TALE OF THE TAPE: A “Bunch” of Confusion and Easy Yards


On Sunday against the Chicago Bears, the Baltimore Ravens defense held its own once again, limiting quarterback Josh McCown and running back Matt Forte for the most part. They allowed only a single touchdown, to go along with three Robbie Gould field goals (Chicago got their other TD on the interception return).

But the struggle to get a consistent pass rush and defend wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall ultimately gave the Ravens defense issues, and allowed the Bears to keep the chains moving during a few crucial times.

One way the Ravens couldn’t defend Jeffery? Bunch formations. It’s not something new to the Ravens, as teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers have built their passing attack around the type of play for years.

But on Sunday, the Ravens looked lost defending the bunch formation, even with the same personnel facing it. On crucial third-down plays in both the fourth quarter and overtime, the secondary’s miscommunication while defending the play gave the Bears two easy completions to Jeffery for first downs.

It’s eerie how similar the two plays were, as shown below.

The first third-down bunch formation example comes in the fourth quarter. Corey Graham (far), Lardarius Webb (middle) and Arthur Brown (close) are the three defenders on the play.

Webb and Brown both commit to receivers off the snap, leaving Graham out to dry with Jeffery out of his range and running across the middle of the field.

By the time Graham can even react to the play, Jeffery is already more than wide open running across the middle, and it’s an easy first-down completion for McCown.

With Graham being the closest of the three Ravens defenders to the sideline at the beginning of the play, the receiver running across the middle ideally shouldn’t have been his man, as no defender in the NFL can cover that much space in enough time to prevent the completion.

It appeared to be a miscommunication between the three Ravens defenders. You’d think the three would have discussed the play on the sideline and would be ready to properly defend another bunch formation if it came their way later in the game, right?

Wrong, apparently.

On a third down in overtime, the Bears run the exact same play.

At the snap, Jeffery (circled) is the outermost receiver, as Marshall comes in motion toward the middle. Again, Webb, Graham and Brown are the three defenders.

Off the snap, Webb and Brown (again) commit to Bears receivers, leaving Graham with Jeffery. Sound familiar?

Again, Graham hasn’t even reacted to the play by the time Jeffery is running across the middle.

Who knows? Maybe Graham was supposed to stay back, or maybe Jeffery was supposed to be his man the entire time. Perhaps this is a case of the rookie Brown not understanding his assignment in the defense.

Either way, there’s an obvious miscommunication/lack of execution on Baltimore’s part on a play they already defended once.

You’d think they would’ve known Jeffrey would run a drag route, based on the personnel and pre-play setup.   Instead, the miscommunication leads to this….again.

No, it’s not the same picture from above, inserted by accident. It’s pretty much the exact same play, personnel and result as the first play.

Failure to get off the field on third down proved to be costly for the Ravens on Sunday, and defending the bunch could be a problem for them in the near future. Any opposing team who sees these plays will salivate over the possibility to get an easy 15 yards.

Graham, Brown and Webb proved to be a trio not capable of defending the play, and if those three are on the field together in future games during passing situations, expect teams to use the same play until the Ravens prove they can stop it.

8 Raves on “TALE OF THE TAPE: A “Bunch” of Confusion and Easy Yards

  1. Gabe on said:

    If I was the OC on any of our next opponents I would run that play over and over until the ravens were able to stop it. Winner, winner chicken dinner.

  2. wickedsolo on said:

    This, IMO, was the most egregious thing we saw the offense or defense do against the Bears. Even worse than the pick-6, which was REALLY bad.

    Fool me once…fool me twice…fool me three times…

    …I’m dumb.

  3. Brad on said:

    I know that just the thought of zone coverage (wrongfully) rubs Ravens fans the wrong way, but it’s the best way to stop the bunch. The bunch is used to beat man coverage. Zone coverage is ultimately the best way to stop it.

  4. Trav on said:

    Is there a reason why the DC, or an asst coach, would not speak with the players immediately after the FIRST time this happened, to make sure people know their assignments when facing this setup? And if he did, which player was unable to learn the protocol?

  5. catgirl54 on said:

    Maybe time for Dean Pees to retire. Seriously, even the commentators couldn’t believe this one. Do we miss Ray Lewis or Ed Reed so much we don’t know how to defend without them?

  6. Big Perm on said:

    This site is so depressing now! Last time i said this, the comment didnt get posted. I wonder how many others are saying the same thing.

    • Tony LombardiTony Lombardi on said:

      Perm, we post all comments that don’t include profanity or personal attacks. Not sure what happened to your comment. Unfortunately with the growth of our site there’s a nasty little byproduct that comes along with the growth called “spam”. Perhaps your last comment somehow got caught up in that dirty laundry.

      As for the site being depressing, I find it interesting how the word “haters” is tossed around whenever criticism is part of a discussion. We get accused of not being fans, being haters because we are criticizing the team. Look, there’s plenty to criticize. The Ravens are underachievers and the problems are pretty deep IMO. Are we supposed to ignore them, wave our pompoms and say, “Give me an ‘R’”?

      When a Super Bowl Champion morphs into a 4-6 team, 11th seed in the AFC and the quarterback is at the bottom of most important statistical categories after signing a deal that is a cap killer if he doesn’t perform, there’s a ton to criticize.

      At the end of the day we are still SB Champs but with an arrow down. No one likes that arrow.

      Here’s to positivity and good news come Sunday after the game!

      Thanks for your comments and concerns.

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