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The passing attack against the Patriots wasn’t anything flashy, but it was wildly effective and fit extremely well in the broader game plan of Greg Roman’s attack.
Lamar Jackson finished with a stat line of 17/23, 163 yards, and 1 TD, which works out to a 107.7 QB rating. It was nothing earth-shattering, but here’s the question: does it need to be?
The short answer is no. The rushing attack is the catalyst of the Ravens offense and the priority of the pass game is to be efficient. That efficiency forces the defense to think twice before they sell out to stop the run.
That’s exactly what happened on Sunday, let’s break it down.
The Approach to the Passing Game
The focus in the preview for Sunday Night Football’s big contest was the Patriots’ use of the Cover 0 blitz defense.
Would they overwhelm Lamar?
Would the blitz stifle the run game?
Roman clearly had this in mind when calling plays. The focus of the passing game early on was short quick hitters that got players out in space. From the perspective of Roman, this was probably in anticipation of the Cover 0 blitz and with the expectation of pressure from the Patriots.
Lamar was 4/4 on the first drive that ended with a three-yard rushing TD. All four of the completions were short air yard passes: two were flat routes, one was an in and one was a jet route.
The approach to start the game was to create high percentage looks that gave opportunities for YAC. The jet to Hollywood Brown is the perfect example. It’s thrown half a yard in front of Lamar as a quick shovel pass and Brown takes it for 26 yards out in space.
Q1 12:32. Speed in space. Hollywood is a big play waiting to happen whenever he gets the ball in his hands. pic.twitter.com/6baDRvnXHr
— michael crawford (@abukari) November 7, 2019
This approach worked and the Ravens gained the upper hand in the play calling battle. The Patriots began the game by sending less pressure than many had anticipated. Instead they were playing man coverage and forcing the Ravens to beat them more or less straight up, which they did.
The Patriots’ adjustment was to go back to more press on the outside from their CBs and try and add more pressure into the mix.
Roman perfectly adjusted and began moving the pocket and using Mark Ingram out of the backfield along with the tight ends for those easy completions.
This was Roman’s best game to date and he perfectly executed his game plan with key adjustments against one of the best coaches in NFL history in Bill Belichik.
It helped that his team’s execution was strong.
The ball was spread around the offense
The biggest improvement Lamar Jackson has made since the Pittsburgh Steelers game has been going through his progressions and make the high-percentage throws.
This has allowed Lamar to spread the ball around the offense. With only 23 balls thrown, it’s impressive that 10 different offensive players were targeted.
Yes, it does hurt if you’re a Mark Andrews fantasy owner like I am, but the success of the Ravens is more important than the success of my fantasy team.
Jackson made the throws when he had to
The poise and confidence from Jackson is one of the most encouraging things fans could ask for. The Patriots have been rattling their opponents to the point where Sam Darnold, clearly too much into the Halloween spirit, famously claimed he was seeing ghosts.
The key to the efficiency we saw is not just making those high-percentage short passes, because the Patriots adjusted to them; it was making throws downfield when they opened up. Lamar’s yards-per-attempt by quarter reflects this.
Well, these numbers also show that Lamar did just that by completing 80% of his second half throws and pushing the ball down field.
No throw was more impressive than the 18-yard completion to Mark Andrews on 3rd and 5.
Winovich (50) stunts inside, beats Skura & gets pressure in Lamar's face. It's subtle, but notice how Lamar quickens the pace of his drop in order to get set & get the ball out. Ball placement gives Andrews the opportunity to take advantage of his size & height advantage. pic.twitter.com/mLW40cLhj9
— michael crawford (@abukari) November 5, 2019
Let’s think about the context of this play:
— The score is 24-20;
— The Patriots just scored on an 11-play 75 yard drive after the Ravens defense scored on the Marlon Humphrey fumble TD;
— Since the defense went back out after Humphrey scored, they played 19 straight snaps;
— This is the first 3rd down of the drive. The defense is gassed.
So this situation is no joke. An incompletion here and it’s 3-and-out with a tired defense going back out on the field, with the Ravens only up by four.
Instead, Lamar reads that the safety is on Andrews in man coverage and puts the ball in the only spot that his guy can make a play on it. Jackson does this under duress, with a quick flick of his wrist. Andrews does his part, the sticks move, and the Ravens go on to finish this drive with a touchdown on a 14-play, 8:09 possession.
The optics here are very important and it speaks to the importance of this play.
The passing attack kept the chains moving
In addition to the previous play, the Ravens used the passing attack on another key play on this same drive.
It is now 4th and 4 on the Patriots 38-yard line and John Harbaugh keeps his offense out on the field. To be honest, when I watched this I was expecting a read option. Well, Roman had other ideas.
Q3 3:33 4th & 4 at New England 38. I've got a need, the need for SNEAD! pic.twitter.com/wMsUAi0w4h
— michael crawford (@abukari) November 7, 2019
This is a good example of how the Ravens effectively moved the pocket to counter the Patriots sending more pressure in the second half. The Patriots set up with seven guys on the line. Snead just runs a simple out route and Seth Roberts sets the pick on his man. Lamar snaps in the pass.
Ironically, these types of pick routes are how the Patriots have killed opponents on short-yardage situations for years. Even more ironic was the number of Patriots fans complaining that it should have been offensive pass interference. *Rolls eyes*
You can see the linebackers that were lined up on the LOS stay in coverage instead of blitzing. They’re very close to the LOS and all are focused on one thing…Lamar Jackson. This is the beauty of what he brings to the table and how defenses have to adjust to his rushing abilities.
However, Lamar’s improvement passing the ball allows plays like this to happen, where he can make the quick pass on a big down routinely. Oh yeah, and Lamar is only 22 with room to grow.
Yeah, it’s a bit of a trap game. Division road game, rookie QB, the Bengals who seem to be a thorn in our talons.
For some reason, I’m not worried though. I think the Ravens handle their business.
The approach to trap games is fairly simple. You have to limit mistakes early, get out in front and control the tempo.
Stick to your identity, Baltimore. Use the quick passing game and the rushing attack to make the Bengals load the box and then exploit the matchups against their weaker defensive backs.
I’d love to see Miles Boykin get more involved in this contest and I’m going out on a limb…
This will be the Miles Boykin breakout game of the year. Six catches, 110 yards, 2 TD.
You heard it here first folks!