The Ravens have played outstanding dime defense the last 7 weeks.
During that time, they have played with 6 DBs 17 times and surrendered just 14 yards (0.8 YPPA) including 3 sacks and 2 turnovers. Until yesterday, the current stretch had all been 3rd or 4th down with 4+ yards to go. However, on the Bengals last meaningful series Sunday, the Ravens went to it on 2nd and 9.
There are risks with getting personnel substituted after a successful conversion or a gain that sets up 3rd and short, but the great Ravens defenses of the past have been successful with 6 and 7 DB sets. With the emergence of Chykie Brown, Omar Brown, and James Ihedigbo it’s apparent the Ravens have playmakers available to fill those roles.
Let’s approach this from another angle. The 2000 Ravens had an iconic set of defensive starters that most Ravens fans can still name in less than a minute. Go ahead, take a moment, then look them up at the bottom of this piece. With a group like that, there wouldn’t be need to play dime, let alone quarter, would there? In 1,163 snaps (20 plays excluded), spanning 20 games, the greatest defense of all time played 401 snaps of either dime (339) or quarter (62). That team managed to get Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams back on the field as needed. Marvin Lewis’ defense had 22 sacks (5.5%) and 25 turnovers (6.2%!) with 6 or 7 DBs. Those rates were 3.4% and 4.2% with 5 or fewer DBs. Who were the mystery men? I’d wager few fans can name those veteran contributors to the 2000 team (see below for answer).
Back to 2012. Today’s game screams out for an athletic group on the field in passing situations. One of the Ravens’ biggest weaknesses has been the inability of their linebackers to make an impact in coverage. Additional DBs on the field would address this problem while adding flexibility to the pass rush.
It’s difficult to find fault with this game defensively when the Ravens held the Bengals to 9 first downs and outsnapped them 83-47. The 47 defensive snaps exclude 2 kneels.
Versus the Run: 19 plays, 49 yards, 2.6 YPC
Versus the Pass: 28 plays, 142 yards, 5.1 YPP
Overall: 47 plays, 191 yards, 4.1 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: 1/0, 0.0 YPPA
4 DBs: 24/117, 4.9 YPPA, 1 sack
5 DBs: 20/74, 3.7 YPPA, 1 sack
6 DBs: 2/0, 0.0 YPPA
By number of pass rushers:
3 or fewer: 2/6, 3.0 YPP
4: 12/74, 6.2 YPP, 1 sack
5: 9/39, 4.3 YPP, 1 sack
6: 4/23, 5.8 YPP
7: 1/0, 0.0 YPP
- Most of the Ravens’ regulars played limited roles on Sunday. Inactive were Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, Bernard Pollard, and Terrell Suggs. Albert McClellan was active but did not play. Early departures included Ed Reed (after 2 series), Corey Graham (after 3 series), Cary Williams (after 3 series), and Ihedigbo (after 4 series with the exception of the final 2 plays). The beneficiaries with increased playing time included: Bryan Hall (13 snaps), DeAngelo Tyson (32), Adrian Hamilton (10), Omar Brown (29), Sean Considine (38), and Chris Johnson (17).
- The Ravens played 10 different combinations in the secondary on Sunday.
- Adrian Hamilton saw his first NFL action on defense. He didn’t make a play in 10 snaps, but most were runs to the opposite side or passes to the initial read which were out quickly. Only 2 bear mention. He failed to diagnose a screen left (Q2, 4:32), leapt unsuccessfully to block the pass. Meanwhile, Whitworth pretended to block straight ahead, then got out front on Hawkins’ catch and run for 8 yards. On the 44-yard pass to Tate (Q4, 8:54), Hamilton appeared to have beaten Collins inside for blind-side pressure, but the ball was out too quickly. Had Gradkowski not gone with his first read, Hamilton might have delivered a QH or sack.
- Omar Brown’s sideline tiptoe interception was negated by the pass interference call on Jimmy Smith (Q3, 3:28), but that didn’t make it any less impressive. It was ruled out of bounds, but that would have been overturned on review.
- Josh Bynes played every snap. He was athletic in coverage and filled well in the run game. His leap, coupled with Kruger’s pursuit, forced Gradkowski to run out of bounds for a gain of just 1 (Q1, 4:39). He diagnosed a checkdown to Leonard and raced across the field to limit the gain to 3 yards (Q2, 13:18). He shot the left A gap to take down Leonard for no gain (Q3, 11:25). He cleaned up on Cody’s penetration to take down Peerman for a gain of 1 (Q3, 7:01). He had the near-impossible task to provide underneath coverage on A.J. Green (Q2, 1:19). Dalton completed the crossing pattern for a gain of 17, but Bynes identified his assignment and was in position to make a play had the ball been just a little behind the receiver.
- Ellerbe was the best Raven defender on the field. He cleaned up on Kruger’s initial penetration to push Leonard out of bounds for no gain on 3rd and 3 (Q2, 12:53). He flushed Dalton with A-gap pressure that eventually resulted in Kruger pushing the Bengals QB out of bounds for a sack (Q2, 5:01). In a play I’ll remember from this game, he violently pulled down Leonard by his shoulder pads after evading Zeitler’s screen block (Q2, 2:00). He took down Tate for a gain of 2 on a pass left that he nearly overran (Q4, 12:50). With the other Ravens’ rushers all occupied, he came delayed to record the tackle on the aborted snap (Q4, 12:10). In a year where the Ravens have needed pressure wherever it can be found, Ellerbe has been one of the better pass rushing ILBs in the league.
- Kemoeatu has played well for the final month of the season. He held his ground and received several late Christmas presents from Bengals center Trevor Robinson. Kemo bulled Robinson then slipped off to sack Dalton for a loss of 1 (Q2, 3:52). The sack was his first since week 17 of the 2005 season, in his first tour with the Ravens. Robinson allowed Kemo to cross his face, then moved to level 2 to block Bynes as Ma’ake got a free run to take down Herron for a loss of 3 (Q3, 4:36). On 3rd and 1 (Q3, 11:25), Kemo held his ground and allowed Bynes to shoot the A gap to take down Leonard for no gain. He shed Robinson to blow up Peerman’s run middle (Q4, 8:17) for a gain of just 1.
- Terrence Cody had one of his best games. He bulled Robinson (Q3, 7:50) and delivered a solid knockdown hit to Gradkowski. The play, which was nearly intercepted by Jimmy Smith, was negated as roughing the passer. He shed Robinson for the initial penetration to blow up Peerman’s run for a gain of just 1 (Q3, 7:01). Cody showed unusual athleticism with an outside move on Livings to generate pressure on Gradkowski’s grounded pass left (Q3, 3:16). The Bengals’ QB hit the turf awkwardly and pre-emptively. Only the most prepared hockey fan would have been able to produce the appropriate Gradkowski = (picture of cat) sign.
- A.Q. Shipley has stabilized the Colts’ offensive line with his play at center the last 3 weeks, but aside from Castonzo, the rest of them have not played well. Jeff Linkenbach has been moved all over and played poorly. Mike McGlynn has been one of the worst guards in football over the second half. Samson Satele may or may not be back for Sunday, but he hasn’t played well when active. Former Ravens’ camp fixture Joe Reitz has played 479 snaps at LG, including much of the 2nd half. This is an opportunity for Ngata, Jones, Cody, and Kemo to step up with a big effort.
- In the meaningless accomplishments category, the Ravens completed their 17th season and…drumroll please…have still never allowed as many as 4.00 YPC rushing for a season. How close was it this year? Gradkowski’s season-ending kneel dropped the figure from 4.004 to 3.994. It will look like a rounded 4.0 in the references, but we’ll know better.
The 2000 Ravens defensive starters were Rob Burnett, Sam Adams, Tony Siragusa, Michael McCrary, Jamie Sharper, Ray Lewis, Peter Boulware, Duane Starks, Chris McAlister, Kim Herring, and Rod Woodson.
The 2000 nickel/dime/quarter defenders were Robert Bailey, Corey Harris, and James Trapp.