It’s a week where nearly everything you read about the Ravens will be negative and Sunday’s game was a disaster in terms of injuries and ineffectiveness on the offensive side of the ball. However, the Ravens defense played well and deserved a better fate.
In particular, 3 Ravens turned in outstanding performances, which should provide some glimmer of hope a possible playoff appearance may not be simply a waste of draft position:
Rashaan Melvin allowed just 2 completions in 10 passes to his assignment and contributed a couple of nice plays away from the ball. Here are my notes:
- (Q1, 15:00) Melvin lined up in press coverage of Andre Johnson, but did not use his hands to disrupt the outside release. While he stayed close, Johnson gave him a slight push for separation, which resulted in a 35-yard gain down the left sideline.
- (Q1, 13:55) Melvin lined up soft on A. Johnson and surrendered a 7-yard reception near the left numbers. That was the last completion he would allow the entire game.
- (Q1, 11:34) Melvin used his hands effectively and used the left sideline well (a recurring theme) as Keenum threw incomplete to Hopkins.
- (Q1, 6:37) AJ beat press coverage by Melvin, but was unable to gain separation up the left sideline. Despite ample time, Keenum overthrew Mr. 1000 into the waiting arms of Darian Stewart for the Ravens’ only takeaway.
- (Q1, 0:10) Melvin lined up soft versus AJ, but broke on the route as pressure developed quickly. The throw was well off target between the left sideline and numbers.
- (Q2, 12:13) Melvin again pressed Hopkins effectively, and the speedy receiver was unable to outrace the coverage or adjust to the football 25 yards down the left sideline.
- (Q2, 6:22) Rashaan undercut Duane Brown to reduce Foster’s room to stretch on a 5-yard run chased down by Suggs to deny a 3rd-and-10 conversion.
- (Q2, 4:10) Melvin again pressed effectively versus Johnson, disrupting the route by perhaps 1 second. Despite a clean pocket, Keenum had to wait, and threw low. The ball popped out of AJ’s hands and was nearly intercepted by Mosley.
- (Q2, 0:46) Foster ran left for 5 yards. Melvin missed the tackle 1 yard from the LoS.
- (Q3, 9:48) Keenum completed a 7-yard pass to Hopkins (covered by Mosley) near the left sideline. Rashaan made a hard, low tackle to force a fumble that rolled out of bounds at the 3-yard line. The Ravens’ subsequent stand would make that a 4-point swing. Hill talked to Mosley after the play.
- (Q3, 8:10) The Texans attempted a pick play on 3rd and goal with D. Johnson shouldering Melvin to free AJ. The pass was incomplete and Melvin stood his ground to draw the flag as insurance.
- (Q4, 15:00) Melvin again pressed versus Hopkins, but was also able to stay with him 20 yards up the left sideline. The pass would have been nearly impossible to catch in bounds, but Hopkins made the reception as Melvin forced him out.
- (Q4, 10:04) Rashaan had press coverage of Andre again, but this time in the slot. He maintained contact for the full 5 yards, disrupting the route as Keenum threw incomplete.
Now I remember what a good press corner looks like. Yes, I know it was Bortles and Keenum, but 3 completions allowed in 14 targets should be reason for optimism.
Brandon Williams made the most of a physical mismatch to provide consistent run blow ups:
- (Q1, 12:04) BW drove back center Myers to stretch Foster right. Upshaw and Stewart cleaned up for a loss of 2.
- (Q1, 5:11) Williams again drove Myers 4 yards back to blow up Foster. McPhee cleaned up for no gain.
- (Q1, 0:54) BW drove Myers back 3 yards to contain Foster to a 2-yard gain.
- (Q3, 0:53) On the 10th play of the Texans’ longest drive, both Williams and Jernigan were driven back several yards as Foster ran up the middle for 7. The Ravens defense appeared very tired.
- (Q4, 12:00) Williams forced Foster to stretch effectively, but Foster got him turning the wrong way with a double move that would end in a run of 34. It’s a shame Williams could be made to look foolish on a play where he was effective, but the Ravens were unable to swarm to the ball.
- (Q4, 5:10) The Texans’ zone-blocked stretch broke down on several individual wins by the Ravens defenders including BW’s push on Myers. Upshaw made the tackle for a loss of 1.
- (Q4, 4:25) Williams penetrated past RG Newton to blow up Foster’s run up the middle for 1 yard.
- (Q4, 2:00) Williams drove back Myers 4 yards as Stewart and Hill took down Blue for a loss of 2.
Williams played a career-high 61 snaps and perhaps his best career game (he was also outstanding at TB and NO). Per PFF, it was the worst game of the season for his opponent, Chris Myers. Myers has been one of the league’s best centers over the past few seasons.
Pernell McPhee continued his fine season with another big effort from both the inside and outside. He had a career-high 6 tackles (high of 4 on 3 previous occasions) which not only wasn’t accurate, but doesn’t do justice to the effort:
- (Q1, 5:20) He beat TE Griffin then LT Brown to deliver a QH on Keenum.
- (Q1, 5:11) He tackled Foster for no gain off penetration from Williams.
- (Q1, 4:28) McPhee was driven back several yards by Myers and Newton, broke free, but missed the tackle as Foster ran for 11 yards to convert 3rd and 10.
- (Q1, 1:04) He was offsides to negate an incomplete forced by an unblocked QH from Upshaw.
- (Q2, 10:58) The Texans zone blocked left, but threw a quick out to D Johnson near the right sideline. McPhee beat the block of Clabo to tackle the receiver for a loss of 1.
- (Q2, 10:13) Pernell beat Myers right for a hard QH on Keenum as his pass went incomplete.
- (Q2, 6:30) Keenum threw left for D Johnson, but McPhee swatted the pass away as he rushed from ROLB.
- (Q2, 3:40) He crossed the formation to chase down Foster for a loss of 1 by the right sideline.
- (Q2, 0:37) He drove back LG Jones 2 yards and tackled Foster for a loss of 2. That tackle was miscredited to Suggs (unassisted).
- (Q3, 13:00) McPhee anticipated the snap and penetrated 4 yards into the backfield to blow up the play. Foster slipped as he redirected and Jernigan was first to touch him down. McPhee was 2nd to Foster, but Daryl Smith was credited with the assist.
There were several other positive signs on defense:
- Lardarius Webb continued his recent effective play, including an end-zone breakup versus Hopkins (Q2, 4:03).
- Will Hill had some nice run support efforts late and had a key tackle of D. Johnson to deny a 3rd and 8 conversion (Q1, 0:07). He also affected the trajectory of Foster’s halfback pass with good pressure (Q2, 2:00), but Mosley had bitten hard on the fake to lose coverage.
- Darian Stewart was in position for an interception. We have rarely seen a Raven safety in good bracket coverage this season. Stewart also cleaned up on several run plays.
- Lawrence Guy continued to play well against the run and provided pressure.
- Despite allowing the Texans 81 offensive snaps, the Ravens allowed just 3.9 yards per play.
Not everything went well for the Ravens’ defense, but they were not responsible for the loss.
If you enjoy wallowing in misery, you’ll need to wait for my offensive line column and Flacco’s ATS results.