This season, and particularly in light of the opponents the Ravens will have to face from here on out, the secondary is their biggest advantage.

On to the statistics (excluding the end-of-half kneel):

Overall:

Vs. the Run: 18 plays, 109 yards, 6.1 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 21/53, 2.5 YPP
Overall: 39/162, 4.2 YPPA

By number of defensive backs

Short Yardage (3 DBs): 1/-4, -4.0 YPPA
Standard (4 DBs): 24/142, 5.9 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
Nickel (5 DBs): 12/24, 2.0 YPPA, 2 sacks, 3 TO
Dime (6 DBs): 2/0, 0.0 YPPA, 1 TO

By number of pass rushers

3: 2/8, 4.0 YPP, 1 TO
4: 7/23, 3.3 YPP, 2 sacks, 2 TO
5: 10/32, 3.2 YPP, 1 TO
6: 2/-10 -5.0 YPP, 1 sack

Individual Notes:

• The defensive line snaps were well distributed. Cody played 13, Gregg 13, McKinney 13, Ngata 25, and Redding 28. Webb played 14 snaps as the nickel. The Ravens played dime for only 2 snaps with Nakamura joining the basic 5. Haruki also replaced Reed for the Chiefs’ last offensive series.

• Lewis had an up-and-down game with a FF and sack, but also was a part of the 6 runs of 8+ yards. Notably, he was unable to make a play (Q2, 13:33) and (Q2, 14:48). He finished with 4 tackles.

• Burgess again played a single snap, replacing Wilson on 4th and 1 as the Ravens played 443 and swarmed the Charles’ sweep.

• The linebacking platoon had 28 snaps for McClain who led the team in tackles with 6 and 11 snaps for Ellerbe.

• Cody played 13 snaps and his highlight was clearly the FF (Q2, 11:33) recovered by McKinney. He also was on the field for runs of 8, 9, 10, and 11 yards among those 13.

• I don’t believe many folks are aware that the Ravens are approaching the all-time record for road playoff wins. Despite the fact that the Ravens have existed for just 15 seasons, their 7 road playoff wins ranks 4th all time behind only Houston/Tennessee (8), Green Bay (8), and Dallas (9) all of which have played at least twice as many games. The Ravens all-time road playoff record is 7-3 (.700). No other team with 7+ decisions has a winning percentage in excess of .438 (New England and Pittsburgh are both 7-9 all time on the road). Carolina’s 4-2 record is the only other record over .500 in any number of games.

• Here is the full list of road playoff records for each of the franchises still in existence (updated through the games of Sunday):

Team

W

L

Team

W

L

Team

W

L

Arizona

2

6

Green Bay

8

12

Oakland

3

11

Atlanta

3

7

Houston

0

0

Philadelphia

6

12

Baltimore

7

3

Indianapolis

7

12

Pittsburgh

7

9

Buffalo

4

8

Jacksonville

3

5

San Diego

4

7

Carolina

4

2

Kansas City

5

8

San Francisco

2

10

Chicago

4

9

Miami

3

10

Seattle

1

7

Cincinnati

0

4

Minnesota

6

15

St. Louis

7

15

Cleveland

3

14

New England

7

9

Tampa Bay

1

6

Dallas

9

14

New Orleans

0

4

Tennessee

8

13

Denver

3

8

New York Giants

6

14

Washington

7

12

Detroit

2

9

New York Jets

6

9

• At first I thought the current playoff structure forces the weak division winners to play a home game each year. In the 3-division format, there was even a time when the top wild card team got a home game, as the Ravens did vs. Denver in 2000. Upon review, home teams have won 68.2% of playoff games all time and 66.0% since 2000 (both excluding games involving the Ravens). That’s not a big difference.

• So what’s made the Ravens a successful road team in the playoffs? We can start with the fact that defense travels well. I think the Ravens road playoff record is the icing on the cake (there’s plenty of cake there as well) as to whether Butkus or Lewis is the greatest ILB of all time.

The 13-play stretch to close out the game, beginning with the stuff of Charles sweep (Q3, 9:45), was one of the most dominant in team history. It was as if we were watching the 2003 Ravens as Suggs, Lewis, and Gregg took over the game for that stretch. Let’s review:

• (Q3, 9:45) Kelly Gregg penetrated and Charles was swarmed by several Ravens. Charles appeared to fumble (recovered by Gregg), but none was charged.

• (Q3, 6:31) Gregg spun by Wiegmann to initially pressure Cassel, but missed. McKinney then got in his face and Cassel threw incomplete deep right and was flagged for intentional grounding.

• (Q3, 6:24) Suggs beat Branden Albert to sack Cassel for a loss of 5.

• (Q3, 5:49) Cassel threw complete short right to McCluster on 3rd and 25. Lewis dislodged the football and Carr recovered.

• (Q3, 4:20) Suggs beat TE Leonard Pope to the inside to take down Jones for a gain of 1.

• (Q3, 3:46) Cassel had lots of time in the pocket, but coverage was good. After 5+ seconds, Suggs got free and Cassel threw for Moeaki, but was intercepted by Landry.

• (Q3, 0:21) Webb blitzed and dislodged the football as Cassel finished his throwing motion and was tucking. Kruger then also hit Cassel. On review the fumble was overturned (incomplete with a QH to Kruger) and it appeared that either Webb or Kruger could have been flagged for roughing the passer.

• (Q3, 0:19) Lewis pressured Cassel who dumped short right to Curtis. Wilson tackled Curtis for a gain of just 3, which was nonetheless the most successful of these 13 snaps for the Chiefs.

• (Q4, 15:00) Wilson covered Vernon Tucker tight down the left sideline. Tucker made a leaping grab, but fell out of bounds.

• (Q4, 4:26) After the Ravens drove 15 plays for the game-sealing TD, Suggs beat Richardson outside for another sack (-2)

• (Q4, 4:10) Nakamura came on a delayed blitz to pressure Cassel who threw incomplete right to Curtis, covered well by Carr.

• (Q4, 4:05) Lewis stunted right around Kruger, who was blocked by Albert for a 10-yard sack.

• (Q4, 3:37) On the Chiefs’ last offensive play, Cassel threw from a clean pocket on 4th and 22 again deep left for Tucker, who was covered by Wilson. Josh got a step ahead of the Chiefs’ receiver and collected the ball as if it was intended for him.

On those 13 plays, the Chiefs registered a total of -9 yards including 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, and a fumble. I’d like to hear any other nominations for as good or better stretch of 10+ defensive plays by the Ravens against a good team.

The Ravens 3 biggest defensive plays:

• Gregg’s penetration on 4th and 1 (Q3, 9:45).

• Lewis FF/Carr FR (Q3, 5:49). On 3rd and 25, the tackle of McCluster was sufficient to force a punt, but Lewis dislodged the football and Carr recovered. Just 5 plays later, Cundiff would put the Ravens up 16-7 with his 3rd FG.

• Landry’s interception (Q3, 3:46). His return set up Flacco’s TD to Boldin which put the Ravens up by 16.

 

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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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