Like any football fan, I have expectations about how the game ought to be played.
It surprised me a little that Pagano did not convert to the dime or quarter for the game’s final 2 plays (beginning Q4, 0:40). With 17 yards to go, it seemed the extra DB (or two) would have been an asset in coverage, there was no legitimate threat of a run (other than Dalton), and the intentional grounding call allowed time for substitution.
At that point, it was a choice between having Ayanbadejo and Johnson in the game or replacing one (or both) of them with Carr and/or Nakamura.
So what did Johnson and Ayanbadejo do on those last 2 plays?
On the first of those 2 plays, Ayanbadejo lined up in a 3-point stance at DT and Johnson moved to and back from the line before the snap. The deception worked as both dropped to coverage and the 3-man rush pressured Dalton to throw the ball away. On the 4th-down play, Ayanbadejo and Johnson again danced near the LoS then dropped to coverage as McPhee got home.
It’s difficult to argue with success normally, but this is a case where I think it’s clear Pagano had a plan to disguise the rush and it worked to perfection.
The Bengals 78 offensive plays were all played competitively:
Versus the Run: 30 plays, 119 yards, 4.0 YPC
Versus the Pass: 48 plays, 364 yards, 7.6 YPP
Overall: 78 plays, 483 yards, 6.2 YPPA
By number of defensive backs:
3 DBs: 1 plays, 2 yards, 2.0 YPPA
4 DBs: 30/179, 6.0 YPPA, 1 TO
5 DBs: 45/293 6.5 YPPA, 2 sacks, 2 TOs
6 DBs: 2/9, 4.5 YPPA
By number of pass rushers:
3: 4/-5, -1.3 YPP, 1 sack
4: 28/218, 7.8 YPP, 2 TO
5: 11/59, 5.4 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO
7: 4/92, 23.0 YPP
Because of the Ravens’ injury issues, I think it’s worth reviewing the snap counts from Sunday for every position. By unit:
Defensive Line: Arthur Jones’ injury left the Ravens with fewer linemen than you’d like. Cody had 30 snaps, McKinney 17, McPhee 34, Ngata 59, Redding 49, and Suggs 71. McPhee’s total was a career high, but the totals for Ngata, Redding, and Suggs are more concerning given the short week. I have to wonder if there was a decision not to use Ngata in the goal line offense based on the schedule. A healthy Jones would be a big benefit.
Linebacker: Ayanbadejo had 38 snaps, Ellerbe 35, Johnson 45, Kruger 40, McClain 78, and McClellan 2. The Ravens are undeniably beat up on the inside. McClain was playing with 1 arm dangling at one point and seemed to be holding his hand for a good part of the 2nd half. He wouldn’t surrender the green-dot helmet, however, and played every snap. Johnson had played 77% of snaps entering the game, but had his time cut back to 58% Sunday. Ellerbe had only played 52 snaps previously for the season, but his 38 would not be a concern were it not for word of the groin injury. In his absence, the Ravens played Albert McClellan for 2 important snaps at ILB (beginning Q4, 6:48).
Kruger’s 40 snaps were a career high. Ayanbadejo’s total was a high for his tenure with the Ravens. If Ray Lewis is ready to go Thursday, much would be improved. If not, I think the Ravens may consider street options.
Secondary: The snap counts here are of less concern than any injuries and the evolution of packages we continue to see with the deep CB corps. Reed, Pollard, and Webb played all 78 snaps, Williams 77, Smith 40, Carr 6, Nakamura 3. All of Carr’s snaps came on 1st or 2nd down. Nakamura played 2 dime snaps and 1 heavy (3-safety) nickel.
• The crowd had an impact on the game. The Bengals false started 3 times and were forced to call a timeout midway through the first quarter. At times it was as loud as I can ever recall.
• Ed Reed had a much-needed big day. His end-zone interception sent the Ravens to the locker room with a 7-point lead, but Caldwell touched him down immediately. That was only the 2nd time career Reed has not returned an interception he made in the end zone (St Louis, 2003). He upended Gresham violently (Q3, 8:13). He timed the snap to blitz and take down Scott for a gain of 2. He was in position with bracket coverage on Caldwell that allowed Webb to gamble for his INT (Q4, 14:18). On the Bengals final drive, his diving PD on the pass for Hawkins saved a likely TD (Q4, 0:50). The only significant coverage failure was being unable to keep up with Caldwell on his 37-yard catch (Q2, 14:04).
• Webb continues to star. His diving interception (Q4, 14:18) was one of the most amazing you’ll ever see. He made a tackle in run support (Q1, 10:29) to hold Benson to a gain of 2. Lardarius anticipated the short out to Benson and deflected it (Q2, 11:17) by the right sideline. Webb, Ngata, and Suggs anticipated the screen and forced Dalton to ground the ball (Q2, 7:52). He had tight coverage on Hawkins (Q3, 4:13) which forced Dalton to throw the ball away. He was flagged for a 24-yard pass interference penalty (Q4, 8:14) on Simpson. Aside from the penalty, the longest play Webb allowed was the 19-yard completion to Hawkins (Q4, 2:03, 12 + 7 YAC) between the numbers and the left hash. He has yet to be beaten for a TD this season.
• Cary Williams was in the thick of the action most of the day. He leapt early on the long pass to Simpson (Q1, 11:48) for 47 yards (32+ 15 YAC) down the left sideline. Williams dislodged the football from Simpson (Q2, 11:09) for a PD. He had good coverage on Caldwell on Reed’s interception (Q2, 0:29). He played soft on Simpson to allow a 10-yard completion along the left sideline (Q3, 5:33). He played Dalton’s option well (Q4, 15:00) which resulted in the errant pitch and gain of just 2. He had a diving PD by the left sideline (Q4, 8:57) that denied Simpson and was nearly picked off by Ayanbadejo. He stripped Caldwell of the football on what might have been ruled a fumble by the left sideline (Q4, 7:14). On the disputed TD to Gresham (Q4, 5:43), the Bengals’ TE used his body well to block out Williams, who had very little impact on the play but was credited with a PD. Williams violently threw down the airborne Simpson (Q4,1:57) for a gain of 8. Simpson rose and bumped Williams. On the very next play (Q4, 1:35), Williams had good coverage down the left sideline, but tripped as the ball arrived on Simpson’s 43-yard catch (it would likely have been caught anyway).
• With the view at the snap (Q4, 13:15), you can See Williams make a signal to an off-screen safety. From where I sat, it looked to me Williams was indicating he could cover Simpson alone and Reed should move to the other side where the Bengals had lined up Gresham, Hawkins, and Caldwell. Reed slid over, Dalton saw the matchup, led Simpson well, and Pollard had to come over to take him down for a gain of 22.
• Williams rushed Dalton (Q3, 9:31). He was initially knocked down, but had time to get up and whiff on a clean run at Dalton. The Bengal QB had approximately 8 seconds of pocket time and finally found Leonard for a gain of 37 on the left numbers (19 + 18 YAC). The Ravens had Cody among a 4-man rush and just 4 DBs on the field, so Williams’ blitz left the Ravens vulnerable to an extended play.
• Smith replaced Carr in the nickel. He played on the outside at LCB while Webb moved to the slot. For the most part, he was not only excellent, but Dalton threw only 3 passes to his assignments. He was beaten on a slant by Caldwell for 7 yards (Q1, 1:39). He collected his first interception (Q3, 0:53) on his 25th career snap. There are certainly parallels with Reed’s 2002 interception versus the Bengals when he fumbled going in for the score, but Smith was fortunate that Ayanbadejo emerged with the football (see below) to set up a 2-yard TD. Smith also took down Leonard in run support (Q4, 8:51).
• Many folks will remember Smith for getting beat down the right sideline by Caldwell (Q4, 11:03), but it’s not Smith’s play that bothered me there. Dalton checked off at the LoS seeing the potential for man-to-man coverage across with both safeties at the line. He was able to do that despite a very loud crowd. The Bengals picked up the blitz perfectly, and Dalton threw a strike for the 49-yard TD. The risk of another very good QB in the AFC North for years to come is not a pleasant thought.
• The fumble recovery after Jimmy Smith’s INT was an illustration of the change-of-possession possibilities at the bottom of an NFL pile. In order, the people to enter the scrum were Dalton, Andre Smith, Kruger, Suggs, Ron Winter (referee), McClain, Ayanbadejo. The 7th man in got the ball and I have to admit I was still watching the pile as Ayanbadejo escaped the melee and plunked the ball down on the 27-yard line.
For more on the Ravens pass rush, the missed call on the Bengals' flea flicker, or other archived content, please visit: