The current Ravens team is 1-4. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? The Ravens are off to their worst start in team history. The fans are pretty much blaming everyone at this point. Some want to blame the offense. Others the defense. Some want the organization to fire every coach currently employed by the Ravens.
We all need to calm down…
Today’s edition of Flashback Friday looks back at the history of the Ravens’ defense in an attempt to help shed some light on why the 2015 Ravens have only been able to win one game and who is really to blame.
The Ravens fielded some of the worst defenses in the league during the Ted Marchibroda years (1996-1998). The Ravens were ranked 28th, 18th, and 15th, respectively during those years. Then came Brian Billick, and the Ravens wound up having some of the best defenses in NFL history (2000, 2006). The “suffocating defense” era carried over into the Harbaugh years until around the time the Ravens won Super Bowl 47 during the 2012 season. Then everything seemed to fall apart, especially this year. Why? Injuries? Absolutely. Salary cap issues? Yup. Bad draft picks? Yes-sir-ree-bob. Bad coaching? Perhaps.
Regardless of what you want to point to, the stats tell the true story.
Here is a question I want you to ask yourself: When the Ravens’ defense steps onto the field, what’s the first thing that goes through your mind? My answer would be: “Alright, let’s stop them, get off the field, and let Joe do his thing.” Something like that.
The Ravens have been nothing short of awful when it comes to getting the defense off the field.
The following graph shows the Ravens’ average defensive 3rd down conversion rate (aka the average rate at which their defense stops the opponent from getting a first down) over the course of the team’s history. The average number (36.5%) is represented by the black horizontal line on the graph.
As you can see, the 2015 Ravens are historically bad at getting off the field on 3rd down. Teams have converted almost 50% of 3rd down conversions this year, which is the 2nd worst mark in the league.
This next graph documents the number of defensive penalties per year for the Ravens over the course of their history and how many they are on pace for this season:
Again, the horizontal black line denotes the average number per season (106). The 2015 Ravens have currently committed 46 penalties this season, which means they are on pace for 147 for the entire year. This would shatter their previous season worst of 126 set in 2013. Oh hey, the Ravens failed to make the postseason that year as well. What a coincidence! (Not really).
It’s interesting how the 2006 Ravens a) committed the league’s fewest penalties (79) and b) had the league’s best 3rd down conversion rate (29%) that year. The Ravens went 13-3 in 2006.
This year, the 46 penalties committed by the Ravens is the 2nd most in the NFL. So, if you’re keeping score at home, that’s the 2nd worst 3rd down conversion percentage this season and the 2nd most penalties this season. It’s becoming obvious why the Ravens gave up a combined 66 points to the Raiders and Browns, isn’t it?
This final graph looks at the number of 300 yard passing games the Ravens have surrendered in each respective season:
Now, while the 2015 Ravens haven’t even played nine games yet this year, they are on pace to allow nine different quarterbacks to throw for 300+ yards on them in a game. That would be, by far, the most ever in a single season for the Ravens. The Ravens have only averaged allowing 2.3 300+ yard passers per season in their 19 year history prior to this year. They’ve already allowed three such quarterbacks to do so this season (Derek Carr, Andy Dalton, and Josh McCown), so they’re already worse than their historic average, and it’s only week 6.
It’s also telling that the number of 300 yard passers has gone up each year since 2010. The number of 300 yard passers has been higher than average in four of the past six seasons. I guess that sort of symbolizes the eventual demise of the legendary Ravens defense that we’ve seen play out this year.
If you want to blame the offense for the Ravens’ 2015 woes, that’s fine. But if you finish the last game played without your top two receivers, top two running backs, and top two tight ends and you manage to score 30 points against the Cleveland Browns at home, you should win.
But we won’t see very many ‘W’s’ if this disastrous defense keeps up.