There is much more about which to be excited than concerned from this game. The comeback masked a game that was not as close as the score would indicate.
Is it troublesome that some key mistakes are keeping opponents in games? Of course. Are most of the mistakes correctable? Absolutely, and by the 2nd half they were.
Sunday’s seemingly unimpressive win came despite an awful punt coverage with several missed tackles, a fumble to set the Cardinals up at the 2-yard line, and a dropped pass which game the Cardinals a 25-yard field for their last TD. The Ravens held the Cardinals to 56 total yards and -1 passing yards after halftime. The Ravens had 80 offensive snaps to 57 by the Cards.
The rejuvenated Ravens pass rush is now 2nd in the NFL with 25 sacks, behind only the Giants and on pace for 57 for the season, which would be the 2nd highest total in team history.
And, of course, the Ravens rediscovered the no huddle from the shotgun.
All of the Ravens 57 defensive snaps were competitive:
Versus the Run: 30 plays, 109 yards, 3.6 YPC
Versus the Pass: 27 plays, 98 yards, 3.6 YPP
Overall: 57 plays, 207 yards, 3.6 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: 2 plays, 2 yards, 1.0 YPPA
4 DBs: 32/165, 5.2 YPPA
5 DBs: 20/25, 1.3 YPPA, 5 sacks
6 DBs: 3/15, 5.0 YPPA
Aside from the comeback, I’ll probably remember this game for the large number of sets in the secondary. Pagano was able to get 8 players time in a variety of roles. Let’s review:
· Pollard, Reed: starting safeties who played every play
· Webb, Williams: starting corners who missed just 2 goal-line plays each
· Carr: Primary nickel, 20 snaps
· Zbikowski: Heavy (3-safety) nickel, 3 snaps
· Smith: Part of a 4-corner dime, 3 snaps
· Nakamura: 2 snaps as the 3rd safety in goal-line situations
By number of pass rushers:
3: 1/-7, 1 sack
4: 15/125, 8.3 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO
5: 8/-11, -1.4 YPP, 3 sacks
6: 2/-9, -4.5 YPP, 1 sack
I find it fascinating the Ravens actually held the Cardinals to negative yards per play for each number of pass rushers used except 4. The 66-yrd play represented 32% of Arizona’s offense for the game, so I don’t think it’s time to get concerned about the Ravens ability to defend with 4 rushing.
· The Suggs hit list is long and impressive. He bulled Levi Jones back into Kolb to help set up Johnson’s sack (Q1, 15:00). He pursued Wells across the formation to take him down for a loss of 1 (Q1, 5:10). He effortlessly brushed Jones on an outside move for a fast-developing sack for -7 (Q1, 4:25). He bulled King to blow up Wells’ and hold him to a gain of 1 (Q2, 8:58). He again crossed the formation to take down wells for a gain of just 2 (Q2, 5:57). He worked off Housler to take down Wells for no gain (Q2, 4:43). Terrell beat a double team from Wells and Hadnot to pressure Kolb (Q3, 6:35). While he failed to take him down, the presence of Ngata Kept Kolb with ball tucked and Pollard cleaned up for the sack.
· Wait, there’s more…Suggs beat RT Keith inside to hit Kolb as he threw resulting McClain’s pop-up interception (Q3, 1:26). He yet again crossed the formation to trip up Wells for a gain of 3 (Q4, 13:42), He penetrated with Ngata to hammer Wells for no gain on 3rd and 1 (Q4, 10:59). He pressured Kolb, but was unable to bring him down as he escaped left and threw a dangerous incomplete pass to Roberts (Q4, 9:11). He pushed past King to drop Wells for a loss of 2 (Q4, 7:58). He beat King a final time to take down Wells for a gain of just 1 (Q4, 2:32). In all, Suggs had a career-high 13 tackles via the Gamebook. While that total was inflated by at least 2, he had another top-10 game for his career.
· It was a 2nd consecutive outstanding effort for the 3rd down specialists. Dating back to the end of the Texans game, the Ravens have allowed 3rd down conversions on just 4 of the last 31 attempts (does not include 2 converted by penalty after the play). The Cardinals ran 11 3rd-down plays for -19 yards (-1.7 YPPA).
· It finally seems to be coming together for Kruger. He used the spin move once more Sunday, this time without a positive impact. His first sack came on a stunt from LDE through the left A gap (Q1, 10:22). He also took down Kolb on the Cardinals last offensive play (Q4, 1:07) when he beat the new RT Bridges to the outside for a loss of 9. He brings fresh legs and a solid arsenal of moves when he steps on the field now.
· The defensive line/linebacker snaps versus the Cardinals: Cody 37 (career high), Jones 8, McKinney 12, McPhee 12, Ngata 47, Redding 35, Suggs 54, Ayanbadejo 6, Burgess 3, Johnson 48, Kruger 12, Lewis 53, McClain 48.
· Since the implosion at Tennessee, the Ravens pass defense has allowed just 615 net yards in 5 games (123 YPG) including 21 sacks for 136 yards good to go along with a 56.5 QB rating.
· Jimmy Smith’s defensive debut had been much anticipated. He played his first 3 NFL snaps Sunday and had a generous PD covering Doucet (Q2, 10:18) on the only ball thrown his way. His first snap (Q1, 11:48) he played LCB outside on what appears to be Roberts. Kolb was pressured and threw to the other side of the field. He returned for a final play (Q4, 2:00) at LCB when he covered Stuckey as Kolb ran right for 5 yards and a 1st down.
· Cary Williams had an up-and-down game against Arizona. On the plus side, he chased down Fitzgerald (who was covered by Webb) to prevent the TD on his 66-yard scamper (Q1, 6:01) on which the Ravens would ultimately hold the Cardinals to 3 points. He covered Roberts and registered a PD (Q4, 9:11). On the other side of the ledger he was twice penalized for defensive holding, the first of which came on 2nd and 20 (Q1, 14:14) to negate JJ’s game-opening sack. Williams also surrendered the game’s only passing TD to Doucet (Q1, 3:52) when he got lost behind the Cardinals receiver in the end zone.
· The seriousness of the injury to Gorrer is a concern. Despite the depth at corner, his play has been exceptional. Kolb targeted Carr’s coverage assignment just once (Doucet) for a 10-yard gain. On that play, Carr had excellent coverage, Kolb was pressured and eventually hit by Ngata on a slow-developing play, but still managed to squeeze the ball through a tight window. Carr played 20 plays on which the Cardinals gained 20 net yards.
· Ayanbadejo lost snaps to the additional defensive backfield formations, primarily the dime, but also missed 2 staps when the Ravens played Kruger and 4 linemen. Amazingly 4 of his 6 snaps resulted in sacks.
· Lewis missed his first 4 plays of the season with what appeared to be a stinger. His first play out, he was replaced by Burgess and Kolb completed the 66-yard pass to Fitzgerald. He was not used much as a pass rusher, but came on a broken pocket (Q1, 11:54) to deliver a QH. Kolb’s resulting pass was almost picked by Webb.
· The Ravens did something I have never noticed before with a 4-man pass rush (Q4, 6:43). The Cardinals were 3rd and 10 on their own 46 and the Ravens dropped 4 from the line of scrimmage into coverage, including Ayanbadejo, Leiws, Ngata, and Kruger. Meanwhile, McPhee, Suggs, Pollard, and Williams (from RCB and off Fitzgerald!) rushed. Carr and Reed dropped deep before the snap. Kolb felt pressure, moved up, and shoveled to Chester Taylor who was corralled by Pollard and Lewis for a gain of 3. I can’t recall ever seeing 4 players drop to zone. If you didn’t think Pagano was a wild man, let’s recall he did this near midfield with less than 7 minutes to go in a tie game. Most coaches would avoid the risk/reward tradeoff inherent in such a bizarre call, but a lack fear comes from confidence in both scheme and players.
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