The Rams entered the game having run the football with only marginal success and facing the Ravens formidable front 7 and beleaguered secondary. Given the Titans’ success in week 2, this figured to be a game where the Rams would try to test the Ravens deep.
The Ravens countered with blitzes that were more a function of numbers than deception as well as some press coverage to disrupt routes. Chuck Pagano’s unit ran 2 blitzes I scored as deceptive during the first half, but more significantly, they rushed less than 5 on just 3 of 17 1st half pass plays while amassing their 27-0 lead. Bradford completed 4 of 15 passes for 3 net yards.
For the game, the Ravens rushed 5 or 6 men on 18 of the Rams’ 37 pass plays and allowed just 1.8 yards per play. In the 2nd half the Ravens rushed 4 men more often and played less press coverage.
In the entire game, the Ravens were only beaten once (Q4, 15:00, 4-man pass rush, press coverage on both outside receivers) where the receiver had an opportunity to catch a long pass in stride. The damage was averted when Gibson could not maintain control of Bradford’s bomb near the goal line. Cary Williams was beaten on a deep crossing route for the Rams only score, but that was a simple miscalculation of space in the back of the end zone and a perfect throw. Williams was responsible, but that wasn’t a matter of the schematic tradeoff.
The Ravens had 63 snaps defensively, all of which were competitive:
Versus the Run: 26 plays, 112 yards, 4.3 YPC
Versus the Pass: 37 plays, 132 yards, 3.6 YPP
Overall: 63 plays, 244 yards, 3.9 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: 1 plays, 2 yards, 2.0 YPPA
4 DBs: 29/160, 5.5 YPPA, 1 TO
5 DBs: 33/82, 2.5 YPPA, 5 sacks, 1 TO
By number of pass rushers:
3: 1 play, 0 yards
4: 18/107, 5.9 YPP, 3 sacks
5: 13/11, 0.8 YPP, 2 sacks, 2 TO
6: 5/14, 2.8 YPP
In every sense of the word, the game was a defensive laugher. It would probably be easiest just to say everyone on the defense played better, but there were some standouts.
• Cory Redding had an outstanding game. He played just 29 snaps, but came untouched for a hit on Bradford (Q1, 14:16), got his hand up to bat down a pass as McClain came untouched for pressure (Q1, 11:17), beat Smith outside to tackle Williams for a 2-yard loss (Q3, 8:36), beat Smith inside for a bruising QH (Q3, 1:51), stunted between Smith and Dahl for a 7-yard sack (Q4, 11:58). Despite the fact he had only 2 tackles, I’d say it was his finest game as a Raven.
• Ngata continues to do something extraordinary every week. In addition to the fumble recovery and TD, he had perhaps the most jarring hit on Bradford (Q2, 8:05) when he came untouched as Bradford threw incomplete. He had just 1 tackle, but slowed down to a reasonable workload (43 of 63 snaps). He and the rest of the defensive line should be fresh for the Jets.
• Cody was not credited in the Gamebook, but was in on a tackle of Williams on his 2-yard run left (Q1, 11:46). That made my notes because of the pursuit. He and Jones both pursued well on Sunday. He blew up Jackson’s run (Q1, 8:11) which Lewis exploited with a tackle for no gain. Cody also drew the chop block from Bell (Q3, 5:26) on Bradford’s incomplete pass. It’s evident that Bell went in low while the center Jason Brown still had a hand on him. While that play was certainly not entirely a function of Cody’s actions, a big, physical presence can force an offensive lineman to desperation. That play immediately preceded Bradford’s TD pass on 1st and 25, so the Ravens didn’t capitalize.
• Pernell McPhee continues to impress. He played 28 snaps on which the Ravens held the Rams to 3.2 YPPA. He beat Dahl inside for his sack (Q1, 3:32) and had a late tackle where he both pursued Williams to his right and took him down while being blocked by Goldberg (he replaced Smith at RT) on the Rams final possession (Q4, 4:26). He was a solid contributor to the pass rush and took more than his share of the attention that led to a number of untouched QHs.
• The performance of the Ravens’ defensive line can best be summed up in the game played by Jason Smith. Smith was the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 draft. He was drafted to be the Rams’ LT, but the front office must have known that wasn’t happening when they drafted Rodger Saffold in the 2nd round the very next season. At this point, Smith’s major concern should be staying on the field. He made poor choices on who to block, was beaten every which way for pressure and hits, contributed a pair of 15-yard personal fouls, and ultimately was benched (for the 2nd time in 3 games) for the Rams final 3 drives, giving way to 31-year-old Adam Goldberg. It was a performance of Cousinsian proportions.
• Kruger played 22 snaps. He had 2 tackles, neither of which was worthy of mention other than for fact that they were double his 2010 total. However, he had a QH (Q4, 9:28) on which he executed one of the most devastating inside spin moves you’ll ever see. Saffold was completely at a loss. The pass was out quickly (just as Kruger hit Bradford) for a gain of 11, but that move alone shows me Kruger has been working hard at improving his pass rush technique.
• Danny Gorrer played his first 3 NFL snaps on the Rams’ last possession at left cornerback. The Rams ran out the clock with 3 straight runs.
• Nakamura injury would be serious regardless of the situation at corner, but is potentially dire under current circumstances. Haruki is the only one of the 4 safeties that can step in as the nickel. In other injury news, sitting Foxworth paid off for this game, but is it a good thing that Dominique is talking about how the knee still hurts like hell?
• Webb’s effort would be a positive any week, but he is the star of the secondary to this point. He had 3 plays which made my notes. His interception came on a timing route where Alexander fell down as Bradford released what was intended to be no worse than a jump ball down the right sideline (Q2, 6:21). It would have been easy for Webb to focus on covering Alexander and lose the football, but he tracked it and ended the Rams first scoring opportunity. He again had good coverage on Alexander down the right sideline (Q4, 13:22) when Bradford threw for his 6’5” receiver. Both the proximity of Webb and the hit from Reed played a part in the ball coming free. He had press coverage on Sims-Walker (Q3, 9:11), but was unable to find the ball in the air despite good coverage on a play that went for 14 yards. I’m an optimistic fan at the core, but I see nothing but an injury risk every time he lines up to return a punt.
• Cary Williams had an off day. He got beat on a perfectly thrown ball for the Rams only TD (Q3, 5:22), but he might have had more help from Tom Zbikowski. He was beaten deep on Bradford’s only other open 9 route (Q4, 15:00, see above) only to be bailed out by Gibson’s stumble and drop. He played soft on Alexander to allow a 13-yard play (4 + 9 YAC, Q3, 1:03). I thought the pass interference call (Q2, 8:00) was ticky-tack, but it wasn’t a costly error in any case. In a game like this, where the pass rush is intense and the corners play a fair amount of press coverage to support it, there will be periodic consequences when the rush fails to impact the play.
• Bernard Pollard played 22 snaps and replaced Zbikowski for the last 3 drives at strong safety. Zibby would return for the last drive when Reed took off 3 snaps. Pollard contributed consecutive fine plays (beginning Q2, 2:31) when he delivered a QH on Bradford and then nearly picked off the Rams QB when he was forced to roll right.
• The Ravens were effective regardless of their nickel personnel. They played Carr/Pollard, Carr/Zbikowski, and Pollard/Zbikowski with Reed/Webb/Williams. The Ravens never had 6 DBs on the field, but held the Rams to just 2.5 YPP on the 33 plays with 5 DBs.
• I’m not sure what the folks doing the Gamebook have against Brendan Ayanbadejo, but he’s had 3 QHs this season and none have been credited. Lewis’ forced fumble is recorded correctly as a sack without a QH, but Brendan dropped Bradford on the play.
• When is running up the score appropriate? I don’t like it under any circumstances, but if one were to advocate it, the game Sunday has three of the desired characteristics. It was an NFC opponent (the Ravens won’t see them again for 4 years), who had played a nasty game (see Jason Smith), and the methodology (in this case the challenge) was actually effective. I don’t think it matters whether Lewis thought he had a legitimate forced fumble and recovery, but the 2 minutes or so the challenge required gave the Rams time to grit their collective teeth a little longer as they were forced to wait to escape the wrath of their hundreds of remaining fans.