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Sportswriting Mad Libs: Defensive Notes On Ravens vs. Jaguars

Do you remember Mad Libs?

I’ve seen them referenced on some sitcoms recently, but I’m not sure if those were nostalgic table scraps for children of the 1970’s or they are still being produced and sold regularly.

Sometimes I think it would be helpful for NFL players and coaches each to go through some Mad Lib training in the off season or at least at the rookie symposium. Case in point, Monday’s game.

With emotions high after the defense carried the offense, it’s natural that a player will be goaded into saying something that will be used to complete the story a writer has already written. That’s sportswriting (hell, that’s journalism) and it’s worked the same way for centuries, so it’s not reasonable to expect it to change.

We can imagine (and paraphrase) the exchange:

Reporter: "Sizzle, how much longer can this defense hold up an offense which couldn’t muster a single 1st down until 5:29 of the 3rd quarter and what surprised you about the play selection?"

Sizzle: "We win and lose as a team, but I guess I’m a little surprised Ray only had 8 carries."

Suggs’ intent was clearly innocuous, but the trap had been laid. The reporter was just trying to fill out the bolded elements of the following:

I, Terrell Suggs, blame the Offensive Coordinator for Monday’s loss. Despite our Herculean defensive efforts, I cite Ray Rice’s 8 carries as a key example of this failure.

The Ravens had 63 snaps defensively which excludes the Jaguars 3 end-of-game kneels:

Overall:

Versus the Run: 39 plays, 135 yards, 3.5 YPC
Versus the Pass: 24 plays, 73 yards, 3.0 YPP
Overall: 63 plays, 208 yards, 3.3 YPPA

By number of defensive backs:

3 DBs: 7 plays, 5 yards, 0.7 YPP, 1 TO
4 DBs: 34/159, 4.7 YPPA
5 DBs: 24/44, 1.8 YPPA, 4 sacks
6 DBs: None

By number of pass rushers:

3 or less: None
4: 14/33, 2.4 YPP, 3 sacks
5: 8/44, 5.5 YPP
6: 2/-4, -2.0 YPP, 1 sack
7: None

Individual Notes:

• The league-wide success rate on challenges is 53%, but this nearly became the first Ravens game (and quite possibly any game) where each team was awarded a bonus challenge for having reversals on their first 2. Had Del Rio not inexplicably challenged Flacco’s end-line tiptoe, he would have been successful in challenging Torrey Smith’s 20-yard catch.

• The Ravens have won a league-high 7 challenges among 8 red flags.

• Among the penalty calls, the consecutive plays which had us screaming were Whimper’s unflagged hold (or illegal block) on Suggs (Q3, 12:49) which was immediately followed by the unnecessary roughness (defenseless receiver) call on Pollard (Q3, 12:39).

• It was interesting that the loss of Ayanbadejo did not change the Ravens’ willingness to play nickel. They had just one 3rd down where they played the nickel subsequent to the disqualification, but simply left McClain in rather than bring on a 3rd safety.

• Nakamura played 3 snaps, 1 in a goal-line, 3-safety alignment and the other 2 for Reed when he was forced to leave briefly after he and Cody were hurt on the same play (Q4, 8:22). He has played just 17 snaps for the season.

• The Ravens had 3 more sacks in 14 dropbacks with a 4-man rush on Monday. Thus far in 2011, the Ravens have registered a sack on 9.9% of 4-man rushes which matches their percentage from their 60-sack season (2006). They did not rush fewer than 4 on any dropback, nor did they ever rush 7. The formula was effective in making Gabbert uncomfortable.

• Suggs had his most productive game since the opener. His sack of Gabbert (Q1, 3:04) came on a play where he beat Monroe outside, but Gabbert failed to step up in a clean pocket to avoid pressure. He also hit Gabbert on the Jaguars’ longest play of the night (Q2, 8:38) when Hill eluded Webb for a 24-yard catch and run. Terrell combined with Lewis (Q1, 10:34) to take down MJD for no gain. He stayed home on the 3rd-and-3 shovel pass to Jones-Drew (Q1, 6:52) and knocked him down for a gain of just 1. He slowed down MJD in the backfield (Q1, 0:11) on a play that was cleaned up by Redding. With the Jaguars threatening to pull ahead by 13 midway through Q3, Suggs first penetrated the left side to take down MJD for a loss of 1. On the next play (Q3, 6:45) he came untouched off the edge to pressure Gabbert as the rookie lofted a near perfect pass just over McClain that was nonetheless dropped by Jones. See also the comments on officiating where a flagrant hold/illegal block on Suggs went unflagged. Suggs would sit out just 1 play on the 2nd drive (equipment problem?), but this was a night where he seemed to be able to dominate against the run or pass at will.

• McPhee was again outstanding in limited duty. He played just 10 snaps, but was in on 3 key plays. He shared a sack with Ayanbadejo (Q2, 6:31) when he exploited some confusion on the part of Nwaneri who tried to pass him off to the occupied Whimper. He continues to show good hustle, the best example of which came on his takedown of Hill (Q1, 9:56). Hill caught the ball in traffic, but was able to evade several tackles and McPhee brought him down inches short of a first down. Pernell also took down Karim with Johnson (Q3, 7:58) to leave the Jags at 4th and 5 at the Ravens 7. Unfortunately, after the play, Ayanbadejo was flagged for the retaliatory personal foul which gave the Jags a first down and 3 more chances to score.

• The 10 snaps (excluding the pollard UR) played by McPhee were all 3rd downs and the Ravens held the Jags to -14 yards on those plays including all 4 of the team’s sacks. With significant play overlap, Paul Kruger and Brendan Ayanbadejo played just 8 snaps each, including all 4 of those sacks, -14 yards, and -1.8 YPPA. The Texans game was a big triumph for the Ravens 2-down players. This game was dominated defensively by the 3rd-down specialists.

• The Jaguars converted just 2 of 16 3rd-down opportunities for the night. On those 16 plays, they gained a net 2 yards. However, that excludes both of the personal fouls. The Jags also converted once on 4th down.

• McClain played well. He had good coverage of Jones on what was Gabbert’s best pass of the night (Q3, 6:45). Jones could not haul in the TD pass after catching all 11 balls on which he was targeted in 2010. He took down MJD for a loss of 1 when he penetrated through the right B gap (Q1, 8:11). He finished with 7 tackles and had the key fumble recovery at the Ravens 3 (Q1, 6:08).

Danny Gorrer continues to play very well. His assignment has been targeted just 8 times on 64 drop backs with 2 receptions for 20 yards. On Monday, Gabbert threw in his direction just twice with 1 completion for 8 yards to Hill on which Gorrer was flagged for defensive holding (declined). Jimmy Smith returned to the active roster, but did not see any defensive snaps. With the effective outside play of Gorrer and Williams in this game and the year Webb has had, I don’t think Smith is likely to see the field soon unless someone gets hurt. That’s a great problem to have.

• Reed missed 2 plays following the hit he took in the backfield (Q4, 8:22). He has now missed 5 plays for the season.

• Pollard played his best game as a Raven. He had 5 tackles and forced 2 fumbles (neither of which were recovered by the Ravens) on the sure-handed MJD. Bernard was in the neighborhood when the Jags were required to spend an important challenge to get a 3rd FF reversed (Q2, 4:53). He took down MJD for a loss of 2 (Q1, 13:18) on a screen right. His highlight was the PD strip of Marcedes Lewis (Q3, 6:39) which finally stopped the Jaguars long drive to start the 3rd quarter. He missed a tackle on Hill on his 2nd 24-yard (10 plus 14 YAC) catch and run of the night (Q4, 9:57). We should get an indication as to whether the league believes the officials were correct from the size of the fine levied for the hit on Karim.

For additional content and my archive, please visit:

http://www.ravens24x7.com/columnists/Ken-McKusick/articles

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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