Let’s avoid the clichés, because there are a number of other places on the web to read how:
The officials had difficulty spotting the ball, did not know the proper distance on offensive pass interference, and simply called a weak, inconsistent game.
The Ravens pass defense is in shambles (which I don’t believe to be true).
With the number of quality QBs the Ravens will face this season, they are in big trouble (again, I would not infer this from Sunday’s result).
To summarize Sunday’s loss, I’d say the Ravens faced a QB (and offense) who poses some significant and unique challenges that dictated the Ravens abandon much of what typically makes them successful. They played primarily zone coverage and employed vanilla rush schemes. Despite battering Vick physically and containing him as a runner, he consistently threw strikes under heavy pressure and ran for the winning score.
The zone defense was beaten worse than I have ever seen before. In part this was a device to contain Vick and McCoy who will find and exploit open areas of the field, but Vick had an accurate passing day and the Ravens had no answer for Brent Celek or Desean Jackson in that scheme.
Reviewing the video, I find 10 QHs (times the QB is knocked down passing) with 2 others to be checked from the coaches’ video. It’s difficult to find fault with a defense that drops the QB 10 times in 34 drop backs. However, Pees did not make use of the Eagles’ OL injuries to rush the passer, something that would have been difficult for the Eagles to pick up. Specifically, the Ravens needed another rusher up the middle with his hands up. They tried 1 cross blitz which resulted in a sack (Q3, 4:11). That was one of only 3 deceptive pass rushes as I score them. They rushed 3 or 4 on 26 of 34 drop backs and 6 only twice.
Is the result ominous for the remainder of the season?
No, I don’t believe so. There isn’t another offense that can dictate the zone like the Eagles and while there are a number of teams that can dictate the nickel with 3 quality receivers, that’s the Ravens greatest defensive strength.
The Eagles had 73 competitive snaps (excluding 2 kneels):
Versus the Run: 39 plays, 129 yards, 3.3 YPC
Versus the Pass: 34 plays, 357 yards, 4.7 YPP
Overall: 73 plays, 486 yards, 6.7 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: 4 plays, 3 yards, 0.8 YPP, 1 TO
4 DBs: 34/185, 5.4 YPPA, 1 TO
5 DBs: 39/298, 7.6 YPPA, 2 sacks, 2 TO
6 DBs+: None
By number of pass rushers:
3: 7 plays, 76 yards, 10.9 YPP, 1 TO
4: 19/208, 10.9 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO
5: 6/63, 10.5 YPP, 1 sack
6: 2/10, 5.0 YPP
- Courtney Upshaw delivered a fine performance with some pressure. He got up from a cut block by McCoy to level Vick on the Eagles’ 2nd play (Q1, 14:22), beat Dunlap to create the pressure that led to Vick’s first interception (Q1, 10:22), delivered the punishing blow on Pollard’s sack of Vick (Q1, 0:09, no QH awarded), had good pressure on Vick’s TD roll left (Q3, 10:46), beat Bell inside to tackle of McCoy for a loss of 4 (Q4, 2:49), and generally held his edge well including, for example, containing Brown’s stretch right (Q1, 1:30). He was credited with 6 tackles. In the midst of a bad result, it’s a big positive to have a player emerge at a position of need.
- The injury to Pollard was a big loss, but Vick and Celek had already been beating the Ravens’ zone when he was removed. Pollard had an interception and a sack among 4 tackles before leaving with a rib injury suffered on his sack. That’s the kind of day it was for the Ravens. They knocked down Vick 10 times and the only one who got hurt was Pollard! James Ihedigbo replaced Pollard and was part of the breakdown in zone coverage.
- Ngata turned in another outstanding performance, but played 65 of the 73 snaps. I don’t expect he can maintain 90% of snap counts for an entire season. He delivered 3 jarring QHs:
- (Q1, 7:51) Vick got the ball off to Celek for a gain of 19
- (Q3, 9:24) Vick’s pass was batted down by Kemo
- (Q4, 2:00) Vick rolled the ball forward off his fingertips for an incomplete that could have been ruled intentional grounding.
Ngata also drew a holding penalty on Dunlap (Q1, 8:57) that negated an 8-yard run. He had just 2 tackles, but frequently required 2 blockers and maintained his position when the Eagles ran.
- McPhee dialed up good pressure and contributed 3 tackles. He had a QH on Lewis’ PD (Q2, 12:11), face-planted Vick when he beat Herremans to the inside (Q4, 9:44), and drew a holding penalty on Mathis (Q4, 9:54). His run results were mixed but I noted Pernell forced McCoy’s 20-yard run right. Once there, Smith missed a tackle near the LoS and Ihedigbo failed to push him out of bounds 10 yards up field. McPhee worked off Watkins to deliver a big stick on McCoy to hold him to a gain of 3 (Q2, 0:33). He had another impressive tackle from the ground (Q3, 13:30).
- McClellan impacted a number of plays:
- He held the edge well versus Celek as McCoy was stopped for a gain of 2 (Q1, 13:52)
- He cleaned up on Cary Williams initial contact to take down Jackson for a loss of 2 on a screen left (Q1, 13:12)
- He was initially blocked by Harbor (Q1, 9:34), but slipped off to clean up when Webb and Reed turned the play back
- He covered the fumbled exchange from Vick to McCoy (Q2, 10:09)
- He held the right edge well to force McCoy back inside where McClain missed an opportunity to take him down for little or no gain (Q2, 4:48)
- He had a quick takedown in coverage of Havili on a short pass between the hashes (Q3, 12:56) for a gain of 4
- He penetrated past Dunlap to take down McCoy for a loss of 2 (Q3, 10:12)
- He had a PD and near interception which on Vick’s short pass to Celek (Q3, 6:18)
- He had a QH (Q4, 9:55) on a play where Vick got the ball away very late that was nullified when the Ravens accepted the holding penalty on Mathis.
A list this long his typically been something attributed to Lewis or Suggs.
- Arthur Jones was active in 28 snaps. His roughing the passer flag wasn’t low, but was probably late. He made a diving trip to drop McCoy for no gain (Q1, 8:30). He drew a holding penalty on Bell as he penetrated to blow up McCoy’s run for no gain (Q3, 1:03).
- McClain and Ellerbe normally platoon at ILB (Jack), with Jameel the primary 2-down LB and Ellerbe in for passing situations. On Sunday they played 14 snaps together. Jameel lined up several times in a 3-point stance, something he did effectively as a rookie, but has done infrequently since. Jameel had a QH on the Eagles’ first offensive play (Q1, 15:00). He would collect another (Q4, 9:40) when he outmuscled Havili, pulled up, yet still knocked Vick down with his chest. He had a difficult day in run defense including a missed tackle
- How to confuse correlation with causation 101: It’s good to see the defense getting turnovers regularly even if the offense can’t convert. One of the statistics which used to show up regularly in the Ravens media release was the team’s record in games when they have a turnover margin of +2 or more. Since 2000 and prior to Sunday, they were 58-1 in such games in the regular season, but Sunday bucked the trend as the Ravens won the TO battle 4-2. In the vast majority of games, teams generate turnovers because they win, they don’t win because they generate turnovers. Unfortunately, the 58-1 mark also excluded the Ravens loss in last year’s AFCC.
A loss like this always puts me in a mind to take stock. Right now, the Ravens’ defenders can be clearly divided into 4 groups:
Veteran stars: Lewis, Ngata, Pollard, Reed, Webb, Suggs (when active)
Potential stars (with current playing time): Jimmy Smith, McPhee, Upshaw, McClellan
Playing a role (most well): Cody, Kemoeatu, Ellerbe, McClain, Cary Williams, Arthur Jones, Kruger
Role not large enough to warrant discussion at this point: Ayanbadejo, Hall, Kindle, Brown, Considine, Graham, Ihedigbo, Jackson, Thompson, Tyson
Players in the latter group are primarily core special teams performers. Asa Jackson is the most likely to emerge as a star. The player most likely to drop in class is clearly Kindle. In fact, Kruger’s current injury may be saving him because Sergio’s play Sunday coupled with the emergence of Upshaw and play of McClellan have put his job in jeopardy.
Most of the role players have limited hope to become stars with the exceptions of Williams and Jones. In the other cases it’s a matter of age or specialization.
McPhee has already played close to a full season at a star level, so I understand folks that say he should be there now. He’s been an outstanding inside pass rusher, but he needs to play more snaps like the others, display just adequate (or slightly below) ability as a run defender, and maintain the quality of his pass rush. Smith showed plenty last year and I’d be surprised if he isn’t one of the players around whom the Ravens build their defense. Upshaw fills a huge need played very well Sunday.
That said, McClellan is the fascinating one.
He’s played well in every scrap of playing time he’s been offered, which reminds me a lot of Jameel McClain, but he’ll have a tough time supplanting either Suggs or Upshaw when both are healthy. Can he return to play ILB effectively or be a swingman? I don’t see why not, and ILB will be a position where the Ravens need to get younger. That’s not because of Ray (his age seems almost irrelevant), but because Ayanbadejo is 36 (and not playing defense), Ellerbe and McClain are now earning market value, and difficult cap decisions loom.