Once again with the 2010 Ravens we are find ourselves complaining about a win. Is that warranted?
I’ve got a different answer for the game result than I do for the potential impact on the playoffs.
Sunday’s game was rendered meaningless by 2 PM EST with the Steelers cruising against the Browns. Did the Ravens pull their defensive stars and prepare for a road playoff game that might have been 6 days away? Not exactly. Several defenders were retired as the game progressed, but the reasons aren’t all clear at this writing:
• Wilson was injured on the 7th defensive snap (Q1, 5:36) and did not return. He took a helmet-to-helmet shot from Coffman. It gave every appearance of a concussion, particularly since Harbaugh is quoted as saying other players could have returned. Webb played every remaining snap and Washington was inserted on the outside in nickel alignments.
• Dannell Ellerbe, who had made contributions the past 3 weeks did not play again after the 3rd defensive drive (Q2, 12:52). I didn’t see anyone down at the game, nothing is mentioned in the Gamebook, and it’s not apparent what might have happened from the broadcast. One site listed it as a stinger, but that site also had Wilson listed as a stinger. Ellerbe had been inserted on 8 snaps which could generally be termed passing situations where Gooden would typically be inserted. Rather than return Ayanbadejo to his old role as the 3rd down coverage linebacker, McClain played every snap the remainder of the game.
• Haloti Ngata was next to exit (Q3, 8:12). He would not return after his fumble recovery. As of this writing, no injury has been disclosed. That left the Ravens very thin on the defensive line, particularly in terms of pass rushers. Redding sat only 2 snaps after Ngata’s departure.
• Ed Reed left after assisting on a tackle (Q4, 7:17). Nakamura would play the remainder of the game. While Reed’s play was significant in delivering the win, he’s one of the first players I’d want to have extra rest.
Who didn’t see much action that was active defensively? In the secondary, Cary Williams (0 snaps). Among linebackers, Ayanbadejo and Phillips did not line up defensively and Burgess played only 2 snaps.
So let’s recap…Playing a meaningless game, with a road playoff game looming, the Ravens had Ray Lewis (75), Jarrett Johnson (75), Jameel McClain (67), Cory Redding (58), and Terrell Suggs (75) play virtually all of the 75 snaps. In terms of the game result, it’s amazing the men left on the field were able to complete the task given how short-handed they were. In terms of preparation for the game that matters, we’ll see next weekend.
On to the statistics (excluding the spike):
Vs. the Run: 31 plays, 90 yards, 2.9 YPC
Vs. the Pass: 44/305, 6.9 YPP
Overall: 75/395, 5.3 YPPA
By number of defensive backs
Short Yardage (3 DBs): 1/2, 2.0 YPPA
Standard (4 DBs): 40/178, 4.5 YPPA, 2 TO
Nickel (5 DBs): 31/181, 5.8 YPPA, 3 TO
Dime (6 DBs): 3/34, 11.3 YPPA
By number of pass rushers
3: 4/20, 5.0 YPP, 1 TO
4: 13/130,10.0 YPP, 1 TO
5: 21/121, 5.8 YPP, 1 TO
6: 4/19, 4.8 YPP, 1 TO
7+: 2/15, 7.5 YPP
• Cody played his best game to date. He’ll be a penetrator as his career progresses, but right now, many of his snaps look like the Oklahoma drill. He’s trying to hold off the lineman with 1 hand and get an arm on the ball carrier. The play which best exemplifies this is probably his takedown of Scott (Q2, 11:15). He played 17 non-penalty snaps which is his 2nd highest total of the season (Atl 17, Car 18). His contributions were significant to the Ravens success on 3rd/4th and short (see below).
• McClain was much more aggressive at picking and shooting gaps than he had been to date. Good examples are his tackles of Benson (Q4, 14:23 and Q4, 2:29). He registered a QH on a delayed blitz (Q3, 11:26) that is incorrectly credited to JJ in the Gamebook. He also made significant contributions to the 3rd/4th and short success (see below). Simpson maneuvered through 2 levels of zone (Q4, 0:38) to record a 19-yard gain. McClain couldn’t cover Simpson for very long normally, but that was a case where his snaps played might have been an issue. Teams don’t peak without individuals peaking and Jameel is one player from whom the Ravens need a big post season.
• Landry looked bad on consecutive plays in the final minute. On the first play of the Bengals final drive (Q4, 0:45), all three corners (Washington, Carr, and Webb) lined up opposite their assignments on the line of scrimmage, threatening to jam. The Ravens rushed 4 and had 2 deep safeties. Landry lined up between the right hash and the numbers and could have had deep responsibility to Webb’s side, but he was forced to cover Shipley in the middle of the field as Caldwell beat Webb for 39 yards down the sideline. That one wasn’t his fault. On the very next play (Q4, 0:38), Landry gave significant space between he and McClain as Palmer found Simpson for another 19 yards and a clock stoppage. Those first 2 plays covered 58 yards in 12 seconds.
• Lewis played well after several off weeks. He and JJ had good coverage on Benson (Q1, 3:50) which forced Palmer to ground his pass. He worked around a double team forced by Haloti Ngata (Whitworth, Livings) to take down Benson for a 3-yard loss (Q2, 14:10). Lewis and Johnson used pre-snap movement to induce a false start by Williams (Q2, 0:30). That’s something the Ravens have missed since the Ryan era when more opponent false starts were a result of defensive movement, particularly at home. He made an across-the-field dash to take down Kelly for a gain of just 3 (Q3, 12:06). Kelly would again make a catch (Q4, 8:49) for 3 yards on 2nd and 4. Rather than take the hit and use his size and athleticism to get the first down, he tried to get down as Lewis approached. Finally (when are Ray Lewis highlights ever too much?), his hard, clean takedown of Caldwell short of the first down (Q4, 0:33) forced Palmer to spike the next snap and reduced the Bengals to 2 chances to score from the 2-yard line. He led the team with 11 tackles.
• Lewis is 2nd only to Ed Reed in terms of ball skills in Ravens history. That includes both balls on the ground and in the air. Landry was closer to Simpson’s fumble (Q2, 10:39), but Ray got there first. He bit on Palmer’s pump fake (Q4, 2:00) as the Bengals QB took off to run. Ray pursued and was in the right place to recover Palmer’s non-contact fumble.
• Lewis or Reed both turned in outstanding efforts. Neither is the player he once was. So what? No one is the player either of them used to be. Let’s hope they have something in the tank for next week.
• Down to 6 DBs late, the Ravens would not use a single dime alignment with Cary Williams, but instead stayed with the nickel. That’s a little surprising given Williams was fresh and they had used him as a 3rd safety in dime alignments several times in the last few weeks.
• Webb had an up-and-down game. He continued to hit like a safety (9 tackles) and provide support in the run game in 68 snaps. His glaring miss (Q3, 5:47) allowed Caldwell to turn a loss into a gain of 9. He also had 2 PDs including the tip that became Reed’s 1st interception (Q1, 14:19). He played too soft allowing Caldwell to convert a 3rd and 12 for 15 yards (Q4, 13:15). On the very next play, he was beaten over the top by Simpson in the right corner of the end zone for Cincinnati’s only TD. I have a difficult time blaming him for Caldwell’s grab (Q4, 0:45) without over-the-top help. It was simply a well-thrown ball with Webb starting in press coverage.