Defensive Highs And Lows in Cincinnati

Filmstudy Defensive Highs And Lows in Cincinnati

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Defensive Notes vs. Bengals 10/26/14

Matt Elam’s problems mushroomed Sunday with 5 missed tackles versus the Bengals.

How much did that cost the Ravens? Let’s take a look:

• (Q1, 13:27): Sanu was in front of Webb and Elam and leapt to tip the ball to himself for a 48-yard reception (17 + 31 YAC) between the right hash and numbers. Webb anticipated an overthrow and positioned himself for an interception that never arrived. Elam took a bad angle to Sanu and missed the tackle to surrender 29 of the 31 YAC.

• (Q1, 0:38): Elam blitzed off the offensive left side (OLS) and evaded the block of Bernard in the end zone. He missed his tackle on Dalton as the Bengals QB escaped a safety and ran to the 3.

• (Q2, 0:34): Elam was unable to bring down Gresham 7 yards into a 10-yard gain. The play occurred on 3rd and 12, so this was a low-cost miss.

• (Q4, 9:50): Dalton completed a 5-yard pass to Sanu (-4 + 9 YAC) near the right sideline. Sanu evaded a backfield tackle by Elam for 7 of those YAC.  Instead of facing a 3rd and 8, the Bengals easily converted on 3rd and 1.

• (Q4, 2:16): Little caught Dalton’s 3rd-and-2 pass by the left sideline for a gain of 13 (3 +10 YAC). Elam missed the tackle at the 9-yard line. It’s difficult to estimate the value of this miss, but the Bengals’ chance to score would have been less given 1st and goal from the 9 as opposed to the 6.

I estimate Elam’s missed tackles cost the Ravens between 5 and 8 points. These plays could also be evaluated by the individual changes in win probability (see Advanced NFL Stats).

Matt missed just a single snap as the Ravens were again reduced to 2 healthy cornerbacks. Corners are often careful when approaching a pile to avoid injury, but it appeared that Webb and Franks may have received special instructions to avoid any unnecessary tackling following Smith’s injury.

The Bengals ran 63 competitive plays (excluding 1 kneel). That total also excludes penalties, so my snap counts differ in definition from other published totals:


Versus the Run: 33 plays, 112 yards, 3.4 YPC
Versus the Pass: 30 plays, 239 yards, 8.0 YPP
Overall: 63 plays, 351 yards, 5.6 YPPA

By number of defensive backs:

3 DBs: 4 plays, 1 yard, 0.3 YPPA (these were all goal line plays)
4 DBs: 30/139, 4.6 YPPA, 2 sacks, 1 TO
5 DBs: 29/211, 7.3 YPPA, 1 TO

By number of pass rushers:

4: 20 plays, 82 yards, 4.1 YPP, 2 sacks, 2 TO
5: 5/121, 24.2 YPP
6: 4/36, 9.0 YPP
7: 1/0


Other Notes

• The Ravens played awful 3rd-down defense. In total the Bengals ran 14 such plays for 129 yards (9.2 YPPA) including 8 conversions. The 8 pass plays were good for 116 yards (14.5 YPP). The last time the Ravens imploded for a higher average gain per play on 3rd down was just 4 weeks ago when Carolina ran 15 plays on 3rd down for 148 yards (9.9 YPPA). That game was similar in terms of the Ravens playing a number of 2-corner, nickel alignments and Elam was regularly burned by Newton while covering the slot receiver.

Franks was a positive surprise again in the secondary. He played all but 2 snaps after Smith’s injury. He was targeted 7 times and allowed 4 completions for 53 yards, but also knocked down the other 3 passes. His worst play was his first time targeted when he bailed in coverage of Little inside the 10-yard line just as the ex-Brown curled for the reception (Q1, 11:31). Franks then missed the tackle to set the Bengals up with 1st and goal at the 1. He came close to a pick-6 when he jumped Sanu’s route for a deflection by the left sideline (Q4, 8:31). He tipped another overthrow for Sanu that would better have been tipped for the converging Brooks (Q4, 3:59). On the pivotal play of the Bengals’ game-winning drive, Dominique appeared to pass off Sanu to Brooks (Q4, 3:48). Terrence was unable to track the football (or the receiver) and overran the play to allow a completion of 53 (40 + 13 YAC).

Hill played just 12 snaps in relief of Stewart. He did not have any splash plays, but here are my notes:

o (Q3, 7:52) For the 2nd straight play, Hill was late aligning himself opposite Sanu. He peeled off his coverage nicely to stonewall J Hill for a gain of 4 (-7 + 11 YAC) by the right sideline.
o (Q3, 0:18) He lined up deep and was 6-8 yards behind the catch as Dalton completed a 17-yard cross to Tate with Webb trailing and Mosley converging.

In contrast to his first game, Hill was used primarily as a deep safety on Sunday and managed to avoid any serious embarrassment. I would be surprised if he does not see extensive use as a deep safety versus the Steelers given the Ravens’ cornerback situation.

Chykie Brown was a healthy scratch for the 2nd consecutive week. When Smith was hurt, the Ravens had just 2 healthy corners. From that point, the Ravens’ nickel alignments consisted of 3 safeties (Brooks, Elam, and Stewart or Hill) and 2 corners (Franks, Webb). The Ravens have clearly lost any faith in Brown to be willing to risk having fewer than 3 corners available.

• Total snaps for all of the front 7 were:

Screenshot 2014-10-30 07.13.53

• Of particular interest is Suggs’ return to a near full-time role (he missed 3 snaps). Prior to Cincinnati, he provided a high level of play both against the run and as a pass rusher with a reduced snap count.  The 19 snaps by McPhee are also fewer than I expected. His pass rush snaps were primarily from the inside and from a 3-point stance. When in a 2-point stance and on the inside, he gives the Ravens’ pass rush an inherent deceptiveness that has been effective at causing assignment confusion. However, the Ravens did not employ much of his pre-snap movement against the Bengals.

• Of the linemen, Ngata was outstanding. He made 8 tackles, one of his highest career totals, including a game-turning sack/fumble that set up the Ravens’ go-ahead TD (Q4, 6:49). On that play, Ngata lined up at RDE and was not fooled as the Bengals zone blocked to the right with play action and Dalton booted left. The Ravens run that play frequently and Ngata has seen it many times in practice. Dalton is quicker than Flacco, but the play illustrated how difficult it is for a right-handed QB to reset his feet when rolling left. By the time Dalton did, Haloti dislodged the football. His QH (Q3, 1:58) resulted in a 2-yard pass when he bulled Boling to flatten Dalton. He contributed a pressure on the game-winning drive to force an incomplete (Q4, 3:53). He was credited with 5 primary tackles plus 3 assists which were 4, 0, 0, 3, 5, -21, 2, and 0 yards from the LoS. All but his first tackle was a defensive win.

• It was Haloti’s finest defensive game in several years. Another that comes to mind is the 2011 opener when he dominated the line of scrimmage versus Pittsburgh, causing turnovers on consecutive defensive snaps. The other was his 2-sack effort in the 2011 Thanksgiving game versus the 49ers.

The Ravens’ pass rush came back to Earth after 2 incredible performances. In the games against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, the Ravens had a total of 30 QHs (plus 2 others negated by penalty), 10 sacks, 2 drawn holding penalties, and pressured Glennon and Ryan relentlessly. The Bengals line held the Ravens pass rush to 2 sacks, 2 other QHs (Ngata and McPhee), and 3 holding penalties (2 by Andre Smith on Dumervil). They weren’t wholly ineffective by any means, but they failed to make up for secondary deficiencies as they did in 3 of the previous 4 weeks.

• As you can see above, the Ravens failed to get to Dalton with numbers. In fact, the Bengals averaged 15.7 yards per play on the 10 occasions the Ravens rushed 5 or more. The Ravens will need to gamble to either knock Ben out or force some mistakes this week, so the results versus the Bengals should not deter Pees from more pressure schemes.

Smith and Mosley continued to pile up tackles. Occasionally an athlete will burst on the scene and impress by doing something memorable in just about every game. Ravens history is rich with such defenders, specifically Lewis, Boulware, Reed, Suggs, Ngata, Webb, and now Mosley. One characteristic those players all share is an awareness for a football in the air. Another characteristic is a desire to aggressively play fast-break defense. Mosley displayed both Sunday in the span of 2 defensive plays. His pancake of Bodine on Smith’s fumble return (Q4, 6:49) is among the most effective blocks I have ever seen by a man outweighed by 70+ pounds. On the next defensive snap (Q4, 6:24) he collected the football stripped by Elam for an interception and displayed every intention of scoring on the play. He ran a Reed-esque, figure-8 return through a befuddled secondary, but did not receive the blocks necessary for a return that might have greatly improved the Ravens’ chance to win.

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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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