The Ravens had just 3 plays for negative yardage and none of them were the responsibility of the offensive line. The only sack was shared by 2 eligible receivers held in to block. Of the 2 QHs, one was assigned to an eligible receiver. None of the Ravens 47 running plays went for a loss, so there were no penetrations recorded. The Ravens OL played penalty free. That’s a terrific day, and the scores reflect it with no Raven under .86 per play.
The only controversy surrounding the offensive line came on the opening drive when Ngata became entangled with Broncos safety McBath when going out in the pattern on 4th and 1. It’s not the first time Ngata has run a pattern, but it might be the last. Objecting to the pass play is one thing, but those who disparage the use of Ngata as a blocker on the Ravens’ bread-and-butter McGahee goal line stretch play are overlooking much from the last 2 seasons. Even when not provided with a good hole, Willis has occasionally been able to get in by personal effort (example: week 1 vs. Jets). A list of the goal line snaps involving Ngata is worth a write-up itself, but suffice it to say his blocks have regularly been the key to those plays and his presence has meant more than the blocks alone.
The Ravens ran 72 offensive plays Sunday, excluding 1 kneel.
Oher: Whether penalties or penetrations, Michael had some blemish on each of his previous performances. This week, his only negative play was a shared QH with Grubbs (Q4, 6:04). For the year, I have him scored for just ½ sack and 2.5 QHs. I was particularly impressed with his ability to recover to slow down Hunter (Q1, 4:43) with just the back of his arm. He got good push in the run game, particularly against DJ Williams. He was used to pull 3 times and found a block each time. He had 5 blocks in level 2. Oher didn’t have a false start called against him Sunday. Part of that probably has to do with the fact that the Ravens ran the ball on 46 of their 72 snaps, but another reason might have been that the Ravens didn’t fear the Broncos’ pass rushers. Anticipating the snap count only really helps when the Ravens are passing. I reviewed the Ravens first 4 drives which included 12 non-penalty pass plays plus the interference penalty on Cox. There was only 1 play where it appeared Oher beat the snap count (Q1, 3:31) and that only by a single click (.03 seconds). Whatever cadence technique the Ravens were using, Oher was typically moving with his line mates. Scoring: 66 blocks, 5 missed, 1 QH, 64.5 points (.90 per play).
Grubbs: Ben connected on 11 of 11 pulls for the game. Aside from Yanda’s 19 pull attempts in last year’s Wild Card game, I can’t recall any other player attempting as many pulls in a single game. The Ravens recorded 72 yards on those plays (6.5 YPPA). The Ravens will soon be faced with some difficult decisions on the offensive line that depend on the outcome of the next collective bargaining agreement. The Ravens would probably like to keep both Grubbs and Yanda, but may not be able to do so with the contracts of Flacco and Ngata drawing near. Scoring: 65 blocks, 6 missed, ½ QH, 63.5 points (.88 per play).
Birk: Matt missed more blocks than usual (7), but none of those led to a negative play. On a day where the Ravens ran the ball often, Birk helped to control the middle of the Denver defensive line, particularly Jamal Williams who managed just 2 tackles. Scoring: 65 blocks, 7 missed, 65 points (.90 per play).
Chester: He had 10 missed blocks, which is one of the highest totals I’ve recorded. That included a mediocre 6 for 9 on pulls. With Gaither’s return seeming less likely each week and Yanda playing reasonably well (and much better than anyone had a right to expect) at RT, it appears Chester may stay at RG for the remainder of the season. Scoring: 62 blocks, 10 missed, 62 points (.86 per play).
Yanda: Marshal made several memorable blocks against the Broncos. He sold himself as a pass blocker well (Q3, 4:37) as McGahee ran a draw straight ahead. He maneuvered Hunter to the outside then clubbed him further into the backfield with his left arm. As Chester pulled left (Q4, 7:30), Yanda stepped left to fill the gap then made a block with each arm (Bannan left, Ayers right) as Rice ran left. He made a fine cut block (Q4, 11:09) to bring down Marcus Thomas as he trailed the play. One play I didn’t like was him blocking Vickerson onto Grubbs (Q4, 11:45, unbalanced left). He had 4 pancakes and 4 blocks in level 2. Scoring 70 blocks, 2 missed, 70 points (.97 per play).
Cousins: Oniel entered for 4 plays as a 6th lineman and looked good, connecting on a block each time. The defense was playing its 68th-71st plays, but Cousins was effective as the Ravens ran for 5, 5, 3, and 5 yards when everyone In the stadium knew runs were coming. Scoring 4 blocks (1.00 per play).
Ngata: He played just 3 goal line snaps on the Ravens initial drive. For one of the first times I can recall, he was backed up on the first play (Q1, 10:54). He completed his other block before his ill-fated pass route on 4th down. Scoring: 1 block, 1 missed (.50 per play).
Individual Offensive Notes:
· Dickson finally had a chance to run a route deeper down the field and showed the ability to adjust, stand tall, and outmuscle Dawkins. Seeing the safety appear helpless to defend against the pass and as a child dragged by Dickson for 12 YAC, it occurred to me that Dawkins is a “Sword of Damocles” player. He’s much more dangerous from a few yards away when he can deliver a big hit. As to Dickson, with the Ravens lack of speed on the outside, I thought he would have more opportunities to run deep routes. It’s nice to see him make the most of one.
· Dickson the blocker has been another story. On Sunday he was flagged for holding and he contributed to the sack on Flacco (Q1, 9:37).
· I scored Flacco as having ample time and space to throw on 13 of his 25 attempts. He completed 7 of those for 125 yards. Since there was a flag resulting in no play, the pass interference call on Cox (vs. Mason) was not include above, but Flacco had ample time there as well.
· It’s been some time since Flacco has had a significant impact on a game with his legs. He had a big first down against the Pats in the Wild Card game last season, but he had 4 carries for 21 yards Sunday (excludes his kneel) and 3 of those plays would be qualified as offensive successes.
· I’ve heard it said the crowd wasn’t loud Sunday. While we’ve certainly heard the stadium louder, let’s compare some results that can be linked to crowd noise:
o Ravens 0 false starts, no delay of game, no wasted timeouts.
o Broncos wasted a TO after the Ravens first offensive play, 2 false starts, 1 delay of game, 1 illegal motion
· Boldin’s drop (Q2, 2:16) cost the Ravens a first down and the Broncos would score their first TD within 80 seconds. It’s his first significant misstep of the season, but he caught just 1 of the 3 balls on which he was targeted for 8 yards.
· Cundiff’s kickoffs have been something really special. There is always pressure on the 45th man to provide value on both special teams and one side of the ball. However, in Cundiff’s case, I’d say he’s worth a roster spot as a kickoff specialist even if the Ravens decide they need someone more accurate for field goals. He’s neutralized Cribbs, Royal, and Thomas thus far and with the trip to New England, Brandon Tate will be the next notable returner that he’ll have a chance to shut down.