Marc Trestman’s offense is based on a lot of packaged plays. In a packaged play, the Quarterback is given both pre-snap and post-snap keys that help him determine where is he going to throw the ball. The problem starts when the offense only has one receiver that they trust on critical third downs.
On third down plays on the first three drives, Trestman’s play calls were targeted towards Steve Smith Sr. These play calls allowed the Steelers to adjust their defense to account for Smith Sr. The defense was then able to intercept Flacco and end the drive.
Drive 1 – Target Steve Smith Sr in Slot
The play call here by Trestman is a West Coast Offense staple. The Ravens offense will run a route combination called the Spot route. This route combination is made up of:
- A vertical route (Go Route, Fade Route or Post Route) run by the Wide Receiver
- A Horizontal route (Out Route) run by the Slot Receiver
- An underneath route 5 yards off the Line of Scrimmage (Snag/Spot Route) run by the Tight End
Every team uses this route combination as a chain mover. The spot route allows the Quarterback to make a “triangle read” of the receivers. Trestman has Steve Smith Sr in the slot. He is the go-to receiver for Flacco.
The Steelers will counter by bringing pressure off the edge. Their goal is to force the Quarterback to get the ball out fast and underneath. The secondary will then tackle the receiver before he can get to the first down marker. Flacco is unable to throw the ball on this play. The Steelers are able to bring Flacco down for the sack.
Drive 2 – Go back to Steve Smith Sr in Slot
On the second drive, Trestman makes a slight adjustment against the Steelers pressure. He keeps the Tight End to block against the pass rush. The Steelers defense shows pressure at the edge again. Flacco targets Steve Smith Sr again. He throws to where the pass rush is coming from. The coverage on Smith is provided by the Linebacker, Timmons. He is too late to cover Smith. The result is an 11-yard gain and a first down.
Two drives. Two targets for Steve Smith Sr running the same route. The Steelers decide to set a trap…
Drive 3 – Steelers Show Two Trap Pressure
There are two main principles behind the two-trap pressure concept. Bring pressure towards the Quarterback. The pressure will cause the Quarterback to throw the ball right where the Trap Corner is sitting.
The Steelers blitz off the edge similar to the previous two plays. However, the difference on this drive is that the Cornerback, Cockrell, releases the Wide Receiver to the Safety. Cockrell becomes the trap corner. He sits and waits for the throw to Steve Smith Sr.
The result? An easy interception.
The Ravens cannot continue to run a variation of the same plays targeting a specific player. Defensive coordinators will study the tape and utilize more concepts similar to the ‘Two Trap Pressure’ to cause turnovers. Trestman has to distribute the ball to the other receivers. They are capable of contributing to the offense.