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Ravens News 11/28: Super Bowl preview? and more

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NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Rams Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Notes vs Rams 11/25/19 - Ken McKusick

Pass Rush

The Ravens took advantage of an inexperienced offensive line and swarmed Jared Goff with both scheme and numbers. While the Ravens finished with just 2 sacks, they allowed Goff ATS on just 13 of 41 drop backs (32%).

Let’s start with pass rush by numbers:

2-4: 22 plays, 169 yards (7.7 YPP)

5: 13 plays, 37 yards (2.7 YPP), including 1 sack and both interceptions

6+: 4 plays, -8 yards (-2.0 YPP), including 1 sack

Simply put, risking numbers on the pass rush paid off in spades.

In terms of elements of deception, the Ravens used a season-high 26 individual blitzes, ran 5 stunts, and had 10 drops of 2 men. Martindale used a variety of combinations for 11 deceptive blitzes, another season high.

Defensive MVPs

Jimmy Smith

Matthew Judon

Marcus Peters

Honorable mentions were earned by Tyus Bowser, Jaylon Ferguson, and Jihad Ward.

Defenses are basically powerless to stop Lamar Jackson in empty formations - Steven Ruiz

Jackson has been good at everything, which is why he’s the leading candidate for MVP, but there is one split where the 22-year-old star is truly in a league of his own. That’s in empty formations, with no running backs in the backfield and five receiving options lined up out wide.

After ringing up four touchdowns from empty formations against the Rams on Monday night, Jackson is now averaging a ridiculous 0.73 expected points added per attempt from empty for the season, per Sports Info Solutions. That leads the league by a WIDE margin: Patrick Mahomes is second at 0.49.

Jackson has done most of his damage as a passer from those looks. He’s added “only” 7.7 of his total 58.9 EPA on runs from empty, but it’s the immense threat he poses on the ground that opens up the opportunities he’s taken advantage of in the passing game.

There are no obvious answers for stopping Lamar Jackson out of empty. That may sound like hyperbole, but that 0.73 EPA says otherwise. As does the fact that the greatest tactician in the history of the sport, Bill Belichick, had no answers for Jackson.

Four front-runners to win the Super Bowl entering Week 13 - PFF

3. BALTIMORE RAVENS (14.7%)

The Ravens and Lamar Jackson are going scorched earth on the NFL, and they’re doing it via the run and the pass. The Ravens have the NFL’s number one overall offense using expected points added per play, but what is really interesting is that despite being known for their run game, they rank first in expected points added per pass play. Not only do they also rank first in expected points added per run play, but their 0.077 expected points added per run play would rank as the 11th best passing offense.

The Ravens are scoring on a league-high 35% of their drives, which not only leads the league but is the fourth-highest mark since 2006. Jackson is sporting a 116.1 passer rating from a clean pocket (third) and 7.1 yards per carry (first in the NFL), with 30 missed tackles forced (most among quarterbacks by 12). This Sunday, the biggest game of the NFL season will pit the Ravens against the 49ers in Baltimore in a game where the Ravens can increase their chances of home-field advantage to 34% with a win as they look to avoid taking a trip to New England.

Week 13 NFL Preview: Is Ravens-49ers Our Super Bowl Preview? - Danny Heifetz

Sunday Headliner

San Francisco 49ers (10-1) @ Baltimore Ravens (9-2)

What to watch: Which team takes the lead first

If Baltimore’s game against the New England Patriots felt like a preview of the AFC championship game, this matchup feels like a Super Bowl sneak peek. Both teams just thrashed their opponents in prime time.

Both of these teams are designed to protect leads. On offense, Baltimore and San Francisco grind the clock with their running games. They are the top two teams in rushing attempts, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and time of possession. Both teams use their devastating rushing games to set up play-action to take devastating deep shots, especially to their speedy rookie receivers (Marquise Brown for the Ravens, Deebo Samuel for the 49ers) and athletic tight ends (Mark Andrews and George Kittle). On the other side of the ball, their opponents try to play catch-up by passing the ball, but usually fail. Each defense is top six in turnovers, top four in efficiency per Football Outsiders, and top three in pass defense by the same metric.

Each play with an average lead of more than six points per offensive drive, according to Football Outsiders. That’s more than twice as many as the next closest team, and three-quarters of NFL teams have less than a one-point lead on their average drive.

These teams accomplish the same things, but go about it in opposite ways. The 49ers defense, led by a defensive line that boasts five first-round draft picks, leads the league in sacks and quarterback pressure rate despite blitzing roughly once every five plays (the fourth-lowest mark in the league). The Ravens, led by an unheralded collection of mid-round draft picks rushing the passer, blitz at the highest rate in the league (roughly one in two plays), but pressure the quarterback at a below-average level.

Baltimore effectively uses that deception for big plays. Baltimore has run the most run-pass options this season according to Pro-Football-Reference, and they also take easy chunks of yardage with Jackson running read-option handoffs that isolate edge rushers. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t exactly mobile, but he has the second-most passing yards on play-action, according to Pro Football Focus. San Francisco stretches defenses horizontally with its zone-running game and then attacks the vertical seams...

If either team falls into a two-possession deficit, the shoe will be, as they say, on the other foot.