The Ravens were once again forced to play without Ray Lewis. Unfortunately, Dannell Ellerbe was also inactive with a groin injury.
Jameel McClain, as expected, took Ray’s spot and played every snap for the second straight week. Albert McClellan stepped in at the other inside linebacker spot and contributed 29 quality snaps.
McClellan had previously been the Ravens 8th heavy in the 443 at OLB, but he had 2 snaps at ILB after Ellerbe’s departure from the Bengals’ game. Ayanbadejo played the nickel snaps and the Ravens were particularly effective (7 sacks on his 19 passing snaps).
McClellan’s highlights included penetration (Q3, 13:38) where he overran the play, but allowed the Redding and the other defenders corral Gore for a loss of 1. Suggs got his hands up to mess up the timing on a WR screen left (Q4, 9:01) which was dropped by Williams, but McClellan was positioned to make a tackle for little or no gain. He finished with 4 tackles, all of which occurred on the first drive of the 3rd quarter.
McClain played well. He impressively shed the lead blocks from Norris (Q1, 4:07 and Q3, 11:57) to take down Gore for short gains. He met Gore in the hole (Q2, 2:51) and drove him backwards with McClellan for a gain of 2. Kruger contained Gore on 3rd and 3 (Q2, 0:32) and McClain cleaned up for no gain. Jameel and Ayanbadejo cleaned up on McPhee’s penetration (Q3, 8:16) to take down Gore. He was an effective contributor to the pass rush as we’ll discuss below. The only difficulty I noted was the inability to cover Vernon Davis on a short crossing route which was completed for 20 (6 + 14 YAC, Q1, 5:07), which is a fairly significant matchup advantage for the 49ers.
The 49ers had 54 offensive snaps, all of which were competitive:
Versus the Run: 21 plays, 74 yards, 3.5 YPC
Versus the Pass: 33 plays, 96 yards, 2.9 YPP
Overall: 54 plays, 170 yards, 3.1 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: None
4 DBs: 28/96, 3.4 YPPA, 2 sacks
5 DBs: 26/74 2.8 YPPA, 7 sacks, 1 TO
6 DBs: None
By number of pass rushers:
4: 21/47, 2.2 YPP, 4 sacks, 1 TO
5: 9/22, 2.4 YPP, 5 sacks
The swarming pass rush is something that will stay with me for a long time. They won by scheme, they won individual matchups, and they threw in a few surprises. Here is a review of the 9 sacks (plus the intentional grounding) with some specifics. In each case, I’ve included the quarter, time, down/distance, field position, formation, pass rush by numbers, who rushed for the Ravens, who blocked (position and number), and a brief description:
1. (Q1, 9:04) 3/3 SF 36, Formation 221 (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB), Pass Rush 5/1 (5 rushed, 1 dropped to cover from the LoS inside the slot receiver)
55 blocked by LT 74
62 by C 59 and LG 77
53 (delayed) RG 68
92 by RT 76 and RTE 85
95 by RTE 81
Dropped to cover: 51
McClain came from several yards behind the line to beat Snyder to his right with a nifty spin move and flush Smith. Suggs was blocked around the pocket by Staley. Smith attempted to scramble left, but was run down by Zbikowski near the sideline for a loss of 1. I categorize this as a 5-man rush, because anyone who rushes only after the pocket is broken is not included, even if he records the sack as happened here. The 49ers allowed this sack despite 7-man protection
2. (Q1, 2:38) 3/4 BAL 22, Formation 401, Pass Rush 5/0
99 by LT 74
51 (delayed) LG 77
92 by C 59 and RB 21
90 by RG 68
55 blocked by RT 76
A stunt from McPhee and Ngata wreaked havoc. McPhee moved under to beat Snyder inside and Gore. Pernell made initial contact on Smith well inside 3 seconds. Ngata bounced outside off Goodwin and essentially came untouched to crash into Gore. He turned and wrapped up Smith. The play took some time to develop, but Smith demonstrated no intention of throwing after the initial hit from McPhee.
3. (Q2, 12:47) 3/13 SF 17, Formation 401, Pass Rush 4/3
55 by LT 74
93 untouched (barely bumped by Gore)
53 by RB 21
99 by RT 76
Dropped to cover: 31, 51, and 90
McPhee lined up over center and took a thunderous step towards the line of scrimmage that paralyzed all 3 of the interior linemen (that would be a good ability in any number of computer games but is devastating in the NFL), then dropped to coverage. None of the 3 made a block on one of the rushers. Redding came untouched through the right B gap to drop Smith within 2.5 seconds. Pollard and Ayanbadejo both dropped to cover from the offensive left side (OLS) which Mayock cited as the reason for the confusion, but Gore turned correctly to the right and the lineman who could have stopped Redding was the new RG, Rachal. Had Rachal picked up Redding, McClain also had Gore beat to the outside.
4. (Q2, 8:42) 1/10 SF 24, Formation 221, Pass Rush 5/2
93 by LT 74
50 (delayed) by RB 21
53 by LG 77
62 by C 59 and RG 68
91 by RT 76
Dropped to cover: 55, 95
The pressure developed slowly as McClellan’s delayed blitz was picked up well by Gore. Smith stepped up in a pocket that had not yet disintegrated and Redding moved off Staley laterally to take him down for a loss of 2. Cody, McKinney, and McClain were all well blocked. This would fairly be described as a coverage sack although it took only 4 seconds.
5. (Q3, 13:15) 2/11 SF 32, Formation 410, Pass Rush 4/0
55 by LT 74 and LG 77
62 by LG 77 and C 59
92 by RT 76
93 by RG 62
The 49ers had 5 receivers in the pattern. Ngata stunted underneath through the right B gap and Anthony Davis (RT) was unable to pick him up. Ngata passed by then made a quick 90 degree turn (impressive for a big man) to his right to drag down Smith. Both Redding (vs. Rachal) and Suggs (vs. Staley) got good push to greatly reduce the size of the pocket and make Ngata’s job much easier.
6. (Q3, 8:56) 2/8 BAL 25, Formation 221, Pass Rush 5/1
92 by LT 74
91 by RG 62
53 (delayed) untouched
31 by RB 32
55 by RT 76
Dropped to cover: 95
Suggs beat Davis around the corner to arrive barely ahead of McClain. Neither LG Iupati nor C Goodwin even threw a block. McKinney provided some push and took Rachal out of the play which allowed McClain to come delayed/untouched. The sack took perhaps 3 seconds to develop.
7. (Q4, 13:35) 3/7 SF 31, Formation 401, Pass Rush 5/2
93 by LT 74
53 by C 59, RB 21
90 by RG 62
55 by LG 77
Dropped to cover: 51, 99
Suggs lined up at LDE and crossed the face of RT Davis. Davis turned left, but missed Sizzle, who was actually blocked by the LG Iupati. Rachal took McPhee to the ground and McClain was picked up by Goodwin and Gore. That left a clear path for Webb to chase down Smith from the ORS. As Smith approached the LoS, Redding moved off Staley to help Webb take down Smith. The play took about 4.5 seconds to develop.
8. (Q4, 8:12) 3/8 SF 12, Formation 401, Pass Rush 4/0
99 by LT 74
92 by LG 77
90 by C 59 and LG 62
55 by RT 76
Suggs drove back Davis towards Smith who was once again forced out of the pocket to the left. As he neared the LoS, he cocked and re-cocked, but was unable to release until Suggs had forced the fumble. Ayanbadejo shadowed Smith on the left side, but did not rush, even after the pocket was broken. That containment forced Smith to either accept a short gain by run or continue to look for a receiver.
9. (Q4, 3:05) 1/10 SF 31, Formation 221, Pass Rush 4/0
99 by RG 62 (pulling) and RB 21
92 by LT 74 and LG 77
90 by C 59 and RT 76
55 by RTE 85 and RTE 46
All 4 rushers were double teamed as the 49ers sent just 2 men into the pattern. Suggs beat Vernon Davis to the inside as Walker had minimal impact. The 2 TEs reduced the pocket size, but the Ravens also had 7 covering 2. Suggs wrapped up in approximately 3.5 seconds. All 3 other pass rushers were handled effectively.
10. (Q4, 1:34) 2/6 SF 46, Formation 311, Pass Rush 4/0
55 by LT 74
90 by LG 77
92 by RG 62
99 by RT 76
McPhee easily swam by Iupati inside and Kruger brushed aside Davis on the outside. Smith retreated straight backwards and threw the ball away when standing squarely between the tackles for a 15-yard intentional grounding (greater of 10 yards or the spot) flag. Kruger was credited for a QH in the Gamebook, but did not knock down Smith. While this was not technically a sack, it is equivalent in terms of its game impact (loss of down and 10 or more yards). I’ve always felt a sack should be awarded in these cases.
• The Ravens’ success with the 4-man pass rush (4 sacks plus the IG in 21 pass plays) and 5-man rush (5 sacks in 9 pass plays) is surreal. As a point of comparison, the 2010 Ravens had just 3 sacks with 5 rushing all season (146 pass plays). To his credit, Pagano stayed with the 4 and 5-man rushes on 30 of 32 pass plays.
• Smith left a clean pocket on more than 1 occasion. He didn’t go down voluntarily early like Sanchez earlier this year, but he seemed to have trouble keeping his eyes downfield.
• The crowd again had an impact. The 49ers had just 1 false start and 1 timeout to avoid a delay of game call, but the noise made it difficult for their offensive line to adjust in pass protection. At least, if I were one of the 49ers linemen, that’s the story I’d be sticking with.
• Despite the injury to Arthur Jones, which left the Ravens short a lineman, the low overall snap count for the game (each team ran just 54 competitive snaps) made for manageable rotation and should leave the Ravens well-rested for Cleveland. Cody played 25 snaps, McKinney 15, McPhee 23, Ngata 41, Redding 33, and Suggs 49.
• The Ravens’ run blitzes were effective making initial contact in the backfield that was subsequently cleaned up for little or no gain. Good examples include McPhee’s trip up of Gore (Q2, 7:02), Ngata’s swim past Rachal (Q2, 13:55), and McPhee’s penetration to spin Hunter (Q3, 8:16).
• Carr was inactive, but the Ravens did not have trouble without him as you can see from the nickel numbers. Alex Smith targeted Jimmy Smith’s assignment just 3 times. Of those, 2 were completed for gains of 8 and 7 yards, but those passes were thrown 2 yards behind the LoS and 1 yard beyond it, respectively.
• Williams was beaten badly by Ginn on the TD negated by the chop block. Cary leapt late to tip the ball, then could not get a wrap up on Ginn. Williams played a little soft in the closing minutes with the 49ers down 10. For the game, he allowed 3 completions among 4 times targeted for 25 yards.
• Reed had an impact on the game both directly and indirectly. He left his coverage of Walker to defense a pass intended for Crabtree (Q4, 8:19). That was a fine play overshadowed by the fact that it should have been intercepted. He overshot Gore’s run right for 4 yards (Q1, 5:57) and was unable to take down Davis on his 20-yard catch (Q1, 5:07) which led to 5 or 6 additional YAC. On one of the sacks, Mayock made the point that Vernon Davis was open, but Reed was lurking nearby.