The Infamous 4th and 12
Many of you are probably still numbed by the Ravens loss to the Bengals on Sunday evening.
A team with nothing to play for on the road against a team with everything to play for at home. A team that then fielded the NFL’s 32nd-ranked offense – one that the Ravens shut out on opening day, against the vaunted (albeit overrated) Ravens defense that was ranked 9th overall. A rushing offense that ranked 31st in the league with a decimated offensive line against heralded run stuffers like Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce. A rushing offense with an active stable of healthy and productive running backs taking on the league’s 31st ranked run defense.
Add it up and it seemed like a sure-fire “W” for the Ravens, right?
But that’s why they play the game!
That 32nd-ranked offense steamrolled the Ravens on their opening drive. That 31st-ranked rushing offense ran for 126 yards, averaging 5.5 YPC in the first half alone. That 31st-ranked rushing defense, after the Ravens first two plays from scrimmage (two Alex Collins runs totaling 21 yards), gave up just 12 yards the rest of the half.
One team was prepared to start the game while the other just punched the time clock.
To the Ravens credit they rallied after the break. They pressured Andy Dalton and forced him to get rid of the ball sooner than he wanted and they clamped down on the Bengals running attack in the second half. But like we’ve seen so many times during the Dean Pees era, the Ravens failed to hold a fourth quarter lead and they gave away a game by playing soft.
“I saw it from the sideline. We were in a 2-deep zone coverage. It looked like a seam route to me … You talk about threading the needle. On the move, it was a great throw, great play. It was one of those amazing throws. That’s what I chalk it up to.” ~ John Harbaugh on the Andy Dalton 4th and 12 TD Pass.
I thought that it was interesting how BR.com’s Ryan Mink defended the 4th and 12 play call of Dean Pees.
After watching coaches film of 4th-and-12, I like the play call. Essentially had A.J. Green tripled (Humphrey/Jefferson/Clark). Had the tight ends covered with dropping LBs at the sticks. Still had man coverage with outside corners. Had a another safety (Weddle) at the sticks.
— Ryan Mink (@ryanmink) January 2, 2018
I get that the Ravens official website is a marketing tool in part and that their reporting and commentary comes with prerequisite purple pompoms. It has to. I’m sure Ryan, Garrett Downing and Sarah Ellison would like to be critical when the shoe fits but they’re silenced by the corporate mute button. Understood.
But defending that play call of Pees was like waving those pompoms when Joe Flacco throws a pick.
Let’s review the play from start to finish, assuming you can stomach it.
At the top of the screen you’ll see Bengals RT Eric Winston engaging Matt Judon. Winston, being the crafty 11-year vet that he is, sees that he’s about to be beaten on the game’s most important play and employs some veteran experience. In other words, despite the ticky-tacky officiating crew led by Ronald Torbert, Winston gets away with holding.
Dalton avoids the pressure from both edges because his pocket is extremely clean. Willie Henry apparently gives up on trying to collapse the pocket, hoping instead to deflect the pass when it comes out. Za’Darius Smith who has never been the interior pass rusher that the Ravens hoped he would be like his predecessor Pernell McPhee, seemingly quits on the play given the double-team.
Dalton reloads up and gets ready to fire downfield.
The ball is off and the dagger to the Ravens season is about to be delivered.
Here’s the inviting target that Dalton sees as he prepares to fire. At the 34 yard line, CJ Mosley has dropped into his zone after bluffing a blitz at the LOS. Weddle who was beside Mosley at the LOS also retreats but his drop is late. Canady (top arrow) appears as if he is supposed to provide sideline help to Brandon Carr covering Brandon LaFell but with Weddle arriving late, Canady needed to be a bigger challenge for Tyler Boyd.
John Harbaugh had said after the game that Dalton made a terrific throw, but if you will notice, had he thrown the ball into the middle of the field, the only between Boyd and the end zone is the back judge. So for the moment, Dalton does the Ravens a favor.
The Red Rifle throws the ball towards Canady, forcing Boyd to redirect a bit. But the cushion is so big that the Ravens, without any interior pressure to keep Dalton from sliding up in the pocket, could only hope the Bengals QB would blow the easy throw. He didn’t.
Looking at the play from a different angle, we see Mosley and Chuck Clark still at the LOS as Weddle begins his retreat. Right then Dalton knows he’s got a shot and that Weddle will be a non-factor in the play.
Had the Ravens challenged center Russell Bodine with one of the three players who eventually dropped late into coverage, Dalton might not have been able to climb up into a clean pocket and deliver the kill shot.
And just like that, the season changes and careers will surely be affected.