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Ravens News 11/20: Lamar’s grip, DVOA jump and more

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NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Week 11 DVOA Ratings - Aaron Schatz

We finally have a stir atop the DVOA leaderboard after Week 11, as the red hot Baltimore Ravens become the first team to rank in the top two other than New England/San Francisco since Week 3. The Patriots remain in the No. 1 spot because of their overall performance over the entire season, but the Ravens move up three spots to No. 2 after a huge win over Houston that caps off a spectacular month of performances going back to Week 7. Baltimore has a single-game DVOA over 45% in each of the last four games, peaking with 97.1% DVOA against Houston this week, which is the second-highest individual game of the season so far.

Week 7 is a bit of an arbitary endpoint, although it was the first week after Baltimore traded for Marcus Peters. Since Week 7, however, Baltimore has both the No. 1 offense and the No. 1 defense in the league by DVOA. Baltimore isn’t leading the league in our ratings because even weighted DVOA takes a more long-term view of things, giving full strength (or close to it) to the last eight weeks of data. And for Baltimore, that eight weeks includes the last four big wins but also narrow victories over Cincinnati and Pittsburgh as well as a loss to Cleveland.

Baltimore is the only team that has two wins over 80% DVOA this year: this week’s win over Houston and their Week 1 blowout of Miami, which was over 120% before opponent adjustments.

How the Ravens fixed their defense and became the NFL’s best team - Steven Ruiz

Baltimore wasn’t getting home with a traditional four-man rush and that was exacerbating issues in the secondary. So Martindale did the sensible thing and start calling more blitzes. A lot more blitzes, in fact. In that Week 4 loss to Cleveland, the Ravens had blitzed only 10 times. The following week, that number jumped to 16. In the game after that, Baltimore blitzed 30 times! Since Week 4, the team’s blitz rate has not been below 40.5% in any game.

Martindale is unafraid as a play-caller. He will send a blitz in any situation and he isn’t afraid to crowd the line of scrimmage against spread sets, either. He’s also not dumb. A lot of the pre-snap looks he throws at a quarterback are more daunting than what follows after the snap. The aim is to maintain a numbers advantage in coverage while getting the offensive line to slide one way so the Ravens can send a blitz from the opposite direction.

With Thomas playing closer to the line of scrimmage, the Ravens have called more two-deep safety coverages in to give him more help deep. Per Sports Info Solutions, Baltimore’s usage of those coverage has nearly tripled since Week 4, jumping from about 10% in September to 28% over the rest of the season. That strategic shift has coincided with a vastly improved pass defense. After Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield averaged 0.33 Expected Points Added per attempt against the Ravens in Weeks 2 through 4, opponents are averaging -0.31 per attempt since, and that includes games against Brady, Watson and Russell Wilson.

Watch Out, Cause the Ravens Offense Is Getting Plays From More Sources - Ryan Mink

Edwards has similarly had to swallow a smaller role this season after leading the Ravens in rushing a year ago. As the Ravens’ started down their division-winning 2018 run, Edwards averaged 5.2 yards per carry and posted 718 rushing yards.

Backing up Ingram, Edwards has averaged about seven carries per game, but his yards per carry has actually improved to 5.5 yards – just ahead of Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey for third-best in the NFL. Jackson leads at 6.9 yards per carry.

Edwards has built a reputation as a downhill hammer, and he’s still certainly showing that aspect of his game. The 63-yard touchdown Edwards ripped off against the Texans’ stingy run defense displayed that Edwards has finishing speed too.

“Gus is playing at a really high level. He has a very big role on our team,” Harbaugh said. “He takes it seriously, and he wants to produce, too. He wants to make these big runs and he wants to do all of those things. He’s stepped up to the plate very well every time he’s been out there.”

Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson reveal the stories behind their football grips - David Fleming

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Last year [then-Ravens offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg noticed that my finger placement on the ball was so high on top of the ball, and he was like, “You could try to move that down some and it might give you a tighter spiral.” But I feel like that finger on top of the ball gives me more power.

Last year before the Chiefs game, at the TV meetings, Kurt Warner noticed my grip and asked me where my hand was placed on the ball and why my finger was so high on top of it. We had a football at that meeting, and he grabbed it. I showed him my grip, and he was like, “That’s crazy, because mine is the same.” He showed me his hand placement, and it was pretty cool to see. He’s a Hall of Famer, and he was saying, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” I’ll adjust it a little bit, move it a little bit down and see if that works. But you really don’t want to change something that’s not broken.