Entering Week 5 in Oakland, the Baltimore Ravens had lost seven of their last twelve road games. Sure, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was sidelined, but Baltimore was missing six starters of their own for this AFC showdown. On Sunday afternoon, John Harbaugh’s squad again proved their resiliency, as smart play calling propelled the Ravens to a crucial 30-17 AFC road victory. .
On the first offensive play, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg dialed up a deep shot to Mike Wallace down the sideline that was made possible by Nick Boyle and Austin Howard’s double team blocking on stud pass rusher Khalil Mack. After a nifty draw play by Terrance West, the Ravens cashed in the opportunity with a jet sweep touchdown from backup tight end Vince Mayle.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees also made his intentions known on the Ravens first defensive snap against the Raiders by putting all three of his cover corners in press man technique. Next, a blitz from the slot by Lardarius Webb forced an early throw which eventually led to a Jimmy Smith fumble recovery touchdown. The Ravens held a two touchdown lead less than five minutes into the game.
Baltimore’s defense utilized a heavy dose of man coverage and stacked the box throughout, allowing the safeties to read and react. Pees leaned heavily on pre-snap deception, keeping Oakland’s offense off balance all afternoon. With Oakland driving before halftime, Pees dropped Webb into a deep safety position and brought both Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle on a double edge blitz. Jefferson brought down E.J. Manuel, ending the threat.
Mornhinweg more than held up his end of the bargain. He established Alex Collins and the running game by using tempo, and mixed in some screens as well as play action passes early on. The Ravens earned their second offensive score with a short Buck Allen touchdown run behind a pulling Matt Skura.
Joe Flacco hit another deep bomb to Mike Wallace before halftime on a play where the Ravens kept two tight ends in to block for maximum protection. Flacco primarily worked out of the shotgun in the third quarter and kept the chains moving by targeting the intermediate middle of the field with crossing routes. Once the game was in hand, the offense pounded away with eight straight rushing attempts in the fourth quarter.
Pees’ blitz package impacted the game against both the run and pass. A B-gap blitz allowed Anthony Levine to produce a drive stalling sack. Later in the third quarter, Pees drew up an overload blitz off the right side followed by a zero blitz on the very next play. While neither of these aggressive calls resulted in a sack, each pressured Manuel into inaccurate throws.
It has been a bizarre, unpredictable start to the 2017 NFL season. Nevertheless, the Ravens may already be passed the most difficult part of their schedule, especially considering travel. A challenging November slate appears easier after Houston lost two All-Pro pass rushers for the year in Week 5, while Tennessee and Green Bay are dealing with injury concerns of their own.
If Baltimore’s coaching staff can continue to put their playmakers in position to succeed, the Ravens will be well on their way to a postseason berth.