Much is made of the mini-bye week teams enjoy after a Thursday night game. The Ravens had extra time to prepare, delivered an offensive performance which was varied, and directly attacked the Brown biggest weakness.
What’s so creative about running the ball a franchise-record 55 times?
I can’t imagine a team running the ball more different ways than the Ravens did Sunday. Let’s review:
• The Ravens successfully used both zone and straight ahead blocking
• They used a 6-man formation (6 plays)
• They ran the 6-man formation unbalanced (3 of those 6)
• Yanda (5 times) and Oher (3) were each used to pull
• They got good downfield blocking from their receivers
• They ran 2 naked pitches to the right while zone blocking left
• They ran a “student body right” sweep where Oher and Yanda both pulled and Dickson attempted to seal the edge
• They ran a reverse to Torrey Smith
• They ran Vonta Leach (3 career carries prior to 2011) 4 times
• They ran a wildcat play with Tyrod Taylor taking a direct snap
This was a well-developed and detailed game plan that was a pleasure to watch. The Browns have difficulty stopping the run normally, but the added scheme kept them honest while the added time on the field kept them tired.
The Ravens had 76 offensive snaps excluding the 3 kneels.
McKinnie: McKinney continues to have difficulty contributing to the running game if the play isn’t headed left. I scored him for ½ a penetration when he gave up on Mitchell (Q1, 2:33) on the reverse by Torrey Smith. He had a false start (Q2, 6:37) which helped stall the Ravens 3rd drive. On the plus side, he didn’t have any negative plays as a pass blocker. Bryant had 2 blocks in level 2. Scoring: 67 blocks, 8 missed, 1/2 penetration, 1 false start, 63 points (.83 per play).
Grubbs: The story for Grubbs and Yanda in this game was mobility. Ben and Marshal Yanda each had 13 blocks in level 2 which is the most I can ever recall scoring. Ben added 2 pancakes. He shared the aforementioned penetration with McKinney when he couldn’t handle Phil Taylor. He also allowed a tough QH to Jackson who stunted through the left B gap to knock down Flacco (Q3, 8:49). On that play, he handed off responsibility for Brown and was too late to get back. Scoring: 71 blocks, 2 missed, ½ penetration, ½ pressure, 1 QH, 66 points (.87 per play). If you think he didn’t deserve the QH, it would be .92. Ben has now scored between .85 and .95 for each of the 5 games since returning.
Birk: Matt shared a pressure with Grubbs on the Ravens’ first drive (Q1, 8:10) when Paxson recorded a PD at the LoS. Birk’s worst block of the day came on the Ravens failed 4th-down attempt (Q1, 7:19). He moved into level 2 before making an attempt to block either Taylor (left) or Rubin (right). Each was engaged by a guard, but moving either would have kept the play from getting stacked up. Birk was twice spelled by Gurode and missed a total of 12 competitive snaps. He had 3 blocks in level 2. Scoring: 57 blocks, 6 missed, ½ pressure, 56 points (.88 per play).
Yanda: Marshal did a little bit of everything. He pulled successfully on all 5 attempts. Among his 13 level-2 blocks were a number where he pushed a linebacker several yards back. He had 1 pancake. Most importantly, Yanda was perfect in pass protection with no negative events or misses. He’s the NFL’s best guard and it would be a travesty if he is anywhere but Hawaii or packing for Indianapolis on January 29th. Scoring: 73 blocks, 3 missed, 73 points (.96 per play).
Oher: Michael drew the Browns best lineman, Jabaal Sheard, who beat him inside to take down Ricky Williams for a loss of 4 (Q1, 8:48). He was beaten inside by Sheard for a pressure on Flacco’s 26-yard fluttering completion to Pitta (Q2, 7:15). He was beaten cleanly to the outside by Sheard (Q3, 8:10) on the lone sack. Flacco stepped up, but Oher had minimal outside push, so Sheard’s route back to Flacco was quicker. Oher had 9 blocks in level 2 and succeeded on 1 of 3 pull attempts. Scoring: 69 blocks, 2 missed, 1 penetration, 1 pressure, 1 sack, 59 points (.78 per play). Given the level of competition, I’d call it a B- effort.
Gurode: Scoring 11 blocks, 1 missed, 11 points (.92 per play). Gurode looks much more comfortable at center than guard.
Reid: Reid had 6 snaps in jumbo formations and made all of his blocks.
Other Offensive Notes:
• On Sunday, Flacco had ATS on 13 of his 24 pass attempts (54%). With ATS, he completed 6 of 13 passes for 96 yards with 0 TDs and 0 INT (7.4 YPP). That’s certainly not a good result with ATS, but he played a very conservative style which I would attribute to the weather and an apparent desire on the Ravens’ part to avoid as much turnover risk as possible. Flacco’s most dangerous throw (Q1, 8:10) was a jump pass that was deflected off the helmet of Paxson and dropped by Sheldon Brown for what should have been a pick. The ball may have slipped from his hand.
• Without ATS, Joe completed 4 of 10 for 62 yards (60 net), 0 TD/ 0 INT with 1 sack for -2 that he fumbled (5.5 YPP).
• Lee Evans is having a lousy season when he is on the field. He played another 22 snaps and was targeted 3 times with 0 catches. Of those, 1 was a drop (Q3, 13:06) that would have converted 3rd and 8. Another could have been caught for a TD at the goal line (Q2, 0:19), but Haden got his hand through for a PD. That was a case where either a bigger body or a little better block out would have enabled the catch. The 3rd was a deep ball thrown just out of bounds by Flacco. That doesn’t seem like Evans’ fault, but because Evans isn’t getting good separation, he’s not able to create more space by the sideline to make a bigger target area for Joe. For the season he’s caught just 3 of the 14 balls thrown his way and he has not shown good speed since returning from the injury.
• In addition to his 700th career catch, Boldin had another drop to extend his streak to 5 games. He contributed 2 good down field run blocks.
• Vonta Leach had a career game. He had 5 touches (4 runs and 1 pass reception), all of which went for first downs. All 3 of his runs prior to 2011 were for exactly 1 yard. Ray Rice helped sell one of the runs (Q2, 7:53) by moving outside to accept a pitch as the ball went to Leach in the middle. He wasn’t perfect as a run blocker, but he had several fine blocks on Maiava in particular (Q1, 10:05 and Q3, 5:00)
• The wildcat play (Q2, 13:47) was an outstanding effort by Tyrod Taylor on his first NFL snap. He lined up in the shotgun with an empty backfield. Dickson missed Sheard as he attempted to seal the right side and allowed initial penetration. Taylor outraced Sheard to the edge. Oher also pulled right and missed Gocong. Tyrod juked past Gocong to turn a big loss into a gain of 2. Rice would score on the next play. Taylor has earned some additional playing time.
• The student body right (Q2, 5:33) was set up for a big gain. Oher pancaked Hagg, Yanda flattened Sheard, and Dickson pancaked Haden. Despite the 3 pancakes, Rice tripped over Dickson to hold the gain to 5 yards.
• Dickson had a 25-yard catch (Q2, 2:20), his longest of the season. He had several issues as a run blocker previously mentioned.
Rice’s day deserves a breakdown of the highlights. He had 5 runs of 10+ yards:
• (Q1, 11:19): McKinney blocked Mitchell, Leach blocked Maiava, Grubbs blocked Jackson, and Yanda blocked Gocong to create a clear lane for Rice’s 30-yard run on the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage.
• (Q1, 3:55): The Ravens all blocked left and Flacco pitched right to Rice who ran alone for 14 yards. Evans failed to get a hand on Haden who slowed up Rice.
• (Q1, 3:12): Zone block left, Oher blocked Sheard right. Rice cut back through the right B gap for 10 yards.
• (Q3, 15:00): Rice ran middle for 11 yards as Yanda and Birk drove Rubin back 6 yards.
• (Q3, 5:48): Rice cut back through the right B gap as the Ravens blocked left. Torrey Smith maintained a block 12 yards down the field on the left side. When Adams dove and missed near midfield, Rice was chased only by Mitchell, Jackson, and Maiava, who are all slower men. He got a 20 yard push from Boldin on Haden (from the 30 to the 10) before Jackson finally pushed him out of bounds.