“They will find that guy…”
The loss to the Patriots wasn’t shaped by the Ravens defense, nor their troubles generating big plays on offense.
With a depleted receiving corps and a mediocre start from Julian Edelman, Brady found the Ravens’ weaknesses rather than playing to the Patriots’ strengths. His results on 9 plays in particular were the difference. Let’s review:
–(Q1, 4:35): On 3rd and 3, Jerraud Powers lined up opposite Edelman slot left. Brady had ample time and space (ATS) and made an easy pitch to Edelman for a 28-yard gain (15 + 13 YAC). Edelman outraced Powers, caught the ball on the right hash, and Powers missed the tackle to enable most of the YAC.
–(Q2, 12:25): On 3rd and 4, Mosley lined up far right opposite the RB White and 7 yards off the LoS. Brady had ATS and completed a 61-yard slant pass (9 + 52) to White who easily outraced Mosley and got Weddle turned around for a big chunk of the YAC. Interestingly, this play was only the second time this season Pees replaced Orr with Levine in the dime (the other dime snaps all came with Mosley injured and Orr on the field), but Brady still managed to get a matchup on Mosley.
–(Q2, 9:31): On 3rd and goal from the 6, the Patriots lined up in a bunch left with only Mitchell opposite Tavon Young on the far right. For the 2nd straight play, the Ravens rushed 7, including Webb, Mosley, and Orr (all of the potential help on the right side). Brady released quickly and found Mitchell for the 6-yard TD (6 + 0 YAC) on yet another slant before Young could close or Weddle could close the window from the opposite side. Good player in coverage, big risk in the scheme.
–(Q2, 8:45): On 1st and 10, Brady had ATS and completed a 27-yard pass (17 + 10 YAC) to Bennett between the hashes, moving from right to left. Weddle was trailing, but Mosley had the underneath coverage and was unable to make a play on the ball.
–(Q2, 8:03): On the very next play, with the Ravens playing zone, Brady had another ATS opportunity and found Mitchell along the left sideline in a 15-yard gap between Orr (underneath) and Wright (over the top). The play went for 34 yards (18 + 16 YAC) as Mitchell eluded Wright for the YAC. While these last 2 plays led only to Weddle’s drive-ending interception, they were still symptomatic of Brady’s ability to exploit coverage weakness.
–(Q3, 10:59): The Patriots ran a rare flea flicker on a run to one side. Blount pitched back to Brady who had ATS and found Hogan for a gain of 28 (20 + 8) between the numbers and right hash. Wright was alone trailing in coverage and made a TD-saving ankle tackle.
–(Q3, 8:50): On 3rd and 5, Orr lined up opposite Bennett 2 yards off the LoS on the right side. Despite pressure from Dumervil, Brady lofted a ball to the goal line, where it was collected by Bennett for a 19-yard TD. Orr never turned for the ball, but faceguarded, got a piece of the ball, and contested for the interception to the ground to no avail. Brady had again identified the best matchup primarily by weakness of the defender.
–(Q4, 6:28): After the Ravens had cut the lead to 23-20, the Patriots began at their own 21. The odd defensive alignment is best shown by the top view available on NFL Game Pass. The Ravens lined up with both Young and Elam in soft, single-coverage matchups on the right side. Meanwhile, Webb, Wright, and Weddle were all lined up opposite the TE and WR on the left side. With only 1 WR on that side (and 2 on the other) it’s unusual to have 2 corners, let alone 2 corners plus a safety on that side. The scheme didn’t look any better when the LTE stayed in to block. As you have seen a number of times now, Hogan ran right by the stumbling Elam to the post for a 79-yard score (34 + 45 YAC). Elam didn’t get the job done, but it looks suspiciously as if there was a misalignment.
–(Q4, 2:01): After the failed onside kick, the Patriots needed a 2-play first down to seal the game. The Ravens were in the nickel, but Elam was close to the LoS and was unable to keep up with a short out route from Edelman for a gain of 8 (1 + 7 YAC) near the right sideline. That set the Patriots up for the game-sealing first down on the next play.
The common thread through these plays is that Brady consistently went after the weakest players in coverage and found ways to exploit unbalanced schemes/blitzes.
The other major reason for the loss was the lack of pressure and resulting extended pocket times.
Summarizing Ample Time and Space (ATS) by number of pass rushers:
Notes on the pass rush:
–The overall 64% ATS rate was very poor and simply won’t do against an opponent like Brady. The Patriots finished with 10.3 yards per pass play.
–In some games, it seems like there are a number of close ATS calls, but this was actually a quick game to score and had just a couple where I had to time the plays. Only 3 of the 39 pass plays were labeled as ball out quick (BOQ), where it appeared the pocket might not have held up.
–Suggs disappeared in this game with just a single PD in 33 pass snaps. He was on the field for 402 of the Patriots 401 net passing yards (12.2 YPP). No, that’s not a misprint.
Defensive stars of the game:
I can’t even…