Ravens vs. Bengals 9/19/10
I know of no better indicator of good defense than the presence of an effective 4-man pass rush. It’s not the only way to play defense well, but teams that can get pressure regularly with 4 men are almost always successful. The corollary is that teams that can’t stop a 4-man pass rush are almost never successful offensively.
You’ve heard the excuses. The Ravens faced a desperate Bengals team on the verge of early playoff elimination. The Ravens were playing on a short week with their minimum goal (getting home at 1-1) already guaranteed. The referees screwed us. Flacco was solely responsible for the loss. The defense dropped 2 near interceptions. Cam Cameron didn’t commit to the running game enough…blah, blah, blah.
By now, if you’re not envisioning John Belushi talking to Carrie Fisher in a dark sewage tunnel, then you’re probably under the age of 35.
The Ravens failed to have success against the Bengals because, for the 3rd straight time, they could not handle the Bengals 4-man pass rush. Of 40 passing plays, the Bengals rushed 4 29 times. Those plays resulted in 96 yards (3.3 YPP) and included 1 sack and 4 interceptions.
Among the bad consequences of the defense dropping 7 into coverage are:
· Reduced effectiveness of screen passes
· Many more throws must go outside the numbers to reduce the impact of extra players on the field, this means less YAC
· The middle of the field becomes a very dangerous area in the event of a tip or overthrow because of the extra bodies there
· Mismatches for big receivers become less significant because of the additional risk with such throws
When the opposing defense rushes 4, they must be regularly punished with plays that can develop slowly and take a physical toll on the pass rushers themselves. As Merlin Olson would always say, there is nothing as tiring as rushing the passer. Roethlisberger is terrific against such defenses because he’s not afraid to take a sack, doesn’t go down easily, keeps his eyes downfield, and works well when moving to a secondary pocket. Most quarterbacks, including Flacco on Sunday, are not nearly as successful.
The offensive line had a solid run-blocking game. They had an aggregate .90 per play on runs as the Ravens averaged 5.0 YPC on 22 non-kneels. As pass blockers, they allowed 1 sack (plus another negated by penalty) and 4 QHs (plus another negated by penalty). That would be OK under most circumstances, but not with the Bengals economical pass rush (4 men 29 times, 5 men 9 times, 6 once, 8 once). So the Bengals got effective pressure that allowed their talented corners to cover with plenty of help. It was a recipe for turnovers and very similar to the formula used by the Bengals last season.
Oher: Michael faced Antwan Odom with whom he had difficulty in week 5 of 2009. Odom is taller than Oher and exactly the type of pass rusher that gives him fits. He surrendered a QH to Atkins on a blown stunt handoff on Flacco’s 2nd interception (Q3, 7:59). As a run blocker he got good push and maintained position while converting 20 of 22 blocks. He had 3 pancakes and 5 blocks in level 2. Scoring: 53 blocks, 6 missed, 1 PD allowed, 1.5 QH, 46.5 points, (.75 per play). In 2 games, Oher has now averaged .70 over 136 snaps.
Grubbs: His most significant error was a QH allowed to Tank Johnson (Q2, 14:11). He connected on 3 of 4 pulls and had 5 blocks in level 2. He and Birk have played well both games while Oher and Chester have scored poorly each outing. Scoring: 56 blocks, 5 missed, 1 QH, 53 points (.85 per play).
Birk: With a 4-man pass rush, the center is not nearly as exposed to pass blocking errors. Birk shared Maualuga’s QH with Chester (Q3, 9:25), but I did not score any other errors or missed blocks in pass protection. He was pancaked twice, pulled once successfully and had 3 blocks in level 2. Scoring: 59 blocks, 2 missed, ½ QH, 57.5 points, (.93 per play).
Chester: Chris had his 2nd consecutive weak game as he regularly gave ground in the pocket. He was responsible for the sack of Flacco (Q4, 2:22), allowed a PD that was intercepted (Q4, 2:27), and allowed a shared QH by Maualuga with Birk (Q3, 9:25). He pulled successfully on 8 of 10 attempts. Scoring: 53 blocks, 6 missed, 1 sack, 1 QH, 1 PD, 43.5 points (.70 per play).
Yanda: It’s nice to see Marshal play better, but he still does not look comfortable at RT. He had 3 pancakes and 3 blocks in level 2. Scoring: 56 blocks, 5 missed, ½ QH, 54.5 points (.88 per play).
The Ravens did not play any 6-man line.