If you’re frustrated with the recent play of Ray Lewis, let’s take a look at the poor man’s version of him, Jonathan Vilma.
Vilma was a good player with the Jets at mid decade before joining New Orleans in 2008. He’s one of the featured players in the outstanding 2004 GotW broadcast of the Ravens’ comeback versus the Jets at the Meadowlands. If you haven’t seen that yet, it’s remains one of the 3 or 4 best programs NFL films has ever produced and it’s available on Hulu for free viewing.
Back to Vilma…he’s shown durability very similar to Ray over a 7-year career, but because he has followed a similar aging pattern with a lower level of ability, he’ll likely be out of football within 3 years when he’ll be 31.
On Sunday, Vilma looked like a veteran who could no longer will his body to make up for his diminished skills and occasional mental lapses. He failed to cover Dickson’s late release that went for a 34-yard TD on 3rd and 10 (Q1, 4:53). He missed an opportunity to drop Rice for a loss of 1 (Q3, 11:21) which resulted in a gain of 4. He was continually caught in the wash on runs up the middle with (Q2, 14:56) and (Q2, 14:24) among the examples. Let’s face it, whenever an opponent rushes for 208 yards, the inside linebackers are likely to deserve a healthy share of the blame. He accumulated 11 tackles and had decent coverage on Rice on a drive-ending incomplete (Q4, 3:04), but otherwise his best play may have been impersonating a Zebra to draw Rice’s 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flip (Q3, 14:13). For the season, PFF has him rated as one of the worst ILBs in the game.
Baltimore has a MLB who is still playing (let alone leading) well enough to help the team. If you take a look at the players making $7 million per season, I’d say you’d still have to say Ray has more of a positive impact on his team than most.
The Ravens had 65 offensive snaps:
Oher: Michael had continued to look pretty good as a run blocker despite a penalty-filled year as a pass blocker. However, on the Ravens 2nd offensive snap (Q1, 13:30), Oher was driven back into Rice by Will Smith for a 5-yard loss. It’s close to the most dominating run play I’ve ever seen a DE make and the worst I can recall anyone make Oher look on a running play. I split the scoring of Wilkerson’s sack when Grubbs and Oher failed to negotiate a stunt (Q3, 2:25). Scoring: 53 blocks, 6 missed, 1 penetration, 1/2 QH, 1/2 sack, 1 false start, 43.5 points (.70 per play).
Grubbs: Ben had a second consecutive difficult game in pass protection with parts of 4 pass rush events. He was pancaked on 1 run, but otherwise was outstanding as a run blocker. I scored him for 7 blocks in level 2 and 2 pancakes. Scoring: 52 blocks, 6 missed, 1 pressure, 1/2 QH, 5/6 sack (1/2 + 1/3), 43.5 points (.70 per play). That breaks down to .24 as a pass blocker and .90 as a run blocker.
Birk: Matt had only 2 negative plays. He was party to the sack on the Ravens 3rd offensive play (Q1, 12:50). Watching Grubbs’ false start (Q2, 4:27), it looks to me Birk forgot the snap count. All of the other linemen were out of their stance virtually simultaneously. That’s enough evidence for me to score it as his flag. While he made fewer mobility contributions on Sunday, he was part of a number of double teams that were effective in creating holes against the Saint DTs where many of the rushing yards were accumulated. Scoring: 60 blocks, 1 missed, 1/2 sack, 55 points (.89 per play).
Chester: Chris returned from his 1-week hiatus to replace Cousins as the starting right guard. He was driven back for a pressure by Charleston (Q4, 3:04), and shared part of the sack mentioned for Birk above. Among his 9 missed blocks were 5 pulls. I can’t recall a game where a Ravens’ lineman had a 2 for 7 game pulling. Scoring: 51 blocks, 9 missed, 1 pressure, ½ sack, 47 points (.76 per play).
Yanda: Antonio Brown beat Marshal inside to take down Rice for a loss of 1 (Q3, 14:54). It was Yanda’s only negative play in a physical game. We’ve seen fewer mauling opportunities for him at RT than at RG, but he took it to the Saints with 4 blocks in level 2 and 3 pancakes. Scoring: 56 blocks, 1 penetration, 54 points (.87 per play).
Moll: Tony was inserted for 5 snaps in the 6-man line. Excluding Cousins’ start at Houston, this was the first game since the opener against the Jets (Ngata) that anyone but Oneil had been used as the 6th lineman. Tony’s previous snaps were as part of a 7-man line and at guard. Scoring: 4 blocks, 1 missed (.80 per play).
Other Offensive Notes:
· It’s not a revelation that Ray Rice is a player who is most dangerous in space. On Sunday, the Ravens were able to consistently provide such opportunities and Rice had his best game of the season. The biggest difference between the 2009 and 2010 versions of Ray Rice has been the missed tackles he’s caused in the run game. Per PFF, he had only 3 MTs entering Sunday’s game. While some of that is Rice, the offensive line has failed to create as many opportunities to break through a big hole into level 2 where space and the size of the defenders improve the chances for misses.
· Rice’s season as a receiver is very similar to 2009. He had 11 MTs prior to the game against New Orleans and picked up several more (PFF scores it as 3) on 2 long runs after the catch. The nature of the screen pass and check down maximize his elusiveness and ability to explode through 1 tackler who isn’t squared up. For the year, he’s recorded 103% of his receiving yards after the catch. While I notice Rice making more catches down the field (like Sunday’s TD), his average reception occurs 0.3 yards behind the LoS.
· I didn’t like the field goal attempt (Q4, 0:13) on the game’s next-to-last play. It merely provided the Saints with 2 additional opportunities to win (blocked FG or kickoff return). Had the Ravens instead run a QB sneak, they would have made the first down perhaps 60% of the time and allowed a single play from the Saints’ 9-yard line 40% of the time. Most teams would use their regular set of offensive linemen in such a situation which should reduce the probability of a TD relative to a special teams play.
· The Ravens only once kept in 3 eligible receivers to block (Q1, 5:40), but Flacco’s pass went incomplete deep right for Pitta as Grubbs was beaten outside for pressure after he pulled.
· The Ravens ran the same play on their last 3 offensive snaps with Moll and a 2nd TE lined up on the right side, Grubbs pulling, and a 2-back set. Rice ran for 3 yards each time.
· Flacco had ample time and space (ATS) on 12 of 23 drop backs (52%). On those 12 plays, Joe completed 6 of 11 passes for 148 yards and 2 TDs. He also ran out of a clean pocket and out of bounds without unloading (Q3, 13:40), taking a sack for -4. In total, he had 144 net yards on 12 plays (12.0 YPP). On three occasions, the Ravens were able to hold off a 6-man rush and provide ATS for gains of 34 (Q1, 4:53), 42 (Q2, 5:54), and 15 (Q4, 5:31) to Dickson, Mason, and TJH respectively.
· On his 11 dropbacks without ATS, Flacco completed 4 of 9 passes for 24 gross yards (4 net) and 2 sacks for -20 (0.4 YPP). He did not have a TD or interception. Of his non-ATS thrown, his Hail Mary to end the first half showed elusiveness and gave the Ravens an excellent chance to score with 3 receivers (Houshmandzadeh, Boldin, Mason) surrounding 2 defenders on the painted Ravens’ head. Darren Sharper made a leaping PD to save a TD.