Assignment of Blame

Filmstudy Assignment of Blame

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Ravens vs. Panthers 9/28/14

I have never seen a game where the distribution of credit and blame between the pass rush and coverage was so clear.

It’s hard to get down after a 38-10 win, but the Ravens’ 3rd-down defense in the secondary was atrocious.

Let’s review the 13 Carolina drop backs on 3rd down:

• (Q1, 14:14, 3/7) McPhee bulled RG Velasco for pressure as Newton threw to Cotchery for 26 yards (19 + 7 YAC) by the right sideline. Elam and Stewart had decent bracket coverage, but the ball was dropped in the bucket.

• (Q1, 11:56, 3/6) No pressure. Newton threw complete to Olsen for 13 yards by the right sideline with Stewart trailing in coverage.

• (Q1, 8:03, 3/18) Suggs split a double from LG Sliatolu and LT Bell while Dumervil beat Chandler outside for a shared 12-yard sack.

• (Q1, 2:51, 3/4) Suggs flushed Newton right as he threw for a 9-yard completion to Avant. Both Stewart and Jackson were soft in coverage.

• (Q2, 12:28, 3/8) No pressure. Newton fired the ball directly into the arms of Cotchery for a 30-yard completion (17 + 13 YAC) up the right sideline. Elam had step-for-step inside coverage, but never found the football or he would have had an easy PD.

• (Q2, 8:41, 3/14) Newton had all day and threw a laser to the uncovered Benjamin at the goal line, near the left pylon for a 28-yard TD. The throw was there quickly, but Stewart was inexcusably late covering the deep left zone when Benjamin was his only potential assignment.

• (Q2, 4:40, 3/10) Newton screened left for Cotchery, but the play was diagnosed by Suggs, Ngata, and Elam. Both of the Ravens’ pass rushers almost got a piece of the ball and Ngata was credited with the PD, but the throw was off target anyway with Elam blanketing the receiver.

• (Q2, 1:44, 3/8) McPhee beat RG Turner inside and pushed C Kalil to the ground (leaving Ngata unblocked). Newton dropped to the ground at McPhee’s feet, but Dumervil, who beat Chandler outside, was credited with touching up for the 8-yard sack.

• (Q3, 8:13, 3/7) Unpressured, Newton threw complete to Olsen between the right hash and numbers for a gain of 17 (10 + 7 YAC). Stewart couldn’t react to Olsen’s inside break and trailed in coverage.

• (Q3, 5:36, 3/3) McPhee beat LT Bell with a lightning move inside to deliver a QH directly above the knee. Suggs received phantom credit for the QH, but was not on the field. Newton threw complete to Cotchery running towards the right sideline for a gain of 5 as Elam was soft in coverage and visibly upset with himself. Elam was pulled for the next 2 plays (the only ones he missed).

• (Q4, 10:58, 3/10) Upshaw bulled Bell for pressure, but Newton threw complete to Benjamin for an 11-yard completion by the left sideline. Jimmy Smith had tight coverage, but the ball was thrown perfectly.

• (Q4, 10:05, 3/7) Dumervil bulled RG Turner into Newton, but the Panthers’ QB fired a 15-yard completion (10 + 5 YAC) to Avant between the right hash and numbers. The pass went over the coverage of Brynden Trawick.

• (Q4, 0:36, 3/9) Elam rushed unblocked through the left B gap for pressure. Anderson completed a 9-yard cross (3 + 6 YAC) to Benjamin through the cleared-out middle zone for the conversion.

Seeing any patterns?

• The 3 times the Ravens stopped a 3rd down pass conversion, it was the pass rush which directly produced the result (2 sacks and a PD).

• The other 10 passes were all complete (all for 1st downs) with a mix of outstanding throws, soft/trailing coverage, responsibility breakdowns, and inability to find the football.

• On the 10 completions, the Ravens generated a QH or pressure on 6!

• In total, the Panthers gained 143 net yards on those 13 plays (11.0 YPP) on 10 of 11 passing.

The Ravens dressed 9 DBs and 8 saw action defensively. To summarize by DB:

Brooks: Terrence was active for the first time and played his first 31 NFL snaps, all as a deep safety. He didn’t have any big breakdowns and aggressively dove for a PD (Q4, 2:00) on the final drive, but just missed to allow an 18-yard completion. He had 2 tackles, but like most DBs, he appeared tentative sticking his head in against the run.

BrownC: Chykie is deep in the doghouse. Even after Elam’s poor play of the last 2 weeks, he’s not getting time on the outside in nickel packages. He played 11 snaps Sunday, 10 of which came on the final drive when Smith was removed. He appeared to suffer a stinger on the game’s next-to-last play when he surrendered a 14-yard completion in coverage of Benjamin.

Elam: Matt had his second consecutive difficult game. He played 60 of 62 snaps and was mentioned a number of times in the 3rd down coverage notes above. He was often soft, but when he had good coverage, he didn’t find the football effectively.

Jackson: Asa was the constant in the secondary, playing all 62 snaps. He and Smith have been solid on the outside, but other teams are going to target the slot more with Elam’s struggles. If Webb returns, there may still be pressure to move Jackson to the slot with Webb’s apparent flexibility issues. If Webb does not return, the Ravens may be forced to sign another outside corner and move Jackson to the slot.

Levine: Anthony also made his NFL debut defensively. He entered for Carolina’s final snap (Q4, 0:03). He lined up opposite the offensive left side (OLS), but Anderson threw incomplete to the right.

Miles: Jeromy played 57 snaps in the first 3 games, entering primarily at safety with Elam moving to nickel. He surrendered a TD to Austin at Cleveland and did not play any defensive snaps versus the Panthers.

SmithJ: He remains the lone star in the secondary and turned in another fine game with 2 PDs and just 2 completions allowed in 6 times his assignments were targeted. Other than Flacco, he is perhaps the player the Ravens can least afford to lose. To that end, he was removed for the final series and replaced by Brown.

Stewart: He was again ineffective and surrendered the lone Panthers’ TD by failing to cover Benjamin (Q2, 8:41), who was the only deep target on his half of the field. In truth, it was a play that might have succeeded anyway, because the pass rush was unable to pressure Newton on that play and he fired a laser to the Panthers’ best receiver, but it was symptomatic of the coverage issues at safety this season. He was replaced by Trawick for the Panthers’ final drive.

Trawick: Brynden was one of 3 defensive backs to see his first NFL defensive snap for the Ravens on Sunday. He played 20 snaps in all, entering for Elam midway through the 3rd quarter and staying in for nickel packages for the remainder of the game. He surrendered a completion for 15 yards, but also delivered a QH and 2 tackles.

The Panthers ran 62 competitive plays, which excludes penalties and is the basis I use for all snap counts listed in this article. It differs in definition from other published totals:


Versus the Run: 26 plays, 67 yards, 2.6 YPC
Versus the Pass: 36 plays, 248 yards, 6.9 YPP
Overall: 62 plays, 315 yards, 5.1 YPPA. For the first time this season, the Ravens were outsnapped (62-60)

By number of defensive backs:

4 DBs: 23 plays, 57 yards, 2.5 YPPA
5 DBs: 39/258, 6.6 YPPA, 2 sacks, 1 TO
6 DBs+: None. And why would Pees play 6 when he doesn’t have 5 good ones?

By number of pass rushers:

3: 2 plays, -12 yards, 1 sack
4: 16/112, 7.0 YPP
5: 14/99, 7.1 YPP
6: 3/35, 11.7 YPP, 1 sack
7+: 1/14, 14.0 (this was an 8-man rush on the final drive)


Other Notes

• Despite an early exit, Suggs had another fine game in 32 snaps.

o (Q1, 15:00) He beat LT Bell outside for a fast QH as Canty knocked down Newton’s throw.
o (Q1, 9:16) Suggs held the edge well versus Dickson to take down Williams for a gain of 2.
o (Q1, 8:03) Terrell split a double team from Silatolu and Bell to share a 12-yard sack with Dumervil.
o (Q2, 12:07) He beat Bell outside for pressure as Newton threw the ball away.
o (Q2, 9:36) He held the edge versus Olsen to stretch Reaves left where Stewart took him down for a loss of 4.
o (Q2, 8:50) He pursued Newton to the right boundary where the QB threw the ball away.
o (Q2, 4:40) He diagnosed the screen described above.
o (Q2, 1:48) He again beat Bell outside for pressure as Dumervil knocked down Newton and Mosley knocked down his pass.

He played just 8 snaps in the 2nd half.

• Mosley was all over the field in the first great game of his career. To summarize:

o (Q1, 9:16) He assisted Suggs on a tackle Williams for a gain of 2.
o (Q1, 2:12) He stood up Reaves in the hole for a gain of 3.
o (Q1, 1:36) He patiently guarded the sticks on 3rd and 7 and contained Reaves for a gain of 5.
o (Q2, 13:12) CJ shot past Kalil to take down Williams for a gain of 2.
o (Q2, 1:48) He knocked down Newton’s pass at the LoS.
o (Q3, 9:44) Mosley moved up quickly to take down Reaves for a gain of 1.
o (Q3, 3:49) He pursued Newton’s mishandling of the snap and forced him to run out of bounds for a loss of 8.
o (Q4, 11:34) He touched down Reaves who slipped down for no gain on a screen left.
o (Q4, 2:27) He moved up quickly to tackle Reaves for a gain of 1
o (Q4, 0:49) He dislodged the short pass to Reaves for his 2nd PD.

All 7 of the tackles above were defensive wins by the Football Outsiders definition. He was patient, shot gaps when they opened, and made sure tackles.

• McPhee had a terrific pass rush day, much of which came when roving in a 2-point stance on the inside. I scored him with 6 pressures plus 1 other QH. Of those pressures, 1 essentially was a sack when Newton dropped to the ground as he barreled in. In case you’d like to review his pass rush events, here are the time references: (Q1, 14:14), (Q2, 1:48), (Q2, 1:44—caused sack), (Q3, 6:06), (Q3, 5:36–QH), (Q4, 0:49), (Q4, 0:13).

• Several of the stars rested for the last drive, including Darryl Smith, Jimmy Smith, Ngata, Suggs (who had already left), and Brandon Williams.

• McClellan played 11 snaps, his most since the Ravens loss to Denver on 12/16/12 (29 snaps). In fact, he played only 5 snaps for all of 2013 and 2 goal line snaps previously this season.

• Pees sent his first 4 deceptive pass rushes among 9 drop backs on the final drive. That included blitzes by Trawick (2 times, 1 QH), Elam (3 times, 1 pressure), and McClellan (3 times) and the first 8-man rush of the season.

• Brandon Williams did not get Gamebook credit for the strip, but it was clearly his FF and FR (Q4, 9:33) as Poole was helplessly in the grasp of Daryl Smith.

• The Ravens were much more effective in their base 1st-down package with Upshaw and Williams than they were when those players were off for the nickel. Specifically, the defense allowed an average of 2.6 YPPA with Williams and 2.5 YPPA with Upshaw on the field.

• The Ravens did not surrender a single run longer than 7 yards as they held the Panthers to 2.6 YPC.

• Solid pressure aided by awful tackle play made Newton uncomfortable most of the day. McPhee, Suggs, Upshaw, and Dumervil took turns beating the LT Bell and RT Chandler. While the Ravens’ OLBs are talented, they can’t count on play as stone-footed or soft-armed again this season.

• The workload for the heavies was well divided. Here are the snaps by defender among the front 7 positions:

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 10.38.52 AM

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick


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