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Wink & Roman Won the Key Battles vs DEN

Latavius Murrary TD in Denver
Shawn Hubbard/Baltimore Ravens
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The Baltimore Ravens came into Denver with a clear plan on offense. Pass the ball on first down. Stay aggressive in the passing game. Take your shots against a loaded box, as the Denver secondary dared Lamar Jackson to throw the ball. 

Instead of having a reactive approach on first downs, which we’ve seen from offensive coordinator Greg Roman in the past, he anticipated Broncos head coach Vic Fangio would overextend to play the run. Lamar Jackson also pointed out that film study revealed that the Ravens needed to throw the ball to beat the Broncos. And Roman had no problem putting the ball in Jackson’s hands. 

It wasn’t just that Roman dialed up first-down pass attempts. He leaned into play-action from base sets to strike against arguably the best secondary in the NFL. Jackson turned his back several times to execute the play fake — this wasn’t all about RPOs. 

The drive that really jump started the first-down play-action attack came on the first touchdown drive from Baltimore. Back-to-back play-action completions to Sammy Watkins and Marquise Brown set it all up. 

From there on out, Jackson was in a groove. He peppered Denver’s underneath coverage with slants, crossers and sideline completions (yes, sideline completions). Mark Andrews, Watkins and James Proche feasted on those intermediate routes. Brown and Devin Duvernay were able to get loose downfield. 

Jackson left a few completions on the field — he missed Duvernay deep on a wide open attempt. But he inflicted plenty of damage.

If Roman and Jackson can remain aggressive on first down, this is going to be an offense no one wants to face…

On the flip side, if Roman won the first down battle for the offense, Don “Wink” Martindale pitched a near perfect game for the defense on third down.

In the first half alone, Wink’s defense forced six 3rd-and-7 or longer attempts. The results were two sacks, three incompletions and one penalty. For the entire game, Denver converted three out of 14 third down attempts. 

Wink used a varied approach to keep quarterback Teddy Bridgewater guessing. He mostly relied on a contained pass rush approach — usually four or five rushers. He showed some pre-snap movement but would drop blitzers into coverage to muddy the passing windows Bridgewater typically targets to keep the chains moving. The front responded by winning their one-on-one matchups and collapsing the pocket.

Although Wink respected Bridgewater’s ability to decipher the blitz, he picked his spots to come after the efficient signal caller. On a 2nd-and-10 attempt right before the end of the first half, Wink showed an overload look on the strong side, only to drop rushers into coverage and blitz Tavon Young from the slot, forcing a hurried pass attempt. Bridgewater was completely fooled on the play. 

Overall, it was a dominant performance from a defense that was able to reassert themselves on clear passing downs. It was a performance they needed. Wink was back to being Wink. 

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