Defensive Analysis ~ Ravens vs. Texans

Filmstudy Defensive Analysis ~ Ravens vs. Texans

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The Ravens entered Sunday’s game a little thin on the defensive line with Chris Canty and Brandon Williams both sidelined.

When Terrence Cody was injured on the first drive and the Texans ran out snapped the Ravens 22-6 in the first quarter, the situation didn’t look better.

Few teams could successfully recover from being both overworked and short-handed, but the Ravens did so and won a lopsided 30-9 decision versus the Texans. To summarize the Ravens’ defensive wins:

• They did not allow a pass (or any play for that matter) longer than 18 yards.
• They did not allow a run longer than 10 yards.
• They were penalized 7 times for 67 yards in the first 18 minutes, then just 3 for 20 the rest of the way
• Meanwhile, the Texans were penalized 14 times for 113 yards
• They won the turnover battle 1-0 with a pick-6
• The Texans converted 3rd down just once in their final 10 opportunities


The Texans ran 61 plays, all of which were competitive:


Versus the Run: 23 plays, 94 yards, 4.1 YPC
Versus the Pass: 38 plays, 170 yards, 4.5 YPP
Overall: 61 plays, 264 yards, 4.3 YPPA

By number of defensive backs:

4 DBs: 32 plays, 141 yards, 4.4 YPPA, 1 sack, 1 TO
5 DBs: 11/74, 6.7 YPPA
6 DBs+: 18/49, 2.7 YPPA, 2 sacks

By number of pass rushers:

3: None
4: 25/81, 3.2 YPP, 3 sacks, 1 TO
5: 7/59, 8.4 YPP
6: 6/30, 5.0 YPP
7: None



• The Ravens played without Arthur Brown and Pees responded by using the dime in most passing situations. Smith was teamed with a 4-man front (rotating) and a defensive backfield of Elam, Huff, Ihedigbo, Graham, Smith, and Webb. Huff was invisible as a deep centerfielder, but the results were excellent as the Texans gained just 2.7 YPPA in 18 snaps against the dime.

• The Ravens’ secondary played very soft by design for much of the game and in particular with a big 2nd-half lead. That led to a number of 5-8 yard completions underneath.

• Elam had an up-and-down game both in coverage and as a tackler, but he showed outstanding closing speed on deep route down left sideline (Q1, 10:39) when Jimmy Smith was flagged for illegal contact.

• James Ihedigbo turned his best game as a Raven:

o (Q1, 8:00) He took down Foster for a loss of 1 to clean up after Jones’ penetration.
o (Q1, 7:15) He stripped Daniels of a potential 3rd-down conversion between the numbers and right hash.
o (Q2, 1:13) Ihedigbo flashed past a block from RG Brooks to take down Foster for a loss of 2 on a screen pass between the numbers and right hash.
o (Q3, 8:44) He evaded FB Jones to take down Tate for a gain of just 1.
o (Q4, 6:36) He fought past Newton’s block to take down Posey for a gain of 6 by the right sideline. The play appeared well designed with 3 blockers out front, but James blew it up.
o (Q4, 5:03) On the Texans’ last meaningful play, Schaub’s screen pass for Foster was off target, but Ihedigbo had tight coverage and would have denied the conversion even if Foster had caught it. He was credited with his 2nd PD.

• Most of the Ravens’ pass-rush success came with plain vanilla looks, but they used some interesting alignments:

o Courtney Upshaw lined up at DT on a number of passing situations.
o McPhee was used both as an inside and outside rusher, including what I think is the Ravens’ most potent 4-man front (Dumervil, McPhee, Ngata, Suggs).
o Ihedigbo lined up at the LoS on a number of passing downs.
o Smith would frequently threaten an A or B-gap blitz at the snap.

• The Ravens took advantage of both Texans tackles. All-Pro LT Duane Brown was the game’s most significant injury outside the world of fantasy football. Brown’s absence left the Texans with Ryan Harris at LT and Derek Newton at RT, both of whom are mediocre pass blockers. The Ravens applied solid pressure, which resulted in 3 sacks among just 25 4-man rushes.

• Arthur Jones recorded his second sack in 2 games. He also had a penetration by first Newton, then Graham, to blow Foster’s run (Q1, 8:00) that was cleaned up by Ihedigbo. He was pancaked, but from the ground was able to collect the ankles of Foster to take him down for a gain of 2 (Q3, 10:33) with help from Ihedigbo.

• Marcus Spears had his best game in his short tenure with the Ravens. He diagnosed the screen to Daniels on the Texans’ first offensive play (Q1, 14:55) and made the tackle for a loss of 2. He pancaked Graham to take down Foster for a loss of 2 (Q3, 3:37). Who would have guessed Spears would become a consistent 30-snap performer after just 9 preseason snaps?

• Snap counts by defensive linemen (and those who frequently rush the passer from a 3-point stance) were Cody 3, Dumervil 43, Jones 31, McPhee 17 (including snaps both at DT and OLB), Ngata 51, Spears 33, Suggs 51, Tyson 13.

• The early results of the OLB platoon are outstanding. Suggs continues to play the run well. Dumervil has been used in coverage much more than I would have expected.  Both are rushing the passer effectively. They are playing fewer snaps than in the past but in each case, less is more.

• Ngata’s high snap count is a point of concern with regard to effectiveness. He swam by LG Wade Smith for a 9-yard sack (Q2, 1:55), but he didn’t have the impact on the run game he did in the first 2 weeks. He played just 66% of snaps the first 2 weeks (average of 42 snaps), but 84% (51 snaps) in week 3.

• The loss of Cody is a serious blow to a team with existing injury issues on the defensive line. Cody had played well against the Browns and the other true nose tackle on the depth chart, Brandon Williams, is still battling a toe injury. While Cody’s injury has been categorized as short-term by Harbaugh, the club may have to locate another NT.

• Pernell McPhee was held in reserve for much of the first half. Going into the last drive of the half, he had played just 3 non-penalty snaps (plus 2 other penalties). He would play 14 more snaps and knocked down Schaub 3 times:

o (Q2, 0:26) McPhee lined up standing at LDE. He worked past Newton on the outside to contact Schaub after he delivered. The camera panned away, but I have since confirmed from the coaches video.
o (Q3, 9:20) McPhee lined up standing at ROLB and was much too quick for LT Harris who he beat with a stutter step inside.  Schaub threw to Hopkins for a gain of 6. The Gamebook, and thus the NFL stat totals, credited that QH to Dumervil who was not on the field.
o (Q3, 0:37) Pernell lined up at LDT and beat LG Smith outside to drop Schaub. The pass was incomplete deep left for Martin.

He would finish with just 1 tackle, but his pressure contributed to the Texans’ inability to throw deep.

• There is no reason to stop talking about Daryl Smith until he stops playing this well. Smith’s pick-6 was a rare instance where virtually no one but he or Schaub had a hand. The Texans’ QB stared down his initial read. Smith anticipated the throw and made his break just on time. He didn’t pick up a single block on the return, but didn’t need any to outrace the LT Harris to the right pylon. Smith had a game-high 10 tackles and recorded a QH (Q3, 0:44) when he beat Graham, who had lined up in the backfield on an A-gap blitz. Smith was a sure tackler, but did not make any tackles closer than 3 yards from the LoS.

• I love to see any sort of passing-down creativity that may confuse. An example from Sunday’s game was lining up Smith in a 3-point stance at DT (Q2, 0:20). He was one on 6 pass rushers on a play that was completed for 16 yards, so it didn’t work this time. You don’t give up on the running game every time the running back goes down for a loss of 1, do you?

• Bynes struggled with Texans FB Greg Jones. Jones neutralized Bynes on several of the Texans’ longest runs:

o (Q1, 8:37) Suggs made an inside move to lose the right edge to Newton. Jones pushed Bynes back 5 yards to clear the way for a 10-yard run by Foster. Bynes eventually slipped off the block and took down Foster by his ankles.
o (Q1, 2:06) Foster ran left for 10 yards with Jones’ block on Bynes leading the way. Foster was slow to exploit the outstanding seal from Jones or the play might have been longer.
o (Q3, 10:00) Jones again made the lead block on Bynes as Foster ran right for 8 yards.

Jones whiffed on Bynes’ A-gap blitz for a QH (Q2, 10:54). Josh was lined up to deliver a huge hit on Andre Johnson (Q1, 7:20) when he the ball sailed over the receiver’s arms. He smartly held up when a big hit might have been flagged to set up 1st and goal.

• The Texans did not attempt to run the no huddle until midway through the 4th quarter.

The Ravens have not allowed a defensive touchdown in the last 3 games at home (including the Wild Card win versus Indianapolis) for the first time in team history. Prior to the current streak, the last time the Ravens went consecutive home games without allowing a TD was the last 2 games of 2001. The last TD allowed at home was scored in the 4th quarter by the Giants in week 16 of last season, won by the Ravens 33-14.

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Ken McKusick

About Ken McKusick

Known as “Filmstudy” from his handle on area message boards, Ken is a lifelong Baltimorean and rabid fan of Baltimore sports. He grew up within walking distance of Memorial Stadium and attended all but a handful of Orioles games from 1979 through 2001. He got his start in sports modeling with baseball in the mid 1980’s. He began writing about the Ravens in 2006 and maintains a library of video for every game the team has played. He’s a graduate of Syracuse with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Math who recently retired from his actuarial career to pursue his passion as a football analyst full time. If you have math or modeling questions related to sports or gambling, Ken is always interested in hearing new problems or ideas. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @filmstudyravens. More from Ken McKusick


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