Defense Dominates Chargers Baltimore Ravens/Phil Hoffmann

Game Changers Defense Dominates Chargers

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Game Changers Week 16

There are plays in every football game that impacts who wins and who loses. They can occur on offense, defense or special teams. Sometimes it’s a play everyone sees, like a long touchdown run or pass, a sack, or turnover. Other times it’s a play that goes unnoticed. It could be a key block on offense or a defender who doesn’t make the tackle himself but executes his assignment, allowing a teammate to make the play.

The Ravens defeated the Los Angeles Chargers in dominating fashion last Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, CA. While it was a total team effort, I think this may have been the most complete game by the Ravens defense of the season. The front 7 and back end complemented each other versus the run and pass, holding the Chargers offense below their season averages in several categories:

How do you hold a good offensive team like the Chargers so far below their season averages? It starts up front.

Onwuasor sacks Rivers for an 8-yard loss

Q3, 10:34, 2nd & 19 at LAC28

Patrick “Peanut” Onwuasor played really well (as evidenced by his AFC Defensive Player of the Week award) and this play is just one example. Let’s focus on the right side of the offensive line. Pre-snap, the Ravens are showing a possible six-man rush. Terrell Suggs is aligned in a 9-technique, Peanut is aligned in the weak side B gap, Michael Pierce is at 3-technique and C.J. Mosley is aligned in the strong-side A gap.

At the snap, Suggs rushes over Chargers RT Sam Tevi, Pierce rushes over RG Michael Schofield and Mosley drops into coverage after faking a rush over C Mike Pouncey’s left shoulder. This leaves rookie RB Justin Jackson 1-on-1 in pass protection vs Onwuasor.

Peanut gets his hands inside on the tips of the numbers on the front of Jackson’s jersey and bull rushes him backwards. Philip Rivers tries to climb the pocket and escape the pressure, but Onwuasor sheds Jackson and takes Rivers down for an eight-yard loss. Nothing fancy here. Just a good job by Onwuasor using power to beat his man.

Smith & Urban share sack on Rivers for 7-yard loss

Q3, 4:25, 2nd & 16 at LAC19

The Ravens are again showing a possible six-man rush and attacking the right-side of the Chargers offensive line. Za’Darius Smith is aligned outside TE, DE Brent Urban is at 3-technique and Onwuasor is aligned in the strong-side A gap.

At the snap, Smith rushes over RT Tevi while Onwuasor and Urban run a stunt. Peanut picks RG Schofield by attacking his inside shoulder, allowing Urban to loop around. Now RB Melvin Gordon is responsible for blocking Urban. Gordon is listed at 6’ 215 lbs while Urban is 6’6” 295 lbs. Advantage Urban. Smith and Urban both power through their respective blockers to share the sack on Rivers.

Onwuasor sacks Rivers for another 8-yard loss

Q4, 9:45, 2nd & 6 at LAC46

The Ravens call the stunt between Onwuasor and a defensive lineman again on this 2nd down play. I believe this was a game-planned element. This time the defensive lineman is DT Brandon Williams. Instead of aligning in a 3-technique, Williams aligns in a 4-technique over the inside shoulder of the RT Tevi.

At the snap, Peanut again looks to pick RG Schofield so that Williams can loop around and attack Gordon. But this time both Schofield and Gordon focus on Williams, leaving Onwuasor with a free shot at Rivers.

Smith sacks Rivers for an 11-yard loss

Q4, 5:29, 3rd & 5 at BLT29

On this play, the Ravens run stunts on both sides of the line. The players aligned at DT (Urban & Smith) are working outside while the rush linebackers (Bowser & Suggs) and looping inside. But once again, it’s the right side of the Chargers line that allows the pressure.

Smith fakes a step inside then attacks RG Schofield’s outside shoulder. Za’Darius beats Schofield’s hands, dips under him then goes with the clothesline slam on Rivers.

There’s an old football cliche that goes, “beat the hands, beat the man.” Smith did that so quickly on this play that Suggs didn’t even need to loop inside.

Complementary Football

Over the last six games, several pundits and analysts have asked if the Ravens’ style is sustainable. The thing that’s interesting to me is that question implies that they’re doing something unconventional. Sure, it’s fair to argue that they run an above average number of option concepts and use the QB as a ball carrier more than most other teams (save for maybe the Bills with Josh Allen).

But in my opinion, the Ravens’ core approach since Lamar Jackson took over at QB is to control the ball on offense, play good defense and special teams.

That’s a winning formula in football that’s as old as the game itself.

How much longer can their approach last? The NFL is a week-to-week league.

Who knows how long it will last, but it only needs to last the next game.

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