I think it’s worth a minute to review the 3 Torrey Smith scores, because each was something special in terms of both athletic effort and design, but this was a game that virtually every Ravens receiver was targeted on a 9 route.
Torrey Smith’s 3 TDs:
· (Q1, 12:30): Stewart lined up as the single high safety on the left hash. Mikell covered Dickson in the slot. King had press coverage on Smith outside right. Rice picked up the blitzing Laurinaitis, but was driven backwards to Flacco. Joe released off his back foot as perfectly as had he stepped into the throw. Smith pulled away from the lunging King to haul in the ball at the 46 and outraced Stewart for the TD.
· (Q1, 3:49): Stewart was again the single high safety, but this time on the right hash. King was again in press coverage on Smith on the right. The Rams’ corner got his hands on Smith, but Torrey got inside position and easily outraced both him and Stewart to the post. The entire line faked a run left while Leach was Flacco’s only blocker. Vonta slowed down Long just enough for Flacco to step into an artillery shell to Smith. Torrey collected the ball with his fingertips 5 yards behind Stewart in the end zone for a 41-yard TD. It was a good throw with an even better catch.
· (Q1, 1:53): The Ravens lined up Smith wide left in another 2-back, single-tight-end set. The unfortunate King again found himself in press coverage on Torrey. Who drew the other coverage? We don’t need no other stinking receivers. Dickson blocked on the left side, Leach blocked on the right side, Rice faked a run middle, and Boldin stepped 2 or 3 yards past the line of scrimmage before throwing a block. Smith ran the only pattern to the left side of the end zone as Flacco released the ball on a 3-step drop off his back foot in the face of the untouched blitzer Poppinga (how do the Rams have a free runner with 4 receivers blocking?). Both safeties were much too close to the line of scrimmage to affect coverage, but the ball was perfectly placed out of the reach of the flailing King and into the hands of the fading Smith.
This was at times a difficult game to score offensive linemen or even count pass rushers because of the Ravens propensity to fake a run to one side while Flacco rolled in the opposite direction to make time for a slow-developing route. There were 4 such plays:
· (Q1, 4:27): Fake run left, roll right. Leach blocked Sims to give Flacco time to throw just beyond the outstretched arms of Smith in the back of the end zone.
· (Q1, 3:49): Fake run left, roll right. TD Smith, see above.
· (Q2, 4:04): Fake run left, naked roll right. Flacco threw complete to Dickson for 6 yards as he was pressured.
· (Q4, 11:22): Fake run right, naked roll left. Flacco was knocked down by Quinn as he threw to Smith for 8 yards by the left sideline.
I think it’s fair to say Rams Defensive Coordinator Ken Flajole did not display an impressive ability to adapt.
The Ravens had 74 offensive snaps, excluding 2 kneels:
McKinnie: Bryant was party to 5 separate negative events Sunday with his most significant the QH by 1st round pick Robert Quinn (Q2, 1:15). I charged him with 1/3 of another QH by Long (Q2, 0:10) when he was again beaten outside by Quinn to contract the pocket. Among his other negative plays was one tough one, a PD by Bannan split with Gurode (Q3, 14:27). I score him as missing only 1 run block (aside from the penetration), but McKinnie’s pass blocking appears vulnerable to speed rushers. Against a team with better coverage, or in a game with more pass-blocking breakdowns inside, some of these plays might have resulted in hits on Flacco. He had 2 pancakes and 2 blocks in level 2. I have not noticed him attempt a cut block in 3 games. Scoring: 68 blocks, 1 missed, 1 pressure, ½ PD allowed, ½ penetration, 1 and 1/3 QHs, 60 points (.81 per play).
Gurode: Andre had no real answer for Justin Bannan. He had an assortment of missed blocks (6 total) including consecutive pancakings by Bannan (beginning Q2, 5:00). The Ravens would net 73 yards on these 2 plays nonetheless. I charged him with the QH by Laurinaitus (Q3, 10:44) when it appeared he blocked the wrong man. He missed a cut block on Bannan (Q1, 10:27) to allow Rice to be taken down for a loss of 1. His other shared QH was with Birk on Bannan (Q4, 9:54). I’m sure if I were a Rams fan I’d be lauding Bannan for a career game, but the truth is probably as simple as Bannan played well and Gurode had a sub-par outing. Andre did not attempt any pulls. To pick out something positive, Gurode registered 3 blocks in level 2 and 7 pancakes as I scored it. I can’t recall ever recording more pancakes, but zone blocking creates more such opportunities. Scoring: 63 blocks, 6 missed, 1.5 penetrations, ½ PD, 1.5 QHs, 54.5 points (.74 per play). If asked to convert that to a letter grade at guard, it would be a D. However, he’s not a fish out of water (like Levoir) at the position and I think it’s reasonable to expect improvement.
Birk: Matt had another solid outing. He again avoided mistakes with the exception of the QH by Bannan shared with Gurode (see above). I scored him with 3 blocks in level 2 with the visual highlight (I’m distinguishing it from blocking technique, because he was actually pushed by Ray) his screen block for Rice (Q2, 1:15) which caused 3 Rams to come crashing down. Scoring: 72 blocks, 1 missed, ½ QH, 70.5 points (.95 per play).
Yanda: He was again outstanding, but Marshal had his first difficulties as a pass blocker against the Rams. He was party to 2 QHs. I charged him with half of Sims’ QH with Oher (Q3, 2:37) when he gave ground to flush Flacco from the pocket. I also charged 1/3 of Long’s QH (Q2, 0:10) to Marshal when he blocked inside to aid Birk and Oher blocked inside to block what appeared to be Yanda’s assignment. It could certainly be argued that Yanda did not deserve the debit for either of those hits on Flacco, but he was beaten by a spin move from Fred Robbins (Q1, 10:34) that was nullified by Oher’s holding penalty. He had 2 pancakes, 5 blocks in level 2, and went 2 for 2 when pulling. Scoring: 71 blocks, 1 missed, 5/6 QH, 68.5 points (.93 per play). By score, he’s averaged .95 per game and this is a case where my subjective grade would be just as high.
Oher: Michael was again penalized twice. He held Long as Robbins beat Yanda for a QH (Q1, 10:34) and put his right hand on the mask of Long (Q1, 0:13). I scored him as partially responsible for 2 QHs mentioned previously, but I didn’t score him for Chamberlain’s sack (Q4, 5:47). On that play, he blocked the Rams LB around the pocket, but Dahl came unblocked from the opposite side, missed Flacco and undercut Oher leaving Chamberlain free to run down Flacco for the slow-developing sack/FF. It was an odd set of circumstances, but not Oher’s mess. Long’s sack on the previous play (Q4, 6:24) was split between Williams and Leach. Oher’s highlight was the seal on Long to spring Rice for his 17-yard run right (Q1, 0:09). Scoring: 63 blocks, 6 missed, 5/6 (1/2 + 1/3) QH, 1 holding, 1 illegal use of hands, 48.5 points (.69 per play). I had not spent any time previously watching Chris Long as a pass rusher, but he looks like the real deal to me and I’d be shocked if he suddenly fails to be disruptive based on the quickness and technique he displayed in this game coupled with the arrival of Quinn.
Reid: Jah entered for the final series and didn’t play well in his first action. He was flagged for a false start and missed 2 of his 3 other blocks. He was shed by Robbins once and whiffed on Poppinga. He may well be a good tackle as early as next year, but this series was a little more evidence that the McKinnie signing was a good one. Scoring: 1 block, 2 missed, 1 false start, -2 points (-.67 per play).
Ngata: Haloti entered for one goal line snap (Q2, 3:11). He went out for a pass to the left corner of the end zone as Vonta Leach ran the “underneath” route to the 3-yard line. Ngata drew the coverage initially, but Flacco was pressured by Mikell and threw incomplete for Leach. Scoring: None
Other Offensive Notes:
· The Ravens played all but one snap (see Ngata) with 5 offensive linemen in a balanced formation.
· I scored Flacco with ample time and space (ATS) on just 19 of 50 drop backs (38%). He beat 6 and 7-man pressure for his 1st and 3rd TD passes, respectively. With ATS, Flacco completed 10 of 19 throws for 133 yards, 1 TD and 0 INT (7.0 YPP). While that works out to a pretty good passer rating (92.7), it’s a poor result for what should be the best opportunities.
· Without ATS Joe was 17 of 29 for 256 yards (247 net including 2 sacks for -9, 8.0 YPP) with 2 TD and 0 INT. He fumbled once and it was recovered by the Rams. That’s a terrific result that is heavily skewed by the first TD pass to Smith which Flacco threw off his back foot as Rice was being pushed backwards into him.
· The last time I can recall Flacco having an “inverted” game like this with better results when under pressure was 10/18/09 at Minnesota when the Vikings were credited with 9 QHs including 3 sacks and Flacco led a furious, if unsuccessful, comeback while he was getting clobbered.
· Rice had an outstanding game with a limited number of touches, but I want to focus on his receptions. He caught 5 balls for 83 yards with receptions that occurred -4, -5, 2, -5, and 3 yards from the line of scrimmage. Rice had YAC of 15, 19, 18, 21, and 19 on those receptions.
· Boldin effectively outmuscled defenders for the football. The best examples I can give (Q1, 10:57 and Q1, 2:59) might not be as impressive as his catch just out of bounds at the goal line (Q3, 10:52). I watched the ball that went through his hands in the end zone (Q3, 10:40) several times and can’t tell whether or not Al Harris actually got a piece of the ball. In either case, I think he’d say he should have made the catch. He had several terrific downfield blocks.
· Leach had his best game to date as a Raven despite the lack of commitment to the run. He had a significant role in the blocking for the 2nd and 3rd TDs (see above), had a jarring lead block on Laurinaitis on Rice’s 17-yard run (Q1, 0:09), cut Mikell to the turf on Rice’s 53-yard run (Q2, 4:27), and pancaked Laurinaitis again on a 4-yard run by Rice (Q3, 4:01).