His 14 for 21 on 3rd down held the Steelers to 9 offensive drives including their last 2-play possession. The Steelers lost despite 8.5 yards per pass play (YPP) and 6.8 yards per play on all plays (YPPA).
The 14 conversions are a franchise record. That shouldn’t be surprising when you think how difficult it is to get 21 3rd-down opportunities in a game. For starters, that requires a minimum of 63 offensive plays. Since many 3-down sequences have a first down or turnover on either 1st or 2nd down, it will invariably require many more. I believe 21 attempts are also a franchise record. Approximately 75% of games have between 10 and 15 3rd-down attempts (47 of 63 times in the Harbaugh era). The previous high since 2008 was 19 in the opener versus the Jets last season. As a point of comparison, Ben Roethlisberger made it to 3rd down just 9 times in week 1 and 12 more in week 9.
The Ravens had 77 offensive snaps on Sunday night, all of which were competitive.
McKinnie: Despite Harrison’s outstanding game, Bryant had his best game since of the season. He failed to pick up Foote or Allen on their blitz (Q1, 11:39) and I scored him as sharing the resulting pressure with Ricky Williams. Flacco completed the pass to Pitta for 23 yards to convert 3rd and 6. Just 2 plays later he was beaten outside by Harrison for a QH (Q1, 10:29). Those were his only negative events for the night. He had 2 pancakes and a block in level 2. McKinnie still struggles to impact run plays which are not run left and the Ravens ran left (left tackle or left end per the Gamebook) just 3 times for the night. Scoring: 70 blocks, 5 missed, 1/2 pressure, 1 QH, 66 points (.86 per play).
Grubbs: Ben’s return to left guard was both a cut above Gurode and coincided with improved play from McKinnie and Yanda. He was beaten inside by Harrison (Q4, 13:16) for a QH. Some sources charged him with Harrison’s first sack (Q2, 1:00). He was late in pickup, but Rice was steamrolled and tripped Grubbs as was moving left, so I charged it to him. Subjectively, I don’t think he had good push in the run game, but that’s not reflected in the score, only the times he missed. I would assume that might still have been impacted by the injury, but he has always been a better pass blocker than run blocker. His false start came at a bad time (Q2, 0:11), but Rice demonstrated his amazing ability to keep his knee off the ground on the following play to cut what might have been a 55-yard FG attempt to 51. Scoring: 72 blocks, 4 missed, 1 QH, 1 false start, 66 points (.86 per play). If you want to charge Grubbs with responsibility for the first Harrison sack, his score would have been .77.
Birk: Matt allowed a penetration by Hampton (Q2, 11:31) that resulted in a loss of 1 by Rice. That was his only negative event of the night. I thought he had outstanding push on Hampton and don’t doubt Casey was cognizant of additional cut blocking from Yanda. I counted 4 times for the night that Yanda cut Hampton which gained a total of 8 yards, but Hampton looked tentative all night and was essentially shut down other than the aforementioned stuff of Rice. I would guess the Bengals advance scouting team has taken note. I scored him for 3 level 2 blocks and a pancake. Scoring: 73 blocks, 3 missed, 1 penetration, 71 points (.92 per play).
Yanda: We are at the peak of midseason awards time now and Marshal is finally getting his props. Collinsworth made mention of him Sunday and I don’t think he’ll miss the Pro Bowl this season unless the Ravens make the Super Bowl. He’s missed time at guard due to injuries or repositioning in each of the last 3 years, but he’s been unquestionably the most effective guard in the game on a per-snap basis since 2008. The contract reflects that well, but his recognition has lagged. Amazingly, with all the shell games on the Ravens right side, Yanda has just 22 starts (including 2 playoff games) at RG since the beginning of 2008. Marshal had no negative events versus the Steelers. He made 3 of 4 pulls and had 3 blocks in level 2. Scoring: 72 blocks, 5 missed, 72 points (.94 per play).
Oher: Oher was beaten inside by Worilds for the pressure that flushed Flacco and eventually resulted in a QH by Harrison (Q2, 6:01). He was beaten outside all the way behind the pocket by Harrison for his strip sack (Q4, 7:48). That was a high-motor effort from a great player, but it’s still Michael’s responsibility. He moved very well Sunday with 7 blocks in level 2. For what I believe is the first time this season, he lined up on the left side (Q3, 9:56), but Reid took his place at RT, so it was simply a jumbo formation, not unbalanced. Scoring: 73 blocks, 2 missed, 1 pressure, 1 sack, 65 points (.84 per play).
Reid: Jah entered for 5 jumbo formation snaps and made 4 blocks. Among those were the 3 unsuccessful goal-line snaps on the opening drive. Ngata previously had 5 career snaps versus the Steelers that included 4 TDs (3 run behind him) and no failed TD drives. Had the Ravens driven to the Steelers’ 1 later in the game, I wonder if Ngata would have been inserted. He played 44 defensive snaps. Scoring on Reid: 4 blocks, 1 missed, 4 points (.80 per play)
Other Offensive Notes:
· Flacco had ample time and space (ATS) on 30 of 50 drop backs (60%). That compares to 26% ATS in last year’s playoff game at Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger also had 74% ATS Sunday (see the defensive notes for additional detail). With ATS, Flacco completed 17 of 29 throws for 166 yards, 1 TD and 0 INTs along with 1 sack for 2 yards (5.7 YPP). Without ATS, Joe was 11 of 18 for 134 yards 0/0 and was sacked twice for 9 yards (6.3 YPP). This was a rare inverted game for Flacco where he combined his 3rd best YPP without ATS with his 2nd worst ATS result since the beginning of 2010.
· Is Flacco’s low overall YPP a cause for concern? Simply put, no. Much of his passing was done on 3rd down (19 plays including the sack) where he completed 14 of 18, all of which were conversions. He had more balls dropped than usual, including some big plays (see below). Finally, he made accurate throws resulting in 2 accepted pass interference calls for 11 and 23 yards (there was a 3rd declined call of 20+ yards on Smith’s game-winning catch).
· Flacco has now engineered a scoring on each of his last 4 regular-season, half-ending possessions (technically, the Ravens kneeled out the game after Ray Lewis’ interception last year in week 4) at Heinz field. That has included 2 field goals and 2 game-winning TDs.
· Just how bad was the situation with dropped passes? Let’s review:
1. (Q1, 4:18): Smith drops 40+ yard throw off fingertips after slowing himself by fighting Gay’s jersey grab
2. (Q2, 13:49): Smith drops 9-yard slant right between the right hash and numbers
3. (Q2, 6:47): Smith drops 12-yard out by right sideline that hit him on the numbers
4. (Q2, 0:32): Dickson is unable to hold onto 23-yard pass with Clark’s big hit. It’s a tough drop for which to blame Dickson, but Clark’s hit reduced the yardage.
5. (Q2, 0:16): Boldin 11-yard catch is dislodged by Taylor
6. (Q4, 0:42): Smith drops first shot at game winning 37-yard TD in left corner of end zone
7. (Q4, 0:23): Boldin drops 14+ yard crossing pattern at 12-yard line
Even with some of the yardage made up on subsequent throws, Flacco’s stat line would have looked a lot better had a portion of these been complete.
· Torrey Smith had a difficult night as you can see above, but I don’t see the ceiling on what he might accomplish. He was thrown a mess of balls because he was able to get consistent separation. For the most part, Flacco has thrown passes of what I’ll call the "announcer" variety to date. That is to say, he’s thrown the ball where Torrey Smith has been the only man with a chance to catch it. As these two develop rapport, Torrey learns to adjust to the ball in the air, and his hands/technique improve, there will be more of the high-value intentional underthrows in single coverage. Those become pass interference a good percentage of the time and will force more double coverage. Torrey was on the receiving end of a 50-yard PI at Jacksonville and adjusted underneath Lewis to haul in an underthrow for 29 yards by the right sideline (Q1, 4:11) in Sunday’s game.
· Ray Rice had a big impact on the game’s final drive despite going without a carry or reception. As I have it scored, Flacco had ATS on his last 9 passes. Rice threw a block on 6 of those (5 set and 1 chip). None of those blocks were failed and the Steelers had a player assigned to spy him on virtually every play. If he’s able to add some value as a blocker, that’s a lot like getting double coverage on a running back. In any case, the Steelers’ strong desire to keep Rice in check opened up space for Anquan Boldin. The best example I can give is the 4th and 1 completion to Boldin (Q4, 1:06). Dickson ran a crossing route that drew coverage from Foote and Clark while Rice drifted out to the right taking Timmons with him. That left Boldin isolated on Gay for an easy 10-yard pitch and catch between the hashes.
· Prior to the final drive, Rice was having a lousy game as a pass blocker. He was steamrolled by Harrison (Q2, 1:00) on his first sack and also tripped up Grubbs as he was moving over. On Harrison’s last QH (Q4, 4:50), he hurdled over Rice to knock down Flacco. Particularly from the replay angle, it’s clear Rice moved out of the way rather than administer a hit to the airborne Harrison.
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