Lack of Pass Rush Ends Ravens Season

Filmstudy Lack of Pass Rush Ends Ravens Season

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This is a game Ravens fans will ponder for a long time.

Unlike the 2008 loss which came on a similar goal line play, this doesn’t come with a consolation Wild Card berth.

If you thought the pass rush was impotent or that the Steelers offensive line won them the game, you’re right.

Summarizing Ample Time and Space (ATS) by number of pass rushers (excludes 2 spikes):

pass rush (ATS) chart vs pitt

Notes on the pass rush

–The overall 68% ATS rate doesn’t translate to a win often.

–Of the 10 plays that were not ATS, 5 were cases where Ben was not yet under pressure, but the ball was out quickly (BOQ).

–The expected yards per pass play (YPP) figure was 6.9, but the actual was 9.0 YPP.

–While the Steelers scored touchdowns on each of their 3 drives in the 4th quarter, the Ravens allowed ATS on 13 of 16 drop backs.

–The back end gave up significant YAC to Rogers, James, and Brown among 6 pass plays of 20+ yards.

Summarizing pressure by individual pass rusher:

pass rush chart vs pitt

–Only Lawrence Guy had a decent game rushing the passer

–Among the 10 plays that were not ATS, 5 were generated pressure and 5 BOQ. To reconcile 7 pressure events to 5 generated pressures, Dumervil had a QH despite ATS (Q2, 11:54) and Guy had a pressure on Judon’s QH.

Failure to Achieve Variance on Defense

Playing winning defense in the NFL requires play-to-play variance of result.

Why? Because the league’s worst offense can easily march down the field if they could simply achieve their average play distance on each snap, whether running or passing.

The tenet was never more apparent than in this game where we can look at the results by play from all 4 of the Steelers touchdown drives.

TD Drive 1 (beginning Q1, 12:29):  The plays in the drive went for gains of 10, 7, 2, 3, 7, 15 (UR penalty), 6, 7, 10, 20.  There is no way to rearrange those plays that does not result in a touchdown or even place the Steelers in a 4th down situation.

TD Drive 2 (beginning Q4, 14:18): -2, 21, 6, 35 (DPI), 8, 7.  Again no way to rearrange to avoid a TD.

TD Drive 3 (beginning Q4, 10:05): 23, 0, 13, 21, 26, 7.  Same problem.

TD Drive 4 (beginning Q4, 1:18): 3, 8, 16, 9, 20, 0 (spike), 6, 9, 0 (spike), 4.  Unless you can use both spikes in rearranging these plays into a 4-down sequence, this drive can’t be stopped by an alternative order of outcomes.

The Ravens simply did not generate nearly enough splash negative plays, be they penalties, sacks, or runs for loss to stop the Steelers on a 3-down drive, let alone a 4.

Which brings us to one lingering game management question…

Would the Ravens have been better off had Juszczyk come up inches short or kneeled inside the 1?

Kyle Juszczyk scored with 1:18 remaining, but had he kneeled at the 1, the Steelers would have had to burn a timeout immediately and attempt to mount a 4-down, goal-line defense. With the lack of healthy defensive linemen in the game for the Steelers, they were in no shape to do so.

Normally the chance of scoring from the 1 on 1st down is approximately 89%, per Football Outsiders.

Given the extreme personnel shortcomings for Steelers, I’d say it was more like 93-94% under the circumstances.  So the Ravens would have reduced their chance to score by somewhere between 6% and 11% in order to significantly reduce the TD and FG probabilities on the ensuing Steelers drive.

Juszczyk would not have made this decision on his own. To pull off in practice, Marty Mornhinweg and/or John Harbaugh would have had to communicate it to the huddle prior to the 3rd-and-1 play, but the concept has been enacted successfully before in NFL games.

Obviously, John Urschel has the background to evaluate the decision, but this is not high-level math. It’s taught in the form of decision tree diagrams to business students and in basic college probability classes for non-STEM degrees.  In fact, I would wager Juszczyk has taken just such a course.

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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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