Defensive Notes vs. Saints 12/19/10
To remain entertaining, talk radio necessitates some folks who can see that the glass is half empty in every situation.
Sure, the Ravens are 10-4, but their list of non and under-accomplishments is long. The Ravens’ pass rush needs an upgrade. That’s legitimate, but there are not many answers mid season. Flacco’s not an elite QB, because some people, both in the media and out say he isn’t. But, he’s on a streak with 22 TDs and just 3 interceptions since they should have benched his stoic ass for Marc Bulger after the game at Cincinnati. They’ve blown the lead in the 4th quarter an amazing 9 times this season. But guess what, they’ve HAD the lead in the 4th quarter 14 times in 14 games.
Ponder it as you would the Zen Koan “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” Some will come to terms with the accomplishments of the 2010 Ravens. Many talk-show callers will retain their permanent level of engaged dissatisfaction.
On to the statistics, which are based on 63 defensive snaps:
Vs. the Run: 14 plays, 27 yards, 1.9 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 49/242, 4.9 YPP
Overall: 63/269, 4.3 YPPA
By number of defensive backs
Short Yardage (3 DBs): 2/1, 0.5 YPPA
Standard (4 DBs): 15/64, 4.3 YPPA
Nickel (5 DBs): 24/145, 6.0 YPPA
Dime (6 DBs): 22/59, 2.7 YPPA, 3 sacks, 1 TO
By number of pass rushers
3: 2/5, 2.5 YPP
4: 26/114, 4.4 YPP, 2 sacks, 1 TO
5: 14/104, 7.4 YPP
6: 7/19, 2.7 YPP, 1 sack
· Ellerbe had 6 tackles in just 20 non-penalty snaps in his return to activity. That was 1 short of the team lead in tackles. He touched down Brees for a sack (Q2, 7:51) after the QB’s trip, but his push on Strief was one of the reasons the trip occurred. As an aside, the Ravens registered 3 sacks on Sunday, but neither of the strip sacks (Suggs, Johnson) resulted in Brees being taken to the ground, so they are not QHs. Ellerbe’s sack is recorded as a QH despite that fact that it would not have counted as a tackle in a game of two-hand touch. Dannell took down Bush in the open field (Q2, 2:45) for a gain of 8 on a play that looked as if it might have otherwise been a big gain. He also recovered nicely to take down Bush on a screen pass (Q2, 2:00). It was a terrific outing, and he’s certainly earned more playing time.
· Gooden (25 snaps) and McClain (15) split the other snaps at ILB. McClain had 4 tackles and a PD on Shockey (Q4, 7:56). Among those was a nice takedown of Thomas by the goal line (Q2, 0:49). Gooden generated some pressure, including forcing Brees to roll right and throw incomplete (Q4, 6:33). His missed tackle (Q4, 7:19) turned what would have been a small loss into a -10 after Bush tried to escape successive containments only to be taken down by Suggs. Gooden still does not appear comfortable in coverage. He was shut out on the stat sheet.
· Jarrett Johnson also had a fine game with 7 tackles, rock-solid outside containment, and good pressure. Against the run, he dropped Bush for a 6-yard loss (Q4, 12:23). He beat Bushrod for a sack/FF (Q3, 8:35). He also drew an offensive holding on Bushrod (Q4, 1:56) on the Saints final offensive snap. That would have nullified a successful play but Brees’ pass was batted up by Ngata for Redding’s game-sealing interception. Johnson was a spent man by the end of the Texans’ game, and he’s 1 of the 7 almost-every-down players (Reed, Landry, Carr, Wilson, Lewis, Suggs) for the Ravens. While it’s not obvious who his replacement would be, I think he’d be a lot fresher playing 50 snaps per game rather than 65 (the Ravens had 85 at Houston, which is too many for anyone).
· Webb has now played consecutive excellent games. He had tight coverage and position for an interception (Q1, 3:50) before it was broken up by Meachum. He also had good coverage on Moore (Q2, 14:12) as Brees’ pass went incomplete short right. He twice came off his own man to take down Reggie Bush (Q3, 12:24 and Q3, 10:32). He also ran down the elusive Bush for a gain of just 2 (Q4, 2:06) on the Saints final drive. For the game he had 7 tackles, to tie Lewis, Reed, and Johnson for the team lead.
· The Ravens used more blitz variation in the first half, but only once went to the 3-man pass rush. For the Saints’ final 4 drives they rushed 3 men once, 5 men 3 times, 6 men once, and 4 men 18 times. During that time, they only had one blitz I scored as deceptive, but they used more pre-snap movement and put noticeably more pressure on Brees than Schaub.
· It’s nice to see the Ravens allow just 1.9 YPC. Their season average is just over 4.0. Unless they play lights out over the last 2 weeks, it will be the Ravens’ worst season in terms of YPC (3.8 in 1996). I would guess a Saints fans would term their running tendencies “predictable” by down and distance. For example, despite only 15 snaps played, Kelly Gregg was in for 7 runs.
· With the large number of nickel and dime packages, the Ravens had fewer snaps from their specialist defensive linemen. Cody had 5 snaps, Jones 2, Gregg 15, and Kruger 9. Unlike Houston, where Gregg’s last defensive snap was the first play of Q4, he played 6 snaps in Q4 against the Saints.
· When the Ravens play dime, they typically have Suggs, Johnson (in a 3-point stance) and just 1 other lineman on the field. Of Nakamura’s 19 dime snaps Sunday, Suggs/Johnson played with Redding for 13, Ngata for 5, and Kruger for 1. While it is not always possible to substitute, dime snaps are typically critical pass rush downs where more rotation might be helpful. Ngata played 48 of 63 snaps, which included all 14 of the Saints rushing attempts. Redding played 47 snaps.
· Billick made reference to the number of personnel groupings the Saints use. I noticed how often they substitute 4, or even 5 players. Since you’ll rarely see play-by-play substitution for the QB or one of the starting 5 offensive lineman, 5 substitutes is the maximum under ordinary circumstances. Whenever I see that sort of wholesale substitution, I am reminded of SMU’s 95-21 loss to the Andre-Ware-led Houston Cougars in 1989. SMU was returning from the death penalty with a freshman-dominated team. Houston became the first team to record more than 1,000 yards of offense in a game including 6 TDs and 517 yards of passing from Ware in the 1st half. Losing coach Forest Gregg complained about the regular substitution of receivers against his spent corners. When asked if he still considered Houston coach Jack Pardee a friend, Gregg said “This is not a good day to be asking me that.” As it pertains to the Ravens situation, those fresh receivers should pose more problems on sustained drives.
· Ravens played 2 different dime defenses. Aside from the standard “Nakamura dime” package, they had Cary Williams lined up as the dime with Carr, Wilson, Webb, Landry, and Reed. Williams was in for 4 plays (including a penalty). Each of these plays also featured 3 down linemen plus JJ.
· The Ravens have matched their high-water mark for the season in net takeaways (+1). They started the season with -7 through 4 games.