November 18, 2012
The Ravens won an ugly game Sunday.
How ugly? I went through all 204 games the Ravens played since 2000 to make this list, and was only able to come up with 14 nominations that combined winning, versus a bad (or injured) team, by a close margin, with notable help from the opponent.
Here is my list of the 5 ugliest Ravens’ wins in that period:
1. Ravens 9, Chiefs 6 10/7/12: The Ravens allowed 214 yards rushing to the Chiefs on 50 carries, but the Chiefs would turn the ball over four times and the Ravens would benefit from an offensive pass interference penalty that negated the TD which would have given the Chiefs’ their first lead to protect all season.
2. Ravens 9, 49ers 7 10/7/07: The Ravens traveled west for a forgettable encounter with the Trent Dilfer-led 49ers. They survived a late FG miss by Joe Nedney and had a 17-play drive that covered all of 43 yards, ending in a punt, but also 8:26 in time of possession to protect their 2-point lead. The 49ers would finish 5-11.
3. Ravens 13, Steelers 10 12/28/03: In an ill-advised attempt to get Jamal Lewis the NFL rushing record, the Ravens went to overtime in an otherwise meaningless game. The Steelers turned the ball over 5 times and scored their only TD on a fake punt. The Ravens would lose at home to Tennessee in the Wild Card game six days later.
4. Ravens 26, Cardinals 23 9/23/07: The Cardinals scored 17 4th-quarter points to wipe out a 23-6 Ravens lead with Kurt Warner completing 15/20 258 yards, 2/0 TD/INT in relief of Matt Leinart. Matt Stover would bail out the Ravens with a 46-yard, game-winning FG as time expired.
5. Ravens 13, Steelers 10 11/18/12: Leftwich played through broken ribs suffered when falling untouched on his own TD run. Wallace mailed in his effort and contributed a fumble among the Steelers’ three turnovers.
The last entry is the only one against a team with a winning record, but that may change.
The Steelers had 69 offensive snaps, all of which were competitive:
Versus the Run: 27 plays, 134 yards, 5.0 YPC
Versus the Pass: 42 plays, 177 yards, 4.2 YPP
Overall: 69 plays, 311 yards, 4.5 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: 1/3, 3.0 YPP
4 DBs: 33/214, 6.5 YPP
5 DBs: 31/108, 3.5 YPP, 1 sack, 2 TO
6 DBs: 4/-14, -3.5 YPP
By number of pass rushers:
3 or fewer: 2/6, 3.0 YPP, 1 TO
4: 32/158, 4.9 YPP, 2 sacks, 1 TO
5: 4/15, 3.8 YPP, 1 TO
6: 4/-2, -0.5 YPP, 1 sack
- The Ravens continued their experimentation with no true interior linemen in dime packagaes. The formation was used 4 times with Upshaw at DT and no true interior lineman on the field. Ihedigbo played each of those four defensive snaps:
- He was in the backfield as a pass rusher when Kruger got his sack (Q1, 7:27)
- He ran outside of Starks and past Leftwich but recovered to record a QH (Q2, 11:23) that went unrecorded in the Gamebook as the QB threw incomplete deep middle for Sanders.
- He rushed off the OLS unblocked to record a drive-ending sack (Q4, 4:41) as Colon was too slow to react.
- He had outside containment on Wallace that forced the Steelers’ speediest player to lateral to Colon on the game’s final play (Q4, 0:12)
That’s about as well as a defensive player can do in four plays.
- Graham was much improved in coverage after consecutive poor games. His interception shut down a Steelers’ drive which had reached the Baltimore 38. On the final drive, he hammered the ball free from Miller (Q4, 0:35) which would have given Pittsburgh a first down near midfield. Graham allowed catches on 4 of 10 balls thrown his way, to go along with the INT and PD. He trailed in coverage of Sanders as he crossed for a 37-yard completion near the left hash (Q3, 11:51).
- Pollard was all over the field. He combined with Ellerbe to stop Sanders for a loss of 1 on a WR screen left (Q2, 11:56). The play was negated by Cotchery’s illegal block. Pollard made a similar play on the opposite side when he took down Mendenhall for a loss of 4 on a short pass to the right (Q3, 6:41). He had tight, man coverage on Mendenhall, forcing Leftwich to ground a screen pass (Q4, 6:05). On the Steelers last drive, he separated Cotchery from the football (Q4, 0:27) with a vicious, but clean, hit on the right sideline. That hit knocked Cotchery from the game and the Steelers have since signed 35-year-old Plexico Burress.
- Chris Johnson began the game with outside responsibilities as part of the Ravens’ nickel, but tweaked his hamstring and finished with just 6 defensive snaps. Those plays included a forced fumble against Wallace to set up the Ravens’ first score. Chykie Brown replaced Johnson in the nickel at the start of Q2 and played 29 snaps on which the Steelers averaged just 2.8 YPPA.
- Kemoeatu played 37 snaps in the absence of Cody. He didn’t generate pass rush. While he did a little better holding his ground in the run game, he had just a single tackle assist.
- Ngata returned and played well. He registered 5 tackles, including a 10-yard sack. The line as a whole gave noticeably less ground.
- Kruger dominated rookie RT Mike Adams. The Steelers averaged just 2.8 YPPA with him in and his pass rush was a major contribution. In an outstanding performance like this, it’s worth reviewing every pass rush:
- (1. Q1, 7:27) He beats Adams outside for a fast-developing, 7-yard sack.
- (2. Q1, 3:41) He starts outside, bulls Adams back 2 yards, then moves off inside to hit Leftwich as he throws, PD/INC, but no QH.
- (3. Q1, 3:10) Kruger stunts inside around Jones’ push, but is picked up by Foster effectively. Leftwich throws right to Paulson for 6 yards.
- (4. Q1, 1:38) He beats Adams outside despite help from Foster to register a QH as Leftwich throws incomplete on 3rd and 1.
- (5. Q2, 11:23) Kruger is triple teamed by Adams, Miller, then Dwyer. All contact him and push him slightly to the outside and around the pocket. Rushing from the OLS, Ihedigbo delivers a slow-developing QH.
- (6. Q2, 1:17) He again works toward the outside as Adams gives a little ground, but Leftwich throws a quick out to Dwyer for 3 yards.
- (7. Q2, 0:45) Paul stunts inside and is picked up by RG Foster as Leftwich throws left to Sanders for 11 yards
- (8. Q2, 0:39) He again beats Adams outside and slips just before he gets to Leftwich, but Suggs delivers the QH as the QB releases incomplete to Miller. From the All-22, it almost looks like Kruger is the setup man for the old trip-someone-up-over-the-kneeling-guy playground gag. From the look of the next 2 passes, this one hurt Leftwich.
- (9. Q2, 0:34) Kruger is triple teamed for the 2nd time in the game. This time Foster, Adams, and Miller form a tight pocket around Paul as Leftwich throws incomplete on a ball Ellerbe might have intercepted had he had 2 uninjured hands.
- (10. Q2, 0:21) Kruger stunts inside as Upshaw sets him up by crossing Foster’s face to the outside to pick up a double. Pouncey is unable to pick up the stunt and Kruger pressures Leftwich into an incomplete again underthrown to Sanders.
- (11. Q3, 9:40) Triple teams in the NFL are exceedingly rare, even against great pass rushers, but Kruger draws his 3rd of the game. Adams falls victim to a bull, Kruger moves to the inside, where he is chipped by Dwyer, then Foster hits him as Paul runs the gauntlet to pressure Leftwich. The throw was intercepted by Graham.
- (12. Q3, 5:58) The Steelers again leave Adams on an island and he is beaten outside by Kruger for pressure. Leftwich releases a short screen to the right to Dwyer who ran for 18 YAC after catching the ball 3 yards behind the LoS.
- (13. Q4, 13:37) Rushing from the OLS for the first time of the night, Kruger jukes, gets Starks to give ground, then pancakes the massive tackle as he bulls him. Leftwich steps up and delivers a short pass left to Mendenhall for 9 yards.
- (14. Q4, 12:56) Kruger again rushes from the OLS and splits a double from Johnson and Dwyer to contact Leftwich just after he throws middle to Wallace for 2 yards. Paul wisely does not take Leftwich down and risk a flag, but the contact is noticeably painful to the QB.
- (15. Q4, 12:09) Kruger has some difficulty getting off a single from Miller, but Suggs pressures Leftwich to roll right and Paul cuts off the run, forcing him to throw the ball away.
- (16. Q4, 12:02) Kruger rushes untouched as Adams blocks inside on McClain. Leftwich amazingly steps up to avoid the rush and shot puts the ball to Dwyer who picks up 8 yards. Hall and McClain deliver another QH on the play.
- (17. Q4, 10:44) Kruger lines up in a wide 9 and Adams still can’t handle him alone to the outside. Kruger, Suggs, and Ngata arrive almost simultaneously and Leftwich steps up into a crushing sack by Ngata on the jailbreak.
- (18. Q4, 8:36) Kruger is blocked straight up by Adams. He got his hand up, but the Leftwich completed the pass right for 11 yards to Cotchery.
- (19. Q4, 6:05) Adams effectively holds off an outside rush from Kruger. Jones has pressure from the inside and Leftwich grounds a screen pass as Pollard has Mendenhall blanketed. Interestingly, the Gamebook scorer put in a pressure note for Kruger on one of the few plays (to this point) where he didn’t threaten Leftwich.
- (20. Q4, 6:00) Adams picks up Kruger from a wide 9 and blocks him effectively as Leftwich throws right for 6 yards.
- (21. Q4, 4:47) Kruger lines up wide again and stunts all the way to the Left B gap where he leaps as Leftwich throws over him but at Wallace’s feet, incomplete.
- (22. Q4, 4:41) Adams cuts down Kruger as Dwyer observes, then releases. On the other side, Ihedigbo blitzes untouched past Colon for a 7-yard sack.
- (23. Q4, 1:05) Kruger bulls Adams, then slips off left where Mendenhall picks him up directly in front of Leftwich. Unable to step into his throw, the QB passes incomplete right for Sanders.
- (24. Q4, 1:00) Kruger beats Adams outside for pressure. Leftwich steps up, delivers a 12-yard completion to Mendenhall (who stays in bounds) and takes a hard QH from Upshaw.
- (25. Q4, 0:35) Kruger appears to have Adams beaten to the inside, but gets effectively chipped by Mendenhall, then pancaked by Adams. Leftwich throws to midfield where Graham separates him from the football.
- (26. Q4, 0:27) Miller and then Adams direct Kruger around the outside of the pocket. Leftwich throws to Cotchery who is flattened by Pollard for the PD.
- (27. Q4, 0:22) The pass rush bunches in the middle as Pouncey dribbles the ball to Leftwich. Kruger emerges from the scrum, slips and pursues Leftwich as he rolls right. The QB throws deep middle for Gilreath, but comes up approximately 8 yards short on a 50-yard throw. Starks comes across the field to block Kruger from behind to prevent the QH.
- (28. Q4, 0:12) Kruger is doubled by Adams and Foster as part of a 2-man pass rush on the game’s final play, but recovers to force the game-ending fumble on Starks’ lateral to Leftwich.
- To summarize, Kruger had 1 sack, 1 other QH, and 12 other pressures, including a PD in 28 times rushing the passer. He faced 3 triple teams and beat one for a pressure. The Ravens set him up with stunts on several occasions and he may also have done some freelancing, but we didn’t see the spin move. Kruger was consistently able to shed Adams’ hands. It was also his lowest play count of the year with only 38 non-penalty snaps. His season as a pass rusher had been disappointing prior to the Raiders game, but his return to a rush-specialist role was perfectly timed with the ponderous movement and delivery of Leftwich and a rookie right tackle. Suggs has had games even more dominant with all phases considered, but I can’t recall a Raven ever delivering more consistent pressure as a pass rusher over the course of an entire game.
- Upshaw was similarly effective with a reduced snap count. He played 35 non-penalty snaps, and the Steelers averaged just 2.1 YPPA when he was in. Upshaw has not been effective rushing from the inside, but he continues to play the run well and occupy blockers as a pass rusher. The return of Pernell McPhee should allow Courtney to focus on the responsibilities at which he excels.
- McClellan is back to being the main edge-setting option on running downs, but the Ravens didn’t use him as a pass rusher. He made just 1 tackle, but dropped to cover on each passing attempts. The only 2 passes to his assignment went incomplete and those included a PD (Q2, 11:28) in coverage of Will Johnson. His only tackle came when he turned the play inside, then took down Dwyer for a gain of 1 (Q3, 11:05).
- Hall played 8 snaps on passing downs. He shared a slow-developing QH with McClain (Q4, 12:02) when Pouncey failed to take the handoff from Foster. He pressured Leftwich (Q4, 0:27) when he beat Colon to the inside. He also missed a tackle on Dwyer (Q2, 5:58) despite putting a big hit on the RB.
- The Ravens employed more deceptive blitzes (8) than they had to date this season. In particular, Leftwich and the Steelers line had trouble decoding the dime pressure. The Ravens also used stunts effectively and 5 times dropped at least 2 from the LoS to coverage.
- The Ravens have a 12-1 turnover margin in the last 3 games against the Steelers.