Fixing a Hole

Filmstudy Fixing a Hole

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Defensive Notes vs. Eagles, 12/18/16

On the way home after the game, I listened to Stan White interviewing Michael Pierce.

I’m paraphrasing, but Pierce said he didn’t know exactly what went wrong, but the Ravens needed to take a long look at the film to find out why they had such difficulty stopping the run.  White immediately agreed.

With the Ravens set to face off against the patient hole selection of Le’Veon Bell and the Steelers offensive line with the division title on the line, truer words were never spoken.

With that in mind, I wanted to describe what I saw on the Eagles’ 14 most significant run plays.  All of these went for 6+ yards, converted a 3rd down, or went for a touchdown. I’ve done this entirely from the broadcast video, since the coaches’ video does not post until early Tuesday morning, but I’d enjoy hearing from you with comments below or on Twitter where you see differences.  Let’s review:

–(Q1, 6:56): On 2nd and 5, Matthews stretched right versus the standard (4 DB) defense. The play appeared well strung out as a mass of bodies was formed to the right sideline, but Mathews emerged from the scrum for a gain of 7 after initial contact from Williams and Jernigan.

–(Q2, 14:44): On 1st and goal from the 4, the Eagles lined up with 3 TEs right versus the standard defense.  Wentz appeared to check the play and Pierce penetrated several yards into the backfield. That should have blown up the play, but Urban was taken off his feet by RG Brooks to open a huge cutback lane. Mathews burst through and Orr arrived too late to stop the touchdown.

–(Q2, 9:21): On 1st and 10 The Eagles lined up in the same 3 TEs right formation.  Zach Ertz kicked out McClellan and the other TEs held their blocks as Mathews stretched right and found the hole for an 8-yard gain.

–(Q2, 8:02): Again on 1st and 10, LT Peters appeared to hold Judon and C Kelce maneuvered to seal Jernigan to open the hole.  Mathews ran through the tackle of Zach Orr for a gain of 10.

–(Q2, 3:19): Later on the same drive, on 2nd and 17 after Kelce’s holding flag, the Eagles lined up 3 wide versus the nickel.  Suggs overran the play with a push from LT Peters to lose the left edge. Mathews followed blocks from Kelce on Orr and Peters on Wright for a gain of 13.  Mosley dislodged the football as he made the tackle, but it was knocked out of bounds.

–(Q2, 2:45): On 3rd and 4 (the next play), the Eagles again lined up 3 wide versus the nickel. Mathews ran behind the athletic pull of C Kelce on Orr in level 2 and Suggs was unable to make the tackle as the run went for 6 yards and a new set of downs.

–(Q3, 5:20): On 3rd and 3, the Eagles lined up 3 wide as the Ravens showed the double A-gap blitz with all 6 heavies at the line of scrimmage. Marshall stretched right for a gain of 12 as TE Ertz’s block on Judon led the way. RT Seumalo sealed Orr in level 2 and RG Brooks sealed Mosley.

–(Q3, 4:41): On 1st and 10 (the next play), the Eagles again lined up 3 wide versus the nickel. Marshall juked left past the unblocked Suggs and followed LT Peters’ block on Mosley for a gain of 10.

–(Q3, 1:54): On 3rd and 3, the Eagles ran a reverse to the motioning Treggs. TE Ertz again blocked Suggs and gave Treggs a cutback lane he took for 4 yards and the conversion.

–(Q3, 1:14): On 1st and 10 (the next play), the Eagles again lined up 3 wide versus the nickel. Marshall juked left past the unblocked Suggs and followed LT Peters’ block on Mosley for a gain of 10.

–(Q4, 9:54): On 1st and 10, the Eagles lined up with 2 WRs and 2 TEs versus the standard defense. Center Kelce blocked Mosley in level 2, LT Peters swallowed up Orr, and RG Brooks slowed the pursuit of Williams as Mathews ran for a gain of 19.

–(Q4, 6:12): On 1st and 10, the Eagles lined up 3 wide versus the nickel. C Kelce blocked Pierce and LG Wisniewski/LT Peters effectively doubled Williams to make space. Mathews ran left for 11 yards as Suggs was pushed off his pass rush line by TE Ertz. Are they really still running down 10 points this late?

–(Q4, 5:46): Yes, they are. On 1st and 10 (the next play), the Eagles again lined up 3 wide versus the nickel. C Kelce and LT Peters moved quickly to seal the left edge versus Suggs and Webb. Mathews followed for a gain of 18.

–(Q4, 0:12): With 2nd and goal from the 4, the Eagles lined up 3 wide versus a 6-man line of scrimmage (1 safety plus 5 heavies). The Ravens brought a 4-man pass rush and Williams delivered a pressure for the 2nd consecutive play (washed out by the run). Wentz was forced left from the pocket, which is typically disastrous for a right-handed QB, but he found himself (at the 11-yard line) in a high-noon showdown with Weddle (at the goal line). Weddle might have done better to rush Wentz to force an athletic play which might have resulted in a tackle or allowed help to arrive. Instead, he chose to make his stand at the 2-yard line and Wentz easily ran through him for the TD.

Run Defense Notes:

–The Eagles have a gifted set of blocking TEs, particularly Ertz, who made a number of key blocks.

–LT Jason Peters and C Jason Kelce were the most consistently effective linemen on these plays. Peters maintained his blocks well and still moves well enough in his 13th season. Kelce showed the ability to get ahead of plays quickly, be that in level 2 or outmaneuvering players at the LoS for impactful blocking leverage.

–Following his opening-drive interception, Zach Orr had a difficult game and registered just 2 assists despite playing every snap while the Eagles ran 37 times. The Eagles may have prioritized him in the game plan, because they consistently had a hat on him. Orr also had 2 costly penalties.

C.J. Mosley stepped up with 13 tackles. Despite the fact he was blocked on a number of the plays mentioned above, he was the most consistent run defender to go along with 2 QHs, a forced fumble, and the game-winning PD.

–Michael Pierce was on the field for just 13 run plays, but the Eagles averaged just 3.5 YPC on those and 3.0 overall on his 26 snaps. Both figures were best on the team. Pierce had 2 pressures and drew a hold on Kelce on a run play.

–The Eagles didn’t attempt to run up the middle often. If you look in the Gamebook, you’ll see a number of plays where the play is listed as “right guard” or “left guard”, but the vast majority of the runs (and the successful ones in particular) were stretches run with zone blocking. If the line is moving either left or right, I don’t believe the Gamebook definition is relative to the original position of the players.

In total, the Eagles ran for 170 yards on 37 carries (4.6 YPC, excludes the kneel).  Fortunately, the Eagles managed just 3.7 yards per pass, as the pass defense did the job in terms of both pressure and coverage.

Pass Defense:

Summarizing Ample Time and Space (ATS) by number of pass rushers:

wentzats

Notes on the pass rush:

–The overall 44% ATS rate is below Flacco’s 2010-2015 average of 51%.

–The expected yards per pass play (YPP) figure was just 5.9 and the actual was just 3.7 YPP.

–The pass rush was terrific in the first half, when Wentz had ATS on just 4 of 16 dropbacks. With the longer drives and no huddle in the 2nd half, the pass rush wore down and Wentz had ATS on 15 of 27 dropbacks. The Eagles ran 28 non-penalty snaps in the 4th quarter alone and 80 for the game.

–In words, the pass rush provided Wentz with a limited opportunity set with a fairly conservative rush by numbers.  Wentz underperformed that opportunity set by 96 yards as the Ravens secondary limited big plays.

–On the back end, Powers, Wright, and Young all had solid games with specific highlights.  Weddle also had an interception negated by Orr’s hold.

The Game-Winning 2-Point Denial:

You’ll often see me write about leverage, to which a metric can be applied in several ways, but you don’t need any of those to know the game was decided by that play.

What’s interesting is how the Ravens changed much of what they had done the whole game:

–The Eagles lined up with 3 WR, 1 TE, and a single back.

–All 11 defenders were lined up within 1.5 yards of the LoS.

–The Ravens rushed 6 and dropped to man coverage on all 5 eligible receivers.

Mosley penetrated unblocked through the left B gap and flicked his hand up as Wentz unloaded immediately for Jordan Matthews running a zero cross along the goal line in front of Powers. Mosley changed the flight of the ball ever so slightly. Behind Mosley, Suggs was leaping for a deflection for which his position seemed ideal.  He nearly got a piece of the ball. Powers then stripped Matthews to remove any chance the ball could be collected. That was the first pass all game the Ravens deflected at the LoS.

Hopefully, the Ravens will make a playoff run and we’ll remember the play as part of the story of the 2016 season. If not, we may recall the play fondly, but curse the draft position surrendered (like the “kick-6”) come next April. Such is life for those who invest themselves so deeply in this game.

Defensive stars of the game:

3rd: Tavon Young

2nd: Jerraud Powers

1st: C.J. Mosley

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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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