The Ravens offense had one of their best performances in recent memory this past Sunday as they racked up 533 yards, 25 First Downs, and 33 points. Any Ravens fan could tell that there were some differences in the offense from past weeks. We’re going to look at two significant improvements on two different plays, one being player execution and the other being scheme and strategic improvement.
On December 9th the Ravens traveled to Landover to face the Washington Redskins. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 11-yard line, the Ravens offense lined up in an empty set.
Torrey Smith lined up in the slot with Ray Rice split wide. Both players ran slant routes.
The Skins stacked the line of scrimmage, showing an all out blitz (also known as “zero coverage”). Flacco knows that he will have one-on-one coverage with either Rice or Smith but might not trust what he sees pre snap. He is weary of a LB dropping under a throw to Smith and stares down Rice waiting for him to break inside.
Flacco holds the ball too long, allowing the unblocked defender to affect his pass and the play ends in an interception.
Flacco needed to identify the zero coverage quicker and understand that Smith had the most favorable matchup with Wilson lining up seven yards deep. Flacco had a chance to make a play but in this case failed.
Fast forward to this past Sunday and Flacco was facing an almost identical situation on the very first drive of the football game. On 3rd-and-goal from the 6-yard line the Ravens lined up in an empty set.
Smith and Rice align in similar fashion but now they are on the right side of the formation. Both Rice and Smith run slants.
The Giants do not stack the line of scrimmage but do bring a zero coverage all out blitz. At the snap of the ball Flacco identifies the blitzing LBs and this time his eyes go to Smith who has the middle of the field wide open.
The offensive line does a great job at sliding the protection to the right and Flacco knows that Osi Umenyiora is coming unblocked. Flacco knows that he must get the pass off before Osi gets there.
To ensure that he got the pass off Flacco actually cut his drop off at two steps and delivered a beautiful pass for a TD.
It’s amazing to see a simple mistake corrected and watch a player grow throughout a season. These are the types of plays that can win you football games.
On December 16th the Ravens took on the Denver Broncos as Jim Caldwell’s Offensive Coordinator debut began inauspiciously. On 2nd-and-8, Flacco faked to Rice and set up with five receivers in route.
This is a route combination that the Ravens have had success with in the past but it requires good protection for Joe to be able to launch the ball deep to Torrey. This play is also dependent on the play fake drawing the LBs down to the line of scrimmage.
The Ravens were struggling to run the ball and the play fake did not draw the LBs down at all. With five receivers in route Flacco was left with only five blockers to deal with the Broncos’ fearsome four-man pass rush.
Dumervil easily beat Oher one-on-one and flushes Flacco to the right. The LBs were able to gain depth and Smith was the only viable pass option. Unfortunately Flacco had no time to load up to throw the deep ball and was forced to throw the ball high over Boldin’s head.
This brings us to this past Sunday where the Ravens called the same basic play but it was formulated differently. On 2nd-and-7, Flacco and the offensive line sold a run to the left and ran a boot pass.
The Ravens only sent Boldin and Smith out in route and used Rice, Leach, and Dickson as extra blockers. The Ravens had run the ball somewhat effectively to this point and the Giants put eight defenders in the box. Smith’s route was also modified to be a double move.
The hard play fake sucked the LBs up and left half of the Giants defensive line chasing Rice. Leach and Dickson were able to provide solid protection for Flacco and Joe had a clean pocket to throw from.
Since the LBs vacated their responsibility, the Giants; deep safety was unable to provide help to Webster on Smith as he rocked down to cover Boldin across the middle. Torrey’s double move wasn’t extremely effective but it did give Smith the opportunity to get even with Webster as they fought for the ball.
Smith completed the play with a great catch.
The Ravens will need to modify certain plays to give them a chance of success going forward. It isn’t prudent to think that our tackles will be able to block elite edge rushers one on one and using potential receivers as extra blockers can give Flacco and the receivers a chance to win on the outside.
If the Ravens wish to make a run in the playoffs they will need the offense to continue to adapt and evolve as displayed against the New York Giants.