Football is back and with are my film reviews! Each week I’ll be breaking down the Ravens’ performances with an All-22 view. Let’s get into Week 1!
I was intrigued when the Ravens signed Danny Woodhead in free agency this offseason. He has always been an injury liability, but presents a matchup nightmare for linebackers. Before Woodhead suffered an injury, he was clicking with Joe Flacco as the duo converted on several third and long situations. In the play above, the Ravens spread the Bengals defense out and move Woodhead to the slot. Woodhead is able to run a slant and find an open spot in the Bengals zone, getting separation from the defender. Again, that’s not a favorable matchup for a linebacker. Later in that drive on third and long, Woodhead ran a route out of the back field where he out-flanked the tight end to the flat, keeping a drive alive for the Ravens. It’s unfortunate that he’s out the next few weeks, because Flacco and Woodhead were clicking. If he can comeback from the injury and stay healthy, he’s going to give defenses a headache going forward.
One thing I expected out of the offense was a few more shot plays with the receivers they have. For the most part it appeared as though the Ravens were content to take shorter throws and gains that kept moving the chains and eating clock. I believe that’s a credit to the offense taking what was handed to them. I mentioned how Danny Woodhead was able to find room and space within the offense and it worked for them. Take what the defense gives you. I still wasn't wildly encouraged by the run game, but that’s a position the Ravens were anticipated to be week at.
For all of the critical analysis I make of Flacco, I have to give him kudos here for calling the right audible. The Bengals come out in a Cover 0 look, meaning they're bringing at least six defenders on a blitz, providing one-on-one coverage for the offense. Typically a good way to tell if teams are bluffing is if they have a safety deep in the middle of the field in this alignment. If they do, they're not sending the house. If they don't, they may still blitz one player, but it won't be a full out blitz. Flacco notices there is nobody in the deep middle and deduces it’s Cover 0. Flacco audibles to a play that creates a natural pick or rub used to free up a receiver. With nobody in the open field because of the blitz, Jeremy Maclin strolls into the end zone.
The defense gave up yards early in the game, but tended to be a bend don't break unit that capitalized on turnovers. The first turnover, above, came on a ball that was tipped by Patrick Onwuasor and landed in the hands of Brandon Carr. The play design starts with a play-action fake from Andy Dalton. Onwuasor does a good job of dropping back into his zone as he notices the halfback slipping out of the backfield. Dalton telegraphs the throw to his right and it doesn't appear as though his eyes or the fake fooled the defense.
The second interception was on a play that was doomed to fail. In the red zone the Ravens had a perfect coverage by aligning a corner and safety overtop of a lone receiver to the left. With the Bengals in the red zone, the play is designed for the ball to come out quickly. Dalton will have no time to move to the progression to the left so the ball has to either go to the right or the middle. As soon as the ball is snapped, C.J. Mosley drops to the center of the field and drifts to his left when Dalton’s eyes move that way putting him in position to make the play. It was a play Mosley made with great awareness of the situation and where his teammates were on the field.
Throughout the game, it was evident that the Ravens had no respect for Bengals receivers not named A.J. Green. On the play above, the Ravens get their first sack of the game because the coverage plays tight with a blitz, giving Dalton nowhere to throw it. I mentioned in my predictions last week that the Bengals offensive line was putrid and that showed up. The sack on this play could've realistically been credited to either player had Cincinnati’s left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi not held the edge rusher.
Again with the red zone turnover for Dalton. The trouble with the red zone is that the field becomes smaller, forcing quarterbacks to make quicker decisions and throw into tighter windows. Going back to the theme of Cincinnati’s offensive line, the Ravens played extremely tight coverage here, taking away options that Dalton wanted, even forcing him to hesitate and pull back on a pump fake. You can even se at the bottom of the screen where the Bengals ran a pick play to try and get the running back open if need be. Dalton didn't see it soon enough, as his first look in the middle was taken away by two defenders. He ultimately ended up holding onto the ball too long and it cost the Bengals their second red zone turnover. For those keeping count that’s six points the Bengals left on the field. There’s seven more when you consider the next play.
This one has to be a miscommunication, but it was almost a six point error. The cornerback passes the receiver off, assuming he has help from the safety. Fortunately the Ravens’ pass rush again crunches the pocket, forcing Dalton to get rid of it quickly. If Dalton even keeps it in bounds, it’s likely a touchdown, but that tallies 13 points if you assume the Bengals hit on all three kicks, which isn't a given.
Overall I thought the unit performed up to their billing. As of right now, Football Outsiders has this unit as the top defense in the NFL by a wide margin at -94.6 percent. Coming in second are the Rams at -67.7, which is nearly a 30 percent difference. The Bengals were able to move the ball on the Ravens, getting into the red zone on atlas three occasions, but the Ravens capitalized on turnovers on defensive stops en route to a dominating road effort.
As usual, if you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment or follow me on Twitter @TJackRH!