The passing performance versus Denver was a team effort. To summarize:
— The Ravens found schematic ways to deal with the Broncos edge rushers.
— The offensive line did a solid job in pass blocking.
— The receivers found space and did a solid job of holding on to the football (with 1 notable exception) despite sub-optimal conditions.
— Flacco delivered the ball accurately and on time.
We’ll look at each individually.
The Ravens addressed some of the threat of the Broncos edge rushers with scheme. They ran an unbalanced formation on 5 occasions, 4 of which were of the standard variety with James Hurst tucked inside twice on the left side and twice on the right. This is an indication that despite his injury, the team believes Ronnie Stanley remains the best pass-blocking tackle.
The 5th unbalanced play (Q4, 8:35) was a thing of beauty.
Guard Alex Lewis split wide left at the line of scrimmage (photos below). Mark Andrews was outside of him, also at the LoS, which made Lewis ineligible (only the outside 2 of the 7 men on the LoS can be eligible). Prior to the snap, the Denver DBs on that side pointed out there was an extra “receiver” on the left. Von Miller moved out to cover Lewis. At the snap, all 5 eligible receivers took off in the pattern, including Nick Boyle, who was in a 3-point stance where the RT would normally line up. Lewis took a step back and called for the football with both hands high. Miller stayed opposite Lewis and never rushed the passer.
While Lewis could have accepted a lateral and subsequently ran or even thrown a forward pass himself, he would have had to move back 5+ yards to do so. Effectively, Lewis won a 1-on-1, pass-blocking matchup with Von Miller simply by trickery. As an offensive coordinator, you’d take that any time.
Another key scheme component was committing eligible receivers to block. The Ravens kept 16 eligibles in to set block and threw 14 chip blocks, which is an unusually high ratio of chip to set. Most of those chips were redirection by hands that may buy Joe an extra half second, but Alex Collins has thrown some bone-jarring chips the last 2 weeks including a rib buster on DT Zach Kerr (Q1, 11:55).
John Brown was unable to collect a 30-yard throw down the left sideline (Q2, 15:00), but the receivers otherwise had a fine day under adverse circumstances. There were no other drops and the receivers piled up 4 YAC per completion.
Mark Andrews found space in the middle of the field and made a play after the catch on each of his receptions. Willie Snead has been effective on slants. Michael Crabtree may reintroduce the comeback route to the Ravens playbook.
Joe had ATS on 19 of 41 drop backs (46%, excluding 1 spike). That’s about average versus a normal opponent, but good versus the Broncos rush. From there, Flacco improved on his expected results by delivering the ball quickly. He was nearly as effective without ATS as he was with time and space. That was a function of fast-developing routes and his ability to locate his targets quickly. Summarizing his results with and without ATS:
The results were an improvement on his opportunity set, despite the weather:
Offensive Line Scoring
The Ravens ran 66 scored snaps (excludes accepted penalties which resulted in no play, and 1 spike).
Stanley: Ronnie played hurt, but had his best game of the season. He was beaten inside by Bradly Chubb for a half charge of the sack on the game’s 2nd play from scrimmage (Q1, 14:23). He would subsequently allow just 1 pressure the remainder of the game when bulled by Miller (Q1, 4:41). He missed 6 blocks, including 4 where he was beaten as a pass blocker, so he owes some of his good grade to Flacco’s quick release. He had 2 pancakes and made 1 of 2 pulls, but I did not credit him with a highlight.
Scoring: 66 plays, 58 blocks, 6 missed, 1 pressure, 1/2 sack, 53 points (.80 per play). Adjusted that’s an A-.
Lewis: Alex struggled to the worst grade of any lineman. He was beaten outside by Shane Ray for 2/3 of the sack charge (Q2, 1:06) which was triggered by front-side pressure from Miller’s bull of Hurst. He allowed Adam Gotsis to get his hand up for a PD (Q2, 1:14) and also had a full pressure charge surrendered to Shaq Barrett. Alex was beaten across his face for a penetration by Gotsis who took down Collins for a loss of 1 (Q2, 6:17). He pulled on 11 of the team’s 25 run plays and connected on 10. He had just 1 block in level 2 and I did not score him for any highlights.
Scoring: 66 plays, 56 blocks, 5 missed, 1 penetration, 2.5 pressures, .67 sack, 45 points (.68 per play). After a .04 adjustment, that’s a D at guard.
Skura: Matt made a substantial contribution to the success the Ravens enjoyed slowing down the Denver rush. In addition to making the line calls, Skura played a key part in allowing protection to roll to either side to protect a tackle. Typically, he had to take sole responsibility for a block he and Yanda initiated to allow Marshal to peel off for a help block on Miller. Despite the increased pass-blocking responsibility for a center, he allowed just 1 full charge for a PD by Derek Wolfe (Q4, 14:25), which came on just such a double-and-help block by Yanda. He shared a pressure with Lewis where both players appeared to hand off Shaq Barrett (Q2, 0:22). He made 3 blocks in level 2 and connected on his only pull, but did not have a pancake or highlight.
Scoring: 66 plays, 62 blocks, 2 missed, 1.5 pressures, 59 points (.89 per play). That’s an A after adjustment at center. Matt had some games scored as high last season, but this was his most important game as a Raven. The Ravens signing of C Hroniss Grasu is a depth acquisition, but Skura’s starting role is in no immediate jeopardy.
Yanda: Like Matt Skura, Yanda deserves much of the credit for minimizing the damage from Miller. His double-and-help blocks are effectively combination blocks in the passing game. Sometimes those were quick enough to stop Miller and in other cases he was able to turn a likely sack into just a pressure (examples: (Q1, 4:33), (Q2, 5:21), (Q2, 1:14), (Q2, 1:06), and Q4, 14:25)). He did not give up a single pass rush event personally. He had 1 pancake, made 5 blocks in level 2, and made 2 of 3 pulls. He did not have a highlight.
Scoring: 66 plays, 60 blocks, 6 missed, 60 points (.91 per play). That’s an A with adjustment.
Hurst: James had a solid performance, primarily against Miller. He surrendered front-side pressure that contributed to each of the 2 sacks (see Stanley, Hurst above). He had 3 other full pressures allowed to Miller, Ray, and Miller respectively on the first full drive of the second quarter. As mentioned above, Hurst owes a nice dinner to Yanda and Skura, who enabled a number of help blocks that reduced the damage. A benefit of the inside help and chip blocking on Miller was that the star OLB played just 68% of the defensive snaps, down from 82% combined for the first 2 games. Hurst made 1 block in level 2, but did not have a pancake, pull, or highlight. James was guilty of the false start that backed up the Ravens at the goal line, despite the mischarge to Yanda. On the broadcast, you can see Hurst turn to Yanda as both returned to the huddle while watching the replay on the video board.
Scoring: 66 plays, 55 blocks, 6 missed, 3 pressures, .83 (1/2 + 1/3) sacks, 1 false start, 44 points (.67 per play). That’s a C after adjustment.
If you’re interested in seeing scoring trends for the players this season, these charts are updated weekly.