It would be difficult to be satisfied with this game as a Ravens fan.
You can console yourself with any number of reasons why the loss is not that bad, but part of the problem is the that it’s difficult to say much negative about a defense that allows 12 points in 70 minutes of football.
Let’s start with a list of some of the negatives on defense before we discuss the game in a more general sense:
— The Ravens continue to mess up their defensive substitutions. They were forced to call a timeout to avoid a 10-man defensive play (OT, 1:16), which would have been their 4th in 5 games! The Ravens had no LOLB on the play and inserted Bowser after the timeout.
— To make matters worse, the Ravens nearly were caught with 12 on the field (Q2, 8:48), but Onwuasor ran off the field just in time. Getting caught with a late substitution seems like a lesser error, but an alert QB can exploit it for a high-leverage play (as Peyton Manning often did). This appeared to be a case where Peanut did not get the play call, which may indicate a communication issue.
— The Ravens do not have the size to be a dominant run defense without Brandon Pierce. There are a lot of teams in the NFL who would be thrilled to give up only 112 rushing yards and 4.0 YPC in 70 minutes, but the Ravens aren’t supposed to be one of them. There is a spillover impact from being without Pierce, who commands double teams for longer, in terms of linebackers and safeties who are caught in the wash or easily eliminated by the back end of combination blocks when offensive linemen are able to release to level 2.
— Tackling was sub-par, particularly in the secondary.
— The defense continues to have trouble covering TEs, particularly between level 2 and 3. David Njoku shredded them on Sunday. It’s hard to finger the exact problem (and some was on the inability to impact Mayfield with a pass rush that was generating pressure), but it’s too easy to pick apart the zone.
— CJ Mosley had a minimal impact on the game, both in terms of coverage and against the run.
— CB depth continues to be a strength, but Carr will need to cede more snaps to Jimmy Smith. The Ravens nearly had a disaster with only 4 active CBs and the early banishment of Tavon Young to the concussion protocol.
— Tavon Young generally played well, including the INT, but he was beaten on a rub route for a 17-yard gain that nearly cost the Ravens the game in regulation (Q4, 0:38).
— Against a QB like Mayfield, controlled rush lanes could be most effective. He scrambled for gains of 10 and 13 yards. He also had 2 other runs of 9 and 16 yards negated by holding. Much of the damage Mayfield caused came when he was able to extend and move the pocket.
We’ll get to the stuff that went well as we review the rest of the game for the defense.
The Browns ran 75 non-penalty snaps, excluding 1 spike. As usual, the snap totals below do not include accepted penalties and will be lower than other published sources. Defensively, the Ravens lined up in a variety of ways:
Heavy (3 snaps): On 3 separate occasions, the Browns lined up with a 6th offensive lineman. The Ravens responded with 4 DL and only 3 DBs (Carr, Jefferson, Weddle). The first play went for a 10-yard gain on the game’s first play. The next 2 such plays were runs for -1 and -4 respectively. It’s apparent the Ravens were ready for the Browns to show a heavy look.
Standard (10 snaps): Urban/Williams/Wormley was the most common combination of linemen for this package.
Nickel (19 snaps): This was used by the Ravens in 3-WR formations, but only on 1st or 2nd down. The Browns gained 3.6 YPP on these plays, including 2 sacks. Tavon Young played every SCB snap with the exception of the 3 big nickel snaps (see below and 4 others where he was replaced by Carr while in the concussion protocol).
Big Nickel (3 snaps): The Ravens lined up Chuck Clark in place of Tavon Young as the SCB in the nickel with good results (3 plays, 2 yards).
Jumbo Nickel (4 snaps): Martindale deployed a heavier version of the nickel with 3 DL and only 1 ILB for 4 plays, which included 3 runs (5 total yards) and 1 pass (9 yards).
Dime (36 snaps): The dime included Za’Darius Smith as an inside pass rusher on all but 3 occasions. The combination of the effectiveness of Levine (see below) and the value of getting an additional OLB on the field to rush the passer may have led Martindale to lean on this package more heavily the last 2 weeks. The Ravens tried a 4-CB dime on 2 plays when they removed Jefferson. Those 2 plays went for 14 and 39 yards. In the words of Marge Simpson, “Let us never speak of it again.”
The return of Jimmy Smith could have been more festive. He did not start (the only CB to start was Carr) and played only 33 competitive snaps. He covered Callaway perfectly on the 9 route 40 yards down the left sideline (Q1, 4:17). He was flagged for illegal contact once (declined) and I do not have another note where he was targeted.
Brandon Carr started and played 67 snaps. He played well for much of the game, but surrendered the pivotal 39-yard pass (9 + 30 YAC) to Willies (OT, 2:00) which converted 3rd and 8 to set up the game-winning FG. He trailed on the play and came up empty on a diving tackle attempt.
Marlon Humphrey was beaten for a pair of 19-yard plays in a 3-play sequence that included the game’s only touchdown (Q2, 0:44). Last week, he was beaten by Antonio Brown for a TD despite excellent position. Against the Browns, he wasn’t in the same area code with Higgins.
Front 7 rotation
Martindale continues to do an excellent job keeping his front 7 rested. Willie Henry played 36 snaps in his return, registered 2 pressures, including a sack for -11 and drew a holding flag on RT Hubbard. Urban led the DL in snaps with 37 and Brandon Williams had 35.
Last week, the Ravens used just 1.57 DL per play versus the Steelers. Versus the Browns, they averaged 1.83 DL per play.
The heaviest workloads at OLB this week fell to Suggs (61 snaps) and Za’Darius Smith (60). Both played well (see below), but the Ravens still would have benefited from having Tim Williams active. Matthew Judon (49 snaps) had a takedown of Streater for an 11-yard loss (OT, 2:57) that drove the Browns back to their own 5-yard line and should have won the game for the Ravens. However, they failed to capitalize by allowing gains of 13, 39, and 15 on the next 3 plays to put the Browns in FG range.
Despite the length of the game and absence of Tim Williams, the Ravens could only find 13 snaps for Tyus Bowser, who had 2 pressures. In his brief stints, the Ravens defense was effective, allowing just 2.8 yards per play.
Pass Rush Notes
The pass rush allowed Mayfield ample time and space (ATS) on just 16 of 47 drop backs (34%). That opportunity set should have resulted in approximately 318 net passing yards using Flacco’s historical norms and Mayfield finished with 304. The glass always seems half empty when your team loses, but the Ravens were effective with their pressure.
The pass rush scheme was far more aggressive in this game by most measures, including sending numbers:
Martindale called 8 deceptive blitzes. For the game, he used 19 blitzers from off the LoS, called 12 stunts, and dropped 2+ from the LoS on 9 occasions. This was a game where he must have expected more pressure would lead to some additional bad decisions and turnovers.
Performances Worth Savoring
Terrell Suggs had 10 pressure events (9 pressures/partial pressures,1 sack) as I scored it. He also drew 2 holding penalties. LT Desmond Harrison was his primary victim, and the bulk of it was by bull rush. For those who enjoy all things Suggs, here are the time references for these 12 highlights:
Sack: (Q3, 0:53)
Pressures: (Q2, 8:11), (Q2, 4:35), (Q2, 1:59), (Q3, 9:00), (Q4, 0:48), (OT, 9:17), (OT, 3:32), (OT, 3:26), (OT, 2:00)
Holding Drawn: (Q2, 8:45), (Q4, 15:00)
Anthony Levine has found a role as “The Closer” for his contributions to 5 drive-ending plays. Let’s review:
— (Q1, 3:35): Weddle blitzed untouched for a sack on a screen designed for Johnson. The Browns had 3 linemen out front of the play, but Levine had Johnson well covered to the left of the pocket, which prevented Mayfield from unloading.
— (Q2, 4:35): On 3rd and 13, Weddle and Levine converged to take down Johnson for a gain of 7.
— (Q4, 14:26): Anthony managed to run down and tackle the dangerous Njoku for a gain of 14 to deny 3rd and 15. An unimpressive play, you say? Take a look at the way his teammates went crazy congratulating him.
— (Q4, 4:45): Levine read Mayfield and from underneath knocked down the pass for the wide-open Willies between the numbers and right hash.
— (OT, 8:38): He had a near PD, but recovered to tackle Willies for a gain of 9 (9 + 0 YAC) on 3rd and 13 by the right sideline.
— Levine registered 3 PDs for the 2nd straight game. To research a piece on an outstanding game by Lardarius Webb, click here.
I made a list of every time a Ravens player had 3 or more PDs in a game (92 as of mid-November 2013). More players have accomplished the feat since, but as of that date, only Chris McAlister (vs Denver and Tennessee in the 2000 playoffs) and Antonio Langham (1997 vs Seahawks and Oilers) had ever defensed 3+ passes in consecutive games. Levine has done so in games where he played just 26 and 31 snaps.
Of the last 17 drives stopped by the Ravens, Anthony Levine has registered the drive-ending tackle or PD on 7 of them and had coverage of the primary target on another.
Za’Darius Smith was again a terror. In racing form:
— (Q1, 9:41) Stunted and bulled C Tretter for QH on Young’s interception
— (Q1, 7:59) Drew holding call on TE Njoku to negate Chubb RL14
— (Q2, 0:44) Stunted past RT Hubbard for QH on Mayfield TD pass
— (Q3, 12:01) Beat LT Harrison outside for jersey-grab pressure as Mayfield threw Inc left
— (Q3, 10:28) Beat LT Harrison inside for pressure to flush Mayfield left, but PL15
— (OT, 9:17) Beat RT Hubbard inside for shared S-5 with Kenny Young
- Terrell Suggs
- Anthony Levine
- Za’Darius Smith
Tony Jefferson and Matt Judon get honorable mentions.