Much had changed between the 12/16 meeting with the Broncos in Baltimore and Saturday’s instant classic. Only Matt Birk was starting at the same position as in that game. Marshal Yanda was inactive in December, Bryant McKinnie was still on the bench, Michael Oher was at LT, and Kelechi Osemele at RT.
In the first meeting, the Broncos rushed 4 men on 37 of 43 dropbacks, yet allowed Flacco Ample Time and Space (ATS) on just 37% of all pass plays. On Saturday, the line provided ATS on 24 of 35 dropbacks (69%, his highest percentage of the season) despite the fact the Broncos rushed 4 men or fewer on just 17 of 35 dropbacks. Flacco responded with an outstanding day.
The Ravens allowed 1 coverage sack that took over 5 seconds to develop (OT1, 11:13). They had one other sack allowed that was negated by an offside penalty. The only other QH came on an overload blitz where Miller beat Leach (Q4, 5:08). The Ravens did not have a single run for a loss in 39 carries. Finally, the line was collectively penalized just once (Osemele’s false start). In this context, the grades this week are very high.
The Ravens offense again lost the offensive-snap battle 86-74. However, they averaged 6.5 YPPA to 4.6 for the Broncos. The 74 snaps is a good total for a normal game, but perhaps 10 snaps below expectation for 5+ quarters:
McKinnie: Bryant returned to indifference as a run blocker. Last week he made 5 level 2 blocks, but with more zone plays headed right on Saturday, he was left without a block with some frequency. There is a systemic issue with McKinnie, because he doesn’t cut block in such situations. That may be something the club has asked him not to do, but both Oher and Osemele threw a good number per game (as tackles) when runs went to the opposite side. Alternatively, the tackle can turn away from the run and pick up a trailing DB or perhaps the OLB which will have value only if the play is cut back early or becomes a breakaway that requires someone to chase it down from behind.
As a pass blocker, McKinnie was very good, allowing just 2 total pressures in 35 drop backs. He was bulled by Ayers (Q1, 11:20) to share a pressure with Osemele. He was bulled by Dumervil (Q2, 1:16) for another half pressure, and he was beaten by Dumervil before he picked up a big assist from Osemele on the F-Bomb (Q4, 0:41). Scoring: 74 plays, 59 blocks, 12 missed, 2 pressures, 55 points (.74 per play). That’s a C+ with an adjustment for Dumervil (his primary assignment).
Osemele: Kelechi’s highlight was a combination block he made to key Rice’s 32-yard run (Q3, 2:09). He pinned Wolfe, who McKinnie drove back 5+ yards, then blocked DJ Williams in level 2. Yanda also pulled effectively to obstruct Woodyard on that play. Osemele had 5 blocks in level 2 and pulled successfully on his only attempt. He was shed by Bannan (OT1, 4:03) for a pressure that led to a failed conversion. Scoring: 74 snaps, 68 blocks, 4 missed, 1.5 pressures, 1 false start, 62 points (.84 per play). B.
Birk: Matt had a solid game in terms of personal protection and it still appears he is working off Oher’s movement or some joint signal to snap. He went 8 for 9 on his level 2 blocks He had a single pressure allowed when he surrendered a PD to Bannan (OT1, 0:51). Scoring: 74 snaps, 69 blocks, 4 missed, 1 pressure, 67 points (.91 per play). That’s a B, but I’d give him an increase to an A- based on the fact the Ravens’ line did not allow a sack or QH.
Yanda: Marshal’s highlight was his pile-pushing effort to lengthen Rice’s 2nd-and-10 run to a first down (OT1, 0:47). For the 2nd straight week, Yanda accumulated exactly 8 level 2 blocks and was 5 for 5 on pulls. He surrendered a pressure when beaten outside by Miller (Q4, 3:22) on the failed 3rd and 5. Scoring: 74 snaps, 69 blocks, 4 missed, 1 pressure, 67 points (.91 per play). A, with a small upgrade for playing on the same side as Miller.
Oher: Michael has appeared to be very down on himself and frankly like he was not enjoying football for much of the 2nd half of the year, but he had his best game of the season Saturday and you could tell he was feeling it both on the field and as he came to the bench. His run blocking was not particularly good, but he pulled and got a small piece of Carter to help Rice get to the edge for a gain of 20 (Q3, 13:16). As a pass blocker, he fought effectively with Von Miller, allowing a single shared pressure (Q2, 1:16). Scoring: 74 snaps, 69 blocks, 4 missed, 1/2 pressure, 36 points (.91 per play). That’s an A- without adjustment, but an A given his primary pass-blocking assignment was Miller.
- With ATS, Flacco was 11 of 23 for 209 yards (202 net), 2 TD/0 INT, and 1 sack for 7 yards (8.7 YPP). He now has 9 TDs and 0 interceptions with ATS in his last 9 games. He was approximately 14 yards worse than expectation with ATS.
- Without ATS, he was 7 of 11 for 122 yards with 1 TD/0 INT (11.1 YPP). The F-Bomb (or Rocky Mountain Rainbow) is included in this group. On that play, Flacco was flushed by Ayers, stepped up and had just a moment before Miller was in his face. Since it was a 70-yard TD, the results would change drastically if it was recharacterized as an ATS throw, but I think it’s correctly placed here. The 11.1 YPP without ATS is the best figure he has had in the 3 years I have been scoring it. His season average is 4.0 YPP in such situations.
- Torrey Smith abused Champ Bailey in the first half, beating him deep on 4 separate occasions that included 2 TDs and 2 incompletions where he had him beat significantly. From my seat, I was checking every play to see if the safety on the same side as Champ and Torrey was moving up. That happened with surprising regularity, but after halftime (more than 3 more quarters), Flacco did not throw another deep ball for Smith. Among the passing plays, Smith only ran a pattern of 20+ yards on 5 occasions (Q4, 5:08, and Q4, 3:22, and Q4, 1:09, and Q4, 0:41 and OT1, 6:01) and each of those times Bailey had deep safety help. Even after the first half, Bailey continued to line up against Smith on every play.
- Anquan Boldin was physical in securing contested throws and used his body effectively to box out. Here are the times he was targeted:
- (Q1, 14:27) Boldin caught a 5-yard slant at the marker, using his body well to shield off Harris.
- (Q1, 13:13) Flacco threw to Boldin 18 yards downfield near the right hash, but Harris stripped him.
- (Q1, 11:20) Boldin boxed out Adams with his right hip to secure a low throw then turn up field for a gain of 8 (3 YAC).
- (Q2, 6:39) Flacco rolled left and threw a floatation device for Boldin 18 yards down the left sideline. Harris knocked it away.
- (Q2, 1:16) Boldin pulled down a high throw near the right numbers with Bailey in coverage.
- (Q3, 12:57) Flacco threw incomplete (low and outside) to Boldin, who was well covered by Harris, between the left sideline and numbers.
- (Q4, 12:24) Flacco led Boldin perhaps a foot too far on the slant near the right hash. Boldin was unable to haul the ball in with 1 hand and the Ravens were forced to punt.
- (Q4, 5:50) Boldin followed the cross of Torrey Smith to find a soft spot in zone coverage between the hashes. Flacco hit him for a gain of 19 (10 + 9 YAC) to convert 3rd and 7.
- (Q4, 5:08) Boldin turned outside by the right sideline and hauled in a 17-yard completion in front of Harris.
- (OT1, 14:23) Flacco threaded the ball past the arms of Woodyard for 11 yards by the right sideline.
- (OT1, 6:11) Flacco threw a ball on the run down the left sideline which was hauled in by Adams, in front of Boldin, just out of bounds.
- (OT1, 4:03) Flacco’s pass between the hashes was a little behind Boldin and nearly intercepted by the diving Harris.
The other side of consistently outmuscling or out-positioning defenders for the football is the lack of separation. As you can see above, he only got separation (and significant YAC) on one of 11 times targeted.
- Joe Flacco shares a characteristic with many right-handed quarterbacks: he doesn’t throw well when moving to his left. The only RH QBs I see doing it well with some regularity are those with lots of foot speed (Kaepernick, Wilson, or Tyrod Taylor, for example) who can then reset their feet and deliver accurately. For Joe, that’s difficult with any sort of pass rush. On Saturday, the Ravens had 4 plays where Flacco moved left to throw either by design or under pressure and none were thrown well. Let’s review:
- (Q2, 6:39) Designed roll left, Flacco threw for Boldin 18 yards downfield by the left sideline, but the throw was short and Harris knocked it away.
- (Q4, 13:09) The Ravens zone blocked right as Flacco ran a naked boot left and completed a pass to Leach for 1 yard.
- (Q4, 3:22) Miller pressured Flacco out of the pocket to his left. Flacco threw behind Jones near the marker and Jacoby could not hang on. An accurate pass that led Jones in this situation might not have been a huge gain, but it would have been a first down.
- (OT1, 6:11) Designed roll left, Flacco threw down the left sideline for Boldin, but again underthrew him and Adams picked off the ball, but both feet landed out of bounds.
- Ray Rice had 30 carries Saturday, but was targeted just twice. One of those was overthrown with Flacco under pressure and the other was thrown to lead Rice up field, but the two weren’t on the same page.
- Tandon Doss and Flacco seem to have a connection, they just haven’t connected. In the last 2 games, Doss has been on the field for just 15 snaps (Gamebook total). But Flacco has thrown him the ball 4 times which included 3 balls he might have hauled in versus the Colts and a 25-yard pass interference (Q1, 11:38) drawn Saturday to keep alive the first touchdown drive.
I see 2 key matchups for the Ravens offense on Sunday.
- While the 2012 Patriots have solid run-defending LBs with the additions of Spikes and Hightower, their biggest advantage is up front. Wilfork can be pushed, as we saw Yanda and Gaither do in the 2009 game (Wilfork moved to RDE for the 2nd half of that game). This year, when he lines up on the nose, the guards will play the key role in getting him off the spot. Osemele and Yanda will block him directly in zone blocking schemes and will assist to get him off balance if blocking straight ahead. The Ravens now have the most talented pair of guards in the AFC, particularly with regard to the ability to create movement when run blocking. It’s a matchup they must win Sunday.
- The second key matchup is the receiver opposite Aqib Talib. Contrary to popular belief, Talib has been extremely vulnerable since he joined the Pats. He’s been targeted 42 times with 28 receptions for 376 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. During that same period, Alfonzo Dennard has played well and Devin McCourty has split his time between corner and safety with good results wherever he has lined up. As with Bailey last week, the Ravens must punish the Patriots if they leave Talib on an island with Smith or Jones and use the space effectively when they get him safety help.