If this game seemed like déjà vu of every loss the last 2 years, you missed some important points. It was a whole lot worse.
This was a full descent into the hell that was 2007.
I had no desire ever to repeat such a year as a fan, but here we are.
How did the Ravens get here? By a string of injuries in the secondary and to the pass rush. Let’s review:
–On 10/6, before the Redskins game, 7th round corner/safety Maurice Canady was placed on IR. A loss of depth, but the loss did not seem huge at the time.
–On 10/9 versus the Redskins, Sheldon Price played just 4 snaps in his first NFL start at LCB in place of the shell-shocked Shareece Wright. Price went to IR after the game. Tavon Young, who had played outstanding slot corner, was moved to the outside and played well versus the Redskins. Jerraud Powers returned to a full-time nickel role.
–Also against the Redskins, Elvis Dumervil was back in the lineup for a second consecutive game, but did not win any 1-on-1 pass rush matchups. Harbaugh announced during the week that he is still suffering from his foot injury and the team is not sure when he’ll next be available. He was inactive Sunday, which caused the Ravens to have Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa both active versus the Giants.
–On Sunday (Q2, 6:17) Powers lined up as the slot corner and tapped out after the play (no contact). It has since been reported he has a groin injury, but he did not return. Pees was forced to realign by returning Young to the slot (the Ravens played all but 1 snap with 5+ DBs on the field) and Wright returned to play LCB.
–Just 2 plays later (Q2, 5:22), Jimmy Smith made a nice tackle of for a gain of just 1 by the left sideline. Unfortunately, Lawrence Guy assisted and rolled over Smith’s head. When Guy got up, Smith was without his helmet and blinking. He left the field for 4 plays, returned for 4 more, but then had to leave for good. Shareece Wright moved to take Smith’s customary spot at RCB and Will Davis entered at LCB for the remainder of the game.
–The Ravens are also thin at ILB, where Albert McClellan had started and played all but 6 dime snaps late in the 3rd quarter. However, he limped off the field after making a tackle on a short pass (Q3, 5:51). Rather than Chris Carter (cut mid-week in a desperate attempt to shore up the offensive line with Billy Turner, who was subsequently cut) or Kamalei Correa (some ILB during the preseason), or Patrick Onwuasor (who played his first NFL snap at ILB on the last play of Q2) the Ravens brought on their dime back, Anthony Levine, for 2nd and 5. Was it the wrong substitution? No, but it underscored the Ravens’ desperate straits. McClellan would return, but we’re not done yet.
—Eli Manning completed a 13-yard pass to Larry Donnell (Q4, 8:13). However, away from the play. Shareece Wright went down and indicated an injury to his left leg or ankle. He got up on his own and left the field, but did not return. This forced Levine to SCB as Young took over for Wright on the outside. At that point, all 3 Ravens corners were backups or playing out of position.
—Terrell Suggs beat LT Flowers outside for a 6-yard sack (Q4, 7:16). He went for the club to create a turnover, but Manning tucked the ball and his weight landed on Terrell’s arm. Suggs tapped out and was replaced by Matt Judon for the remainder of the game. Nothing taxes the secondary more than a significant injury to the pass rush. More on this below.
–After the Ravens took a 3-point lead on Terrance West’s 2nd TD (Q4, 2:04), they looked to defend against the scoring drive with the dime. Out of cornerbacks, Dean Pees was forced to have Kendrick Lewis line up next to Zachary Orr. The Giants scored a 66-yard TD on a fluke 4th-and-1 accident (more below).
The lack of pass rush and injuries in the secondary are parallels to the 2007 season, but another striking resemblance exists in the failure to convert a favorable early-season schedule into a good record prior to Week 8 byes. The 2007 Ravens went 4-3 before the bye, but had just one win thereafter to finish 5-11.
Pass Rush Metrics
This chart summarizes the Ravens pass rush results by ample time and space (ATS):
Some notes on the rush:
–The 2 plays where the Ravens rushed 3 resulted in the end-of-half interception and Suggs’ sack.
–The Giants’ 3 biggest plays were all surrendered with a 4-man pass rush and with significant YAC.
–The Ravens knocked down Manning only twice per the Game Book, although it appeared Timmy Jernigan may have taken him down on the interception that ended the half (Q2, 0:08) and Judon may have done so on the final drive (Q4, 2:00).
–Terrell Suggs was the only Raven to apply significant pressure. He had a sack, another QH, and 4 other pressures. The rest of the team in total had just 9 pressures (2 plays were scored as “ball out quick” where it appeared pressure was developing within 3 seconds, but Manning delivered the ball quicker).
–Za’Darius Smith extended a long dry streak with no pressure through his first 31 pass snaps on the field before generating pressure on 3 of his last 6.
–With Suggs sidelined, the Ravens ran some form of stunt or twist on each of the Giants’ last 4 offensive plays and got pressure on 3 of those. Going forward, I believe Pees will need to scheme for more pressure.
–While Manning exceeded his expected yards by 77, the Ravens also forced 3 turnovers on pass plays.
–During the 3-game losing streak, the Ravens pass rush has allowed ATS on 74% (Oak), 61% (Was), and 66% (NYG) of drop backs respectively (67% overall). That compares to ATS on 51% of snaps for Flacco from 2010-15.
Farewell to Terrell Suggs?
I don’t want this to be the end of Terrell Suggs’ career, but I understand there is a chance he’ll never play for the Ravens again. If this was his swan song, he went out with a bang:
–(Q2, 8:54) Suggs and Williams penetrated to blow up Rainey’s 3rd-and-1 run for no gain.
–(Q2, 2:30) Suggs beat LT Flowers outside for a QH just after Manning delivered a 24-yard TD to Lewis.
–(Q3, 10:44) Suggs exploited penetration from Michael Pierce to penetrate untouched through the left B gap and take down Jennings for a loss of 2. That play was the key to turning a potential go-ahead TD into a game-tying FG.
–(Q4, 7:46) As he appeared to be held by TE Adams, Suggs maneuvered past him to the outside and pulled down Rainey with 1 arm for no gain.
–(Q4, 7:16) Terrell beat Flowers outside again for an effortless 6-yard sack.
–He had 4 other pressures and 3 of his 4 run tackles were defensive wins by the Football Outsiders definition.
I can recall listening to the radio when Johnny Unitas entered against Buffalo for his last TD pass with the Colts in December 1972. I was 9 then, but the gravity was well captured by Chuck Thompson at the time. Marty Domres describes that event (made possible by his injury) as the highlight of his career and it is held in equal reverence by other Colts fans of that era.
During the waning moments of the 2011 AFCC at New England, Ed Reed deflected a pass to deny a 3rd down conversion to Aaron Hernandez which set up the final drive and Lee Evans/Billy Cundiff mishaps. It appeared that might be the end for him, but he returned to earn his ring the next season.
I don’t think football fans nationally appreciate the weight of Ray Lewis’ contributions to the goal line stand on his final 3 NFL plays. I’d certainly nominate it as the most significant career-ending contribution for any player in sports history. It was special to watch and I’ll simply provide this link to my SB XLVII review.
For one of the greatest 2-way OLBs of all time, it seems fitting that Suggs’ last 2 plays (of this game at least) were a great run stop and a sack.
No Respect for the Giants Run Game
The Ravens played 5 or 6 defensive backs on all but 1 defensive snap. That included a number of short yardage plays:
–(Q2, 8:54) The Ravens lined up in the nickel on 3rd and 1 and stopped Rainey for no gain as Williams and Suggs penetrated to blow up the play.
–(Q2, 5:36) The Giants again had 3rd and 1 versus the nickel, but lined up in the shotgun. Manning completed a 4-yard pass to convert.
–(Q3, 10:44) The Giants lined up 1st and goal at the 1 and the Ravens stayed in the nickel. The Ravens normal defensive alignment on that down and distance is 4 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers, and 3 safeties, with 8 men lined up on the line of scrimmage. Nonetheless, Michael Pierce penetrated and Suggs followed to take down Jennings for a loss of 2 and the Ravens would eventually force the Giants to settle for a game-tying FG.
–(Q3, 5:51) Faced with yet another 3rd and 1, the Giants lined up in the shotgun and Manning was intercepted acrobatically by Tavon Young.
The Giants did not have a single rushing first down the entire game and ran just 17 times for 38 yards with a long of 6.
Despite a solid defensive effort, the Ravens missed 2 huge interception opportunities that greatly influenced the outcome:
–(Q1, 6:05): On 3rd and 8, Manning threw deep between the numbers and right hash for Sterling Shepard. The Giants receiver tipped the ball directly to Lardarius Webb, who was unable to collect the interception. The Giants were forced to punt, but that play could have easily made a difference of 30+ yards of field position. Webb was positioned for a significant return.
–(Q4, 12:30): On 2nd and 9, Victor Cruz ran a vertical route as Manning was expecting him to cut inside. Wright read Manning and had the pass bounce of both hands, incomplete at the Giants 32. The Ravens trailed 17-13 at the time.
In a game where the defense generated 3 turnovers (which the offense turned into just 6 points), it might seem unreasonable to blame the defense, but these were 2 huge opportunities to start drives on the Giants’ side of the field.
Individual Notes (note all snap counts exclude penalties, kneels, and spikes and as such will be lower than other published totals. The Giants ran 64 such snaps)
Matt Judon and Kamalei Correa were both active with Dumervil deactivated. Correa played just 3 snaps at OLB despite a deficit at ILB. Judon played 31 snaps and rushed the passer on 22 of those. He generated just 1 pressure on the final series.
Will Davis played 47 snaps at LCB. His game will be remembered for the 75-yard TD surrendered to Beckham (Q3, 2:22). Webb bit on an underneath route and was unable to provide help over the top and Beckham put an amazing turn and go fake on Davis that gained separation with the eternity Manning had in the pocket. Davis had an interception to close out the half and several other positive coverage notes. He also missed a tackle on Beckham which turned a gain of 2 into a gain of 11 (Q3, 14:11). Considering the number of injuries at corner, the Ravens are fortunate to have a CB of Davis’ quality remaining.
Tavon Young had his press coverage beaten by Lewis over the top for a 24-yard TD (Q2, 2:30). That was his biggest coverage gaffe. The game-winning touchdown (Q4, 1:36) came on a freak trip over Weddle. Young took responsibility for the trip after the play, but since he was in front, he didn’t even see Weddle cross until it was too late. Young received brief attention on the field, but then got up on his own and ran to the sideline. He did not appear seriously hurt. The most important takeaway from his performance was his versatility and additional demonstration of ball skills. He will occasionally get beat like any corner, but he possesses good make-up speed and is demonstrating reasons for opposing QBs to fear throwing in his direction.