On Sunday against the Chicago Bears, the Baltimore Ravens defense held its own once again, limiting quarterback Josh McCown and running back Matt Forte for the most part. They allowed only a single touchdown, to go along with three Robbie Gould field goals (Chicago got their other TD on the interception return).
But the struggle to get a consistent pass rush and defend wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall ultimately gave the Ravens defense issues, and allowed the Bears to keep the chains moving during a few crucial times.
One way the Ravens couldn’t defend Jeffery? Bunch formations. It’s not something new to the Ravens, as teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers have built their passing attack around the type of play for years.
But on Sunday, the Ravens looked lost defending the bunch formation, even with the same personnel facing it. On crucial third-down plays in both the fourth quarter and overtime, the secondary’s miscommunication while defending the play gave the Bears two easy completions to Jeffery for first downs.
It’s eerie how similar the two plays were, as shown below.
The first third-down bunch formation example comes in the fourth quarter. Corey Graham (far), Lardarius Webb (middle) and Arthur Brown (close) are the three defenders on the play.
Webb and Brown both commit to receivers off the snap, leaving Graham out to dry with Jeffery out of his range and running across the middle of the field.
By the time Graham can even react to the play, Jeffery is already more than wide open running across the middle, and it’s an easy first-down completion for McCown.
With Graham being the closest of the three Ravens defenders to the sideline at the beginning of the play, the receiver running across the middle ideally shouldn’t have been his man, as no defender in the NFL can cover that much space in enough time to prevent the completion.
It appeared to be a miscommunication between the three Ravens defenders. You’d think the three would have discussed the play on the sideline and would be ready to properly defend another bunch formation if it came their way later in the game, right?
On a third down in overtime, the Bears run the exact same play.
At the snap, Jeffery (circled) is the outermost receiver, as Marshall comes in motion toward the middle. Again, Webb, Graham and Brown are the three defenders.
Off the snap, Webb and Brown (again) commit to Bears receivers, leaving Graham with Jeffery. Sound familiar?
Again, Graham hasn’t even reacted to the play by the time Jeffery is running across the middle.
Who knows? Maybe Graham was supposed to stay back, or maybe Jeffery was supposed to be his man the entire time. Perhaps this is a case of the rookie Brown not understanding his assignment in the defense.
Either way, there’s an obvious miscommunication/lack of execution on Baltimore’s part on a play they already defended once.
You’d think they would’ve known Jeffrey would run a drag route, based on the personnel and pre-play setup. Instead, the miscommunication leads to this….again.
No, it’s not the same picture from above, inserted by accident. It’s pretty much the exact same play, personnel and result as the first play.
Failure to get off the field on third down proved to be costly for the Ravens on Sunday, and defending the bunch could be a problem for them in the near future. Any opposing team who sees these plays will salivate over the possibility to get an easy 15 yards.
Graham, Brown and Webb proved to be a trio not capable of defending the play, and if those three are on the field together in future games during passing situations, expect teams to use the same play until the Ravens prove they can stop it.