The Ravens lack of a pass rush has been discussed at length over the last 10 days. Against the Vikings, the Ravens brought deceptive pressure on just 5 of 32 pass plays as I scored it. That’s an exact duplication of the Cincinnati game.
There is word of grumbling regarding Mattison’s willingness to use pre-snap movement and a more complicated set of blitzes. A few flip words from Sizzle, that’d be just Terrell being Terrell. A remark from Lewis or Reed I would attribute to frustration from 2 players that have been part of a long tradition of defensive excellence. However, when Haloti Ngata joins the chorus, there is a real problem.
Marvin Lewis rode a legendary 11-man unit which featured very plain pass rush schemes, but frequent use of the quarter defense with a talented and deep secondary. Mike Nolan got the job and quickly and decisively rebuilt the unit with the salary cap purge of 2002. His tenure included the development of Thomas, Reed, and Gregg into stars. The rebuilt defense led the dynamic duo of Kyle Boller and Anthony Wright to the 2003 AFC North title.
Nolan was hired by the 49ers after the 2004 season and Rex Ryan was elevated to defensive coordinator. Ryan’s gambling style featured lots of different looks and pre-snap movement. In 4 years, we became accustomed to watching a defense which was built of, by, and for pressure. Despite stylistic changes, the Ravens have never truly missed a defensive coordinator, but there is a first time for everything.
With Ryan’s departure, Mattison seems very bland by comparison. Since 2006, the Ravens have not enjoyed a healthy pair of quality corners. Looking back, the 2008 Ravens were able to cover for their many injuries with pressure and an amazing run by Ed Reed. In 2007, the team was not as fortunate, losing 9 straight games with a decimated secondary that included significant playing time from Pittman, Prude, Winborne, Martin, and Gaston. Ngata, Suggs, and Lewis continued to halt the run, but the pass rush took a big step backwards with the departure of Thomas and Pryce’s injury. More than in 2008, the Ravens will face an imposing set of veteran QBs including Manning, Roethlisberger (x2), Palmer, Rodgers, and Cutler over the remaining 10 games.
Regardless of the soundness of Mattison’s schemes, if the veterans don’t believe, their complaints and its failure will be self fulfilling.
On to the statistics:
Overall: 63 plays, 426 yards, 6.8 YPPA
Vs. the Run: 31 carries, 167 yards, 5.4 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 32 pass plays, 259 yards, 8.1 YPP
By number of Pass Rushers:
3: 5/37, 7.4 YPP
4: 17/186, 10.9 YPP, 2 sacks
5: 6/39, 6.5 YPP
6: 4/-3, -0.8 YPP, 1 sack
All of these numbers are eerily similar to the previous week vs. Cincinnati
By number of Defensive Backs:
3: 5 plays, 11 yards, 2.2 YPPA (these were 3 goal line plays, 1 3rd and 1, and oddly a 1st and 10 near the beginning of Q4)
4: 29 plays, 102 yards, 3.5 YPPA
5: 24 plays, 242 yards, 10.1 YPPA, 1 TO
6: 10 plays, 32 yards, 3.2 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
7: 2 plays, 28 yards, 14.0 YPPA
· Favre shredded the Ravens 3 and 4-man pass rushes for 10.1 YPP (22 plays, 223 yards despite 2 sacks). In the last 2 games, the Ravens 4-man pass rush has allowed 10.1 YPP (365 yards on 36 plays), while 6-man pressure has resulted in 5 plays for -13 yards, including 2 sacks.
· Trevor Pryce played just 15 snaps, one of his lowest totals as a Raven. Was this a case of illness where he was saved for obvious passing situations? Dwan Edwards picked up most of the playing time (44 snaps, they were in together for just 1 snap). Pryce registered an impressive 1-handed sack plus another QH and the Ravens held the Vikings to 2.8 YPPA while he was in. A single game certainly isn’t enough evidence, but the Ravens generally played well with rested defenders (see below). Given Pryce’s age, I think 20-30 snaps might maximize his productivity. Edwards also had a sack (his 2nd career), but the Ravens allowed 6.2 YPPA with him in. Overall the Ravens allowed 6.8 YPPA for the game. If you look at PFF, you’ll notice they have slightly higher snap counts which are a function of penalties, kneels, spikes, etc.
· Gooden ran down Peterson to keep the Ravens in the game (Q4, 8:31). He held Adrian to a 58-yard run and saved the team 4 points as they stopped the Vikings on the next 3 plays. It wasn’t Tavares’ only contribution as he played well. Immediately after the rundown of Peterson, Gooden left the game for Ellerbe, who played 5 plays spanning 2 drives. Amazingly, the Vikings managed -5 offensive yards on those plays and Ellerbe made 3 of those 5 tackles, including 1 for loss.
· To continue the theme of defenders making good on limited opportunities, Jameel McClain also played well, recording 1 tackle in 4 snaps. He played 3 goal line snaps and the Ravens twice denied the Vikings on the ground before Favre completed the 3rd down pass to Shiancoe for a 1-yard TD.
· I’m having a hard time understanding why the Ravens won’t move to more linebacker substitution. The reserves are playing well and their starters have often looked tired. What’s the point of depth if you can’t use it?
· Webb saw his first 3 defensive snaps, which deserve a review:
1. (Q1, 3:47) Webb lined up on the slot receiver on the offensive right side (ORS) on 3rd and 13. He stepped inside before the snap and blitzed, but was effectively picked up by Kleinsasser. The pass went incomplete to Berrian as Foxworth got the PD.
2. (Q2, 7:24) Again lined up on the slot receiver on the ORS, this time on 2nd and 10. He again blitzed and once more tipped his hand by moving a second early. Lardarius was not blocked, but Herrera blocked Pryce, and those two obstructed Webb’s path to the QB.
3. (Q2, 7:19) Lined up as a LB next to Ray Lewis and 5 yards opposite the RT on 3rd and 10. However, he covered Harvin who was lined up in the slot next to RT Loadholt. Harvin ran a crossing pattern to the left where Favre tossed to him. Webb had good coverage, but was unable to bring down the powerful Harvin. He did, however, delay him for about 1 second while 4 other Ravens arrived to pummel Harvin to the ground and force the punt.
It’s difficult to draw any significant conclusion from those 3 plays, but I liked his coverage of Harvin and I think his quickness can, at a minimum, help the Ravens at nickel.
· With Rolle’s surgery and likely retirement and the ineffectiveness of Carr and Walker, what might the Ravens have tried to accomplish with Derrick Martin? I am by no means throwing in the towel, but if the Ravens lose 3 of the next 5 games, I hope they will find a way to work Webb in on the outside. He’ll be able to help the team down the road whether he can be effective there or not, but there is no substitute for real experience at corner.
3 biggest defensive plays:
1. Flacco to Rice for 63 yards
2. Flacco to Mason for a 12-yard TD
3. Harvin kickoff return stopped at the 14
4. Bannan and Gregg stop Taylor for no gain
5. Ray’s sack for a loss of 8
6. Favre incomplete to Taylor and hit by Pryce
7. Reed returns Kluwe’s punt 9 yards despite a muff for a 27 yard net
8. Rice runs 33 yards to pay dirt behind some fine blocking by the offensive line
By the end of that sequence, the Ravens had quieted most of the Metrodome crowd, not that we would have noticed over our screaming.
· Stop for the very first 3 and out (Q1, 3:47). Favre threw incomplete for Berrian with Foxworth in coverage. The Ravens completed a crisp 3 and out with Washington pulled after the Vikings had moved the ball effortlessly on their first 2 drives.