What Went Wrong On Sunday?
Well, Ravens fans, here we stand: coping with a three game losing streak. The Ravens were 1 for 12 in third down efficiency against the Broncos this past Sunday. Baltimore was also 0 for 2 in fourth down efficiency. Without the defense of Ravens teams past, there is no way to win with these numbers.
For the sake of our sanity, we need somewhere to place the blame. Though this breakdown, using All-22 film, may not ease your minds, we think it will help direct your frustration.
On their first possession, the Ravens would have likely earned a first down via Flacco’s QB sneak, but he couldn’t hold onto the ball and fumbled away that drive after 3 plays. No need to diagram this. The fumble is all on Flacco.
On their second possession, the Ravens faced 3rd and 8 on their own 6 yard line.
Situation: 1Q 6:33 3rd and 8
Playcall: Hi/Lo Mesh and Iso Comeback
The play is designed to put pressure on the middle of the field by placing two inside receiving threats (Smith and Pitta) at different depths. But the only read in this situation is to the outside (orange) in an attempt to pick up the first down.
Problems arise immediately after the snap of the ball. In this image, everyone is rushing except for SS Mike Adams who has man coverage on Pitta. Pitta (in orange) chips the linebacker lined head up on him which delays his route. Ray Rice (likely by design) does not chip RDE Robert Ayers (in blue) and based on the blitz scheme, Ayers is now left unblocked.
By the time Torrey Smith and Pitta make their inside cuts, Ayers is already in Flacco’s ear waiting hit Flacco’s right side for the second time in as many plays. Flacco rushes his throw and as a result…
…very much overthrows his outside target on the comeback route (Doss).
There is plenty of blame to go around on this play. A slow-developing route combo that challenges the middle of the field is a decent play call, but the Broncos have very good pass rushers and are showing blitz on top of it. Ray Rice may have erred in not chipping Robert Ayers, but we will never know his responsibility. Based on the pressure scheme, Flacco has one option: target the comeback route across the first down marker. Flacco releases the ball early out of necessity and overthrows Doss. We’ve seen Flacco overthrow this route several times in the past few weeks, and the excuses are running thin.
On their third possession, the Ravens faced 3rd and 10 from their own 14.
Situation: 1Q 4:28 3rd and 10
Ravens are facing 3rd down and long so they need a play to get past the sticks. They call a Ravens staple; run four receivers in routes that don’t overlap creating all isolation matchups. The Ravens receivers are not very good at getting open against man coverage which is likely why Denver opts to play 2-man meaning two deep safeties (in orange) and man coverage underneath.
From the overhead camera angle you can see that all of these routes are being covered well even without safety help at the moment. By the time the inside routes break, Flacco is already scrambling. This leads me to my next point…
#58 Von Miller drives Osemele upfield, plants his upfield foot (slide 1), spins to the inside, and leaves Flacco to scramble for his life.
The result of the play is a pressured completion to Pitta but unfortunately short of the first down marker (in yellow). So far in this game the Ravens’ drives have ended in Fumble/Punt/Punt.
It is clear that the offensive line deserves blame here. Osemele gets manhandled by Von Miller and Oher gets beaten on the other side by Wesley Woodyard. Edge pressure from both sides leaves Flacco with little hope of achieving a first down. In spite of all of that, though, I still place the majority of the blame on the playcall. None of these routes overlap and there is no combination that will allow Flacco to read the defense to decide who is open. When all of the routes are run in isolation, the game turns into backyard football: throw it to the man when he breaks open. Two things are working against the Ravens here: a potent (and well-documented) Broncos pass rush and Ravens receivers who have struggled to get separation against man coverage all year. This is a recipe for disaster. Flacco hits Pitta on an out pattern (credit to Flacco here) but he still comes up short of the first down.
On the Ravens’ fourth possession, they faced 3rd and 8 from their own 30.
Situation: 2Q 10:59, 3rd and 8.
The Broncos have decided to defend this 3rd at long situation with Quarter defense (7 defensive backs). They motion #26 FS Rahim Moore from a linebacking position to the deep middle of the field (seen backpedaling at the Ravens midfield logo). This allows the two safeties (#30 SS David Bruton and #36 former Raven FS Jim Leonhard) to drive on routes breaking to the middle of the field. Underneath the Broncos have four cornerbacks to man-up the Ravens’ four receivers and a linebacker playing Ray Rice one on one.
The play call has Dennis Pitta (red route) running the seam and it turns out to be a great playcall because the corner and safety (in orange) focus on Anquan Boldin’s crossing route in the middle of the field. This leaves Pitta in great position against a corner playing with outside leverage.
It leaves Pitta wide open but he can’t come down with the ball. Fumble/Punt/Punt/Punt.
I love this play call. Against Denver’s Quarter package, Flacco finds Pitta in the seam for a first down recep…wait…a dropped pass. The blame here is squarely on Pitta. This was a great play design meant to attract an aggressive safety to an underneath route then target Pitta over the top. Denver did a great job in this game using their safeties aggressively, playing downhill to disrupt the middle of the field. This play call exploited their tendency perfectly. Let’s hope we see more playcalling like this in the near future.
Although this all seems particularly depressing, the Ravens did show some new playcalling throughout the day. As Bucky Brooks pointed out in his article (here), the Ravens ran Torrey Smith underneath from the outside a few times and utilized his speed. Once he got injured this job went to Tandon Doss, who ran underneath rub routes efficiently in the third quarter. Flacco also did a nice job audibling to a run play which gained ~15 yards when he saw a weak defensive front alignment. Flacco wasn’t helped by four dropped passes on the day either.
Ultimately the Ravens have holes in their offense that need to be plugged for a deep playoff run. I can’t see the Ravens blowing teams out any time soon but with better pass blocking and some more creative play design, this team can score enough pull out victories.