FILMSTUDY: Ravens Alter Game Plan in Near Upset

This was a game I’ll always remember, particularly if the Patriots can run the table.  However, lost in 59+ minutes of joy is the fact that the Ravens did not come to play the same old game.  In virtually every aspect, the Ravens played a drastically different style of defensive football than any time in the last 2 seasons.
Let’s start with the numbers:
Vs. the Rush: 24 plays, 90 Yards, 3.8 YPC
Best:  Edwards 12/32, 2.7 YPC
Worst:  Barnes 7/37, 5.3 YPC.  No other Raven was worse than 4.4 YPC
Vs. the Pass:  41 plays, 256 Yards, 5.8 YPP
Best:  Winborne 24/88, 3.3 YPP, also in more limited duty Edwards 7/14, 2.0
Worst:  Barnes 26/189, 7.3 YPP, Gregg 22/157, 7.1
Overall:  65 plays, 326 Yards, 5.0 YPPA
Best:  Bannan 5/-1, -0.2 YPPA (4 goal line plays), Edwards 19/46, 2.4 YPPA, Johnson 20/66, 3.3 YPPA, Winborne 32/111, 3.5 YPPA
Worst:  Barnes 33/226, 6.8 YPPA
By number of Defensive Backs

3:  4 plays, -1 yard, -.3 YPPA (these all came in the Ravens standard 3-safety goal line alignment)
4:  4 plays, 9 yards, 2.3 YPPA (that’s right, FOUR plays with a standard 4-man secondary)
5:  29/206, 7.1 YPPA, 2 sacks
6:  28/112, 4.0 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
By number of Pass Rushers
3:  15 plays, 94 yards, 6.3 YPP, 1 sack
4:  17/86, 5.1 YPP, 2 sacks
5:  6/53, 8.8 YPP, 1 TO
6:  2/0, 0.0
7:  1/3, 3.0 (If you got this far, I probably insulted your intelligence on these last 2 lines)
Notes—As I mentioned, the big difference here was, well, everything:
·          The Ravens played 57 of their 61 non-goal line snaps with the nickel or dime on.  For the season prior to NE, the Ravens had used 60% standard, 28% nickel, and 12% dime excluding kneels and 3 DB sets.  In this game they played over 93% nickel and dime.
·          In terms of the pass rush, the Ravens rushed 3 on 15 of 41 pass plays (37%).  That is compared to 8% the remainder of the season.  The Ravens had also rushed the passer with 5+ on 40% of plays prior to Monday, but just 22% (9 of 41) vs. the Pats.
·          Lewis had the defensive play of the game, prying the football free from Watson on what appeared to be a sure TD on the Pats initial drive. 
·          Jamaine Winborne saw his first extended playing time, adding 32 snaps to his previous NFL career total of 12.  Brady consistently picked on Jamaine with only modest success as drops, wind, and misfires limited the effectiveness of his coverage assignments until the final drive.  He had a top shelf play stopping Watson in his tracks in the open field 2 yards shy of a 1st down.  On many plays he was used to cover an outlet receiver near the LoS.  This technique was used very effectively by the Ravens and was part of the reason Brady went 18 of 38 passing despite a lot of time in the pocket.  Brady’s frustrated grounding of the football (outside the tackle box) was on just such a play.  Despite the late flag, the dime was effective with Winborne.
·          Antwan Barnes also saw 33 snaps, matching his career high (Arizona).  Each of those 2 games represents approximately 25% of his play this season (134 total snaps).  Barnes got good pressure on Brady, with extra credit for the fact that it came primarily in 3 and 4-man rushes (only 2 5-man rushes with Barnes in).  I did not notice if he was used in coverage at all, but it could not have been more than 2 or 3 times.  His YPP numbers were not good, but I’d certainly say subjectively that he played well.
·          Jarrett Johnson was the forgotten man.  He was on the field for just 4 plays in the 2nd half after playing 98.6% of snaps prior to the game.  Particularly in 2006 (when he did not play full time), Johnson was a staple of the Ravens nickel and dime packages, lining up all over the defensive front and creating opportunities for the spate of pass rushers around him.  On Monday he played well when in, but I’d guess Ryan thought they needed a player with better coverage skills more than another pass rusher.  The decision to bench Johnson was particularly odd given the way Haloti Ngata was so overworked in the game.
·          Ngata played an amazing 59 of 65 defensive snaps.  The last 4 weeks he has played 55, 56, 57, and 59 snaps, raising his season percentage to 75%, an astounding figure for a DT.  By comparison, Kelly Gregg, who was the Ravens iron man DT in 2006, played just 61% of snaps.  He was used in coverage, to attract doubles with his running start blitz, and as a pass rusher where he registered 3 QH’s, including his 3rd career sack.  He added 7 tackles, and it’s a great testament to him that the Ravens were able to hold the Pats to just 3.8 YPC on a night they played 57 of 65 plays (the goal line plays are back in) in a nickel or dime set
I’ve often said the Ravens are unusual in their ability to stop the run consistently with 7 men, but last night they did it with 6.  Jaworski pointed him out at least twice, and he even pronounced his name properly.  All the lauding aside, it looked to me that Ngata was very tired on the last drive and the Ravens might have benefited from a well-rested Johnson contributing to their 3-man pass rush.
·          I have not yet heard if Justin Bannan suffered an injury in the game.  At the game, he appeared to limp off on 1 of his 5 plays, but I can’t recall if it was his last, and didn’t notice it captured on the video.  I am guessing he was unavailable in the 2nd half however, since he did not play a snap and Gary Stills was used to sub for Ngata on 3 plays.  Bannan has had a much better year than 2006 and actually leads the team (among those with 20 or more snaps) in YPPA at 3.9 on 226 plays (32% of defensive snaps).
Editor’s Note: Justin Bannan suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament.
Photo by Sabina Moran
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About Ken McKusick

Ken McKusick
Ken comes to us via area message boards where he has consistently posted some of the most insightful and memorable posts that you'll find anywhere.  Known as "Filmstudy", Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports who grew up about 1 mile from Memorial Stadium.  He attended...more

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