Throughout the summer, aggressive playcalling was identified as a key component for the Baltimore Ravens in their quest to return to the postseason. An attacking, blitz heavy defense coupled with explosive vertical passing was the aim. As it were, at least through the first two contests, conservative game plans have produced a pair of divisional wins.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been vilified in Baltimore for years because of his preference for a passive defensive scheme. However, the first two games of 2017 have proven his playcalling can be quite effective with better personnel in the secondary. Pees’ defense has accumulated a remarkable ten takeaways so far.
On Sunday, Eric Weddle’s first quarter interception came on a play where the Ravens rushed just four. Baltimore’s linebackers dropped into zone coverage on Tyus Bowser’s first NFL interception. Lardarius Webb’s end zone pick and Brandon Carr’s game sealing interception also came on a four man rush. According to Pro Football Focus, Browns rookie DeShone Kizer was not pressured on any of his three interceptions. Sitting back in coverage may actually allow the defense to make more impact plays than sending extra pass rushers.
Conservative game plans have also been effective for the Ravens offense. Joe Flacco has always been known for his arm strength, but he was intercepted on his only deep shot in Week 2. On the other hand, Flacco thrived on short passing plays. 24 of his 32 attempts traveled less than ten yards in the air, resulting in a 83.9-percent overall adjusted completion percentage per PFF.
Notably, Flacco’s best statistical season came in 2014 under the guidance of Gary Kubiak and his multifaceted West Coast scheme. Current Ravens coordinator Marty Mornhinweg schemed numerous easy completions for Joe using play-action and bootlegs in Week 2. Furthermore, Greg Roman’s power blocking scheme has alleviated pressure from the quarterback. The Ravens rushing offense is averaging 37 attempts per game at a respectable four yards per carry.
Surely the Ravens will be forced to take more chances on both sides of the ball at some point this season, possibly during the upcoming Week 4 showdown against the arch rival Steelers. But until Baltimore finds themselves in position where vertical passing and creative blitzes are truly necessary, conservative gameplans will remain a successful blueprint. With the current state of underwhelming offensive line play throughout the NFL, controlling the short-to-intermediate passing game on both sides of the ball is absolutely a winning formula for the Baltimore Ravens.