Winning on Cruise Control

Filmstudy Winning on Cruise Control

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It’s one thing to win your opener 20-0 on the road, but it’s another to do it the way the Ravens did.

In reviewing the effort another time, defensive coordinator Dean Pees used virtually nothing deceptive or unusual from the playbook.  Let’s review:

Simplicity of Package

The Ravens played 3 vanilla DB schemes, standard (4 DBs, 10 snaps), nickel (5 DBs, 36 snaps), and dime (6 DBs, 12 snaps). Gone was the “joker” package that included 3 ILBs used frequently on passing downs in 2016. All of the basic packages worked well in their own down/distance/opposing personnel circumstances (none more than 4.2 YPP), so there was no need to present something more complex to confuse the Bengals.

The Ravens simply won the 1-on-1 battles in the front 5 to dominate the game defensively.

Simplicity of Pass Rush

I score each pass rush for the number that rush, the number that drop from the LoS, result in terms of ATS and individual pressure, and elements of deception used.

The latter category includes:

— More than 1 player dropping to cover from the LoS

— Significant pre-snap movement (a staple of the Ryan era)

— Blitzes, defined as a player who rushes, but does not line up inside the slot receivers or further than 1.5 yards from the LoS

— Stunts/Twists that are clearly by design as opposed to movement of the QB.

If a pass rush includes any 2 of these, I label the blitz as “deceptive”. To be clear, 2 blitzes or 2 twists on the same play qualifies as deceptive by this standard.

The Ravens crowded the LoS with pass rushers in this game on several occasions, but only twice did they bring a blitzer by the above definition. Specifically, Jimmy Smith came on a corner blitz (Q2, 5:58) and Lardarius Webb blitzed off the slot (Q2, 1:39). The Ravens did not blitz at all from Safety or LB.

For the game, only 3 pass rushes were deceptive:

— (Q2, 1:39) Webb came on a slot blitz while Peanut Onwuasor and Mosley dropped to zone. Suggs deflected Dalton’s pass high in the air for Webb’s interception.

— (Q2, 0:49) Judon and Mosley both twisted as the “over” players. Pierce took down Dalton on a slow-developing 5-yard sack where Mosley’s pressure forced him up in the pocket.

— (Q4, 9:59) Levine and Mosley dropped to zone while Urban stunted. Dalton had ample time and space, but his pass for Boyd was incomplete.

More can be gleaned from the Ravens pass rush by numbers:


It should be clear that everything worked for the Ravens, but combining the 3 and 4-man pass rush, they delivered 3 sacks and 4 turnovers on just 29 plays, which is truly extraordinary.

Pees rushed 5 just once in the second half to go with 15 rushes with 4 men and 4 rushes with just 3.

For the game Dalton had ATS on just 10 of 36 drop backs (28%) including just 2 of 16 in the first half.

By player, the Ravens pressure events from Sunday:


Note: These are pass snaps played for each player and not necessarily all rushes.  Jefferson pushed Dalton out of bounds for a sack, but did not rush on the play.

The playbook remains closed and that should terrify other AFC teams.


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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.

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