It's human nature for fans, the media and any other general observer to point out the bad in sports.
It's easy to look at the Ravens' drops last week against Denver. It's easy to say we, as observers, would have challenged the Wes Welker play, so therefore John Harbaugh failed his team. It's easy to look at the defensive mishaps and wonder how it is that a group of 11 players can look so bad for 60 minutes of game time.
Coaches, on the other hand, don't look at it that way, whatsoever. They look at each game on a play by play basis. They have to. Without doing so would result in an unfair assessment of what a team is doing right or wrong. Some plays are going to be better than others. As difficult as football schematics can be at times, there's a simple conclusion at the end: The team that makes more plays wins the game.
This is why evaluating the Denver film was tough for Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees. By no means does he want to lead a defense that surrenders 49 points and 510 yards in a single game. But when he broke down the film, there was a clear conclusion. For more than 87 percent of the time the defense was on the field, they held their own against a Broncos offense is known for its explosiveness.
The problem is that nine chunk plays were a major factor in last Thursday's outcome.
A chunk play — or big play, depending on your preferred term — is a play that goes for over 20 yards. The Broncos had nine out of 70 plays total up to 307 yards (Note: the official game book states the Broncos ran 68 plays. Pees totaled it up to 70. We'll go with Pees since he and his staff broke down every play.)
That means on the remaining plays, the Broncos combined for 203 yards.
"Now, 61 plays sometimes can be a normal football game," Pees told reporters Thursday. "And if you ever said you did that against a Denver Bronco team with Peyton Manning, you would be just ecstatic. But it wasn't that. You can't neglect the nine plays for  yards. So, you can't just ignore it and say, ‘We had a good game, but we had these nine plays.' Those nine plays, you had them. It's our job as a coaching staff to sit down and evaluate all plays — why the ones worked, but also more why the other ones didn't work, and is there anything we can do schematically to help those guys."
I'll admit: Pees is a refreshing coach from the media's standpoint. He takes the blame when it's his fault. He'll speak his mind on something if he disagrees. He never avoids a question — well, unless there are direct orders not to, such as when it comes to injury information. But the last thing an employee wants to do is tick off his boss, so that's understandable.
Still talking about the Denver game, Pees brought up some games last year where he felt he was at fault for not making the proper calls for his defense to succeed. Surprisingly enough, he's not sure last week's game falls into that category.
"There's times, being honest, like last year in Philadelphia, [when] we didn't play well, I called a crap game," Pees said. "I did, and sometimes you've just got to say that. I didn't do well that game. I didn't put our guys in the best position. Houston game last year, we didn't play well when we gave up points and yardage.
"This game, I can't say that the whole defense didn't play well. We didn't play poorly; we played poor plays. And there were nine of them, and we've got to correct those nine plays. I still really believe we can be a very, very good defense."
If Pees didn't have a track record for being as honest and forthcoming, it would be easy to call this coach speak. But his reputation precedes that.
Pees proved last year he can coach defense. He had a group of guys getting pushed off the line of scrimmage for the first half of the season. That's not coaching, that's on-field ability (or lack thereof). Pees designed certain sub packages to help control the line of scrimmage. Gradually, the defense improved. Red zone defense, especially, improved.
After breaking down the 70 plays of defense Baltimore had a week ago, Pees seems sure his group will be able to bounce back. That doesn't mean he's brushing off the nine plays that did the Ravens in last week.
"This has been a hard week, because I'm disappointed in the outcome," Pees said. "I'm disappointed in the statistics, which look terrible. I'm not disappointed in the total defensive effort that we gave. I'm disappointed in nine plays; that's what it is. So, it's been a hard week. It isn't one where you can just go in and start chastising and get everybody and be ranting and raving and be crazy. At the same time, you can't sit there and go, ‘Well, it's OK,' because it's not. It's kind of that in-between. That's as honest an answer as I can possible give you."
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