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Ed Reed vs the Broncos

Sigh.

Yeah I understand that it is hard to be aware of everything happening in a football game. Bodies flying everywhere, different formations and schemes- complicated stuff! None of us can fully grasp the little nuances as they happen. Something like what if K Moreno hadn't gotten hurt? Would that have made a difference in their running game? Maybe more importantly, would that have made a difference in their passing game? I'll get to that in a bit but forst this piece of wisdom from Peter King, yesterday:

d. Awful game for Ed Reed. Invisible. Missed the tackle on the Demaryius Thomas go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Had to be the worst playoff game he's ever played.

Really? The worst? At first glance, making fun of King is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I want to look at this closer. The first thing to look at is the phrase, "worst playoff game he's ever played." That sounds damning and it sure looks like King means to damn Reed, but if you think about it, the worst playoff game in Ed's career is probably better than the best playoff games of most safeties since, well Ed is the best free safety to ever play the game. So maybe King doesn't know what he's actually saying here. Wouldn't be the first time...

But beyond that there's that first word: Invisible. Really? Off he top of my head I couldn't remember much of Reed all day. Yeah there was that TD King cites, but then again expecting Reed to tackle well at this point in his career is just plain silly. But then again, we all know that his play is rapidly going down hill and these are most likely his last games for the Ravens.

But I went back and looked at the game. I paid attention to Reed in the first half to see where he was; I wanted to do the same for the 2nd half but I got caught up in the excitement. I'll have to go back later for analysis. At any rate, what did I see in the first half? Pretty simple, really: Reed and Pollard were playing their roles as the last line of defense. Every play Reed was way back as was Pollard. Given that Manning was not throwing deep, you have to think that that was the Ravens plan: to not get beaten deep-and to show Manning very clearly that that was what they were gonna do. If Manning was gonna beat them he was gonna beat them by short passes and runs.

And that was how the game played out. Only one Manning pass longer than 20 yards; everything way in front of our safeties. Hey-Peter King might not have liked it but I'll take a dink and dunk Manning every day of the week and twice on Sunday's. And I can't find a link anywhere but I swear that Manning said as much: that he threw short all day because Reed and Pollard (notice how reporters keep forgetting Pollard) were deep all day. Okay then! That seems to wrap up the Peter King is once again full of it meme...but WAIT! There's MORE!

A related thing has been debated about this game that is related to Reed's so-called invisibility problem: that Peyton's arm couldn't throw long and that the cold had somehow sapped his strength. Perhaps that is true and Peyton is covering up a bit? Peyton is not one to speak ill of his opponents-he's classy that way-so maybe when he's saying that he didn't want to challenge Reed and Pollard he's covering up a bit?

As it so happens Gregg Rosenthal wrote a column on this very subject for NFL.com. It is a good read with a couple of puzzling parets to it. What he did was simple: he went back and looked at the game and specifically all of Manning's throws and assessed if they showed arm weakness. Yeah, that's a subjective assessment-but he includes several pieces of tape to back up his claims. It is a good read but I will paraphrase it here.

First he cites three throws that definitely didn't have much on them and you have to wonder if Manning was losing arm strength. Very concerning to Broncos fans. He ends this part of the article though with this:

The Ravens tried to take away the middle of the field and force Manning to throw to the sidelines. But even those throws were minimal; almost everything in the second half was short and/or toward the middle of the field. On Monday, Fox said that he "doesn't believe" the temperatures prevented Manning from throwing deep.

Denver's play-calling, including the decision to run on third-and-7 after the two-minute warning, indicates a team that was not playing aggressively.

Interesting. But almost immediately he opens up the second half of the article with this:

The tape, however, does not clearly show Manning's arm strength diminishing during the game.

I came into this exercise expecting to see more poor throws by Manning. They weren't there. It was a very good, not great, game by Manning until his final throw. I included a strong early throw from Manning to Eric Decker on the sideline to establish that he was throwing pretty well early. His two touchdowns were gorgeous touch passes. But Manning also showed good arm strength and velocity on passes during the third quarter and even in overtime.The last throw in the video above goes to Decker as well. That's only a few plays before Manning's game-turning interception. Manning showed good velocity on the throw. Anyone saying Manning couldn't throw the ball late in the game is cherry-picking plays.

Huh. Interesting. So Peyton was still putting some mustard on some of his throws even late in the game. By the end Rosenthal didn't know what to make of this Manning performance. Was it Reed or overly conservative play calling that was affecting Manning? (AGAIN no Pollard reference.) And why was he uneven? Dunno says Rosenthal.

Before I leave him, Rosenthal makes one weird bit of logic right at the start of his article:

Steve Wyche of NFL.com relayed from one Ravens source that safety Ed Reed played in the deep center field the entire game. The Ravens were daring Manning to go deep, but he didn't test them.

No, Gregg, the Ravens weren't daring Manning to go deep by placing Reed (AND POLLARD) deep; they were daring Manning to go short. Positioning a player deep says to any QB not to throw there cause, well, QB's don't like to complete passes to the other team. Duh.

But back to the question: was it Manning's arm or Reed's (AND POLLARD'S) positioning that was determining the Broncos offense? I want to know. I'm a big Ed Reed fan, not tio mention a big Brandon Pollard fan. So where to turn to give me insight? How about Film Study! Ken McKusick to the rescue! That guy is maniacal! So while Ken doesn't address this question directly he provides lots of good background info. Specifically:

Deferring discussion of Corey Graham’s heroics, this was a game where Denver’s special teams kept the game close and the Ravens’ run defense deserves much of the credit as they played exclusively nickel for Denver’s first 68 snaps. In effect, the Ravens dared the Broncos to run the ball, which they were not able to do effectively for most of the day. In 40 rushing attempts, the Broncos gained just 3.2 YPC and did not have a single carry longer than 11 yards.

First 68 snaps in nickel! Yowza! As you read the article, he then cites Lewis, Ellerbe, Kemo, Ngata, and Suggs as being outstanding, and you have to agree. But back to this first 68 snaps in nickel thing...

  • The Ravens ran the ball, and rotated well on the defensive line, but they played Brown, Graham, Williams, Pollard, Reed, Kruger, Ellerbe, and Lewis for each of the first 68 snaps.
So what I get out of this is that the Ravens lined up from play #1 and basically screamed at Manning and Fox what they were gonna allow and not allow. They were gonna allow short passes and runs but no long stuff of 20 yards or more. Peyton challenged them a bit in the first half but backed off in the second and stayed short. Thus the Ravens had the game they thought they could win: the Ravens front 7 vs the Broncos OL. And the Ravens won, allowing Manning and the offense just 21 points in the game.
Part of that strategy was keeping Reed and especially Pollard away from creeping up to the line in run support cause if the Ravens tried to do that, Peyton would see it and go deep. So Reed AND POLLARD had to stay back, almost like an understanding between two rival countries. Manning accepted the deal and lost. Reed (AND POLLARD) was not invisible at all. In fact he was a major determinant on how the game unfolded. Manning was just not gonna challenge two safeties deep. That Reed barely registered in the stat line is of no importance.
As they say with jazz music, sometimes it's the notes that aren't played that make the difference. Pees devised a masterful game plan. Reed AND POLLARD did their part in sacrificing some glory for the betterment of the team.
So Manning may have some issues with his arm but it was the Raven's who were dictating play and where Manning was throwing. That seems clear now. You wonder though why Peter King decided to place a public hit on Reed. King may be an overly sentimental gas bag but he's not normally mean. Maybe he finds the contrast between Ray Lewis' openness to talk and Reed's more closed to the reporting class stance as too much. At any rate, King is full of shit here.

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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