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Ravens pass rush must get home to beat Browns

Baker Mayfield struggles under pressure

NFL: SEP 13 Browns at Ravens Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Baltimore Ravens want to win tonight, the first step is to get pressure on Baker Mayfield. Mayfield has the second highest drop-off of any NFL quarterback in QB rating when pressured, as only Carson Wentz has been worse under fire.

Baker Mayfield when pressured:

• 95 drop-backs

• 76 attempts

• 32 completions (42%)

• 395 yards

• 260 air yards

• 3 TD, 5 INT

Baker Mayfield when kept clean:

• 263 drop-backs

• 251 attempts

• 173 completions (68.9%)

• 2,050 yards

• 1,236 air yards

• 18 TD, 2 INT

Kevin Stefanski has done a great job utilizing Baker at his strongest. Mayfield has been dynamite on play action/bootlegs. The former No. 1 pick has always been excellent throwing on the move, with tons of zip on the ball. Splitting the field in half also simplifies Mayfield’s reads into half-field reads, making his decisions easier.

Bootlegs are accentuated by the Browns lethal rushing attack, which features heavy outside zone usage, naturally lending itself to bootlegs. Mayfield has the second most bootleg calls in the NFL (65) trailing only Jared Goff (77), per Sports Info Solutions.

Mayfield on bootlegs:

• 65 drop-backs

• 43 completions (66%)

• 718 yards (1st in the NFL)

• 454 air yards (1st in the NFL by almost double 2nd, Goff, 237)

• 2 TD, 0 INT

Bootlegs are a huge part of the Browns play action attack, encompassing 33% of the Browns total passing calls. Mayfield has excelled on play action among the league leaders.

Baker Mayfield on play action:

• 116 dropbacks

• 110 attempts

• 74 completions (67.3%)

• 10.2 Y/A

• 1,124 yards — 671 air yards

• 9 TD, 1 INT

Baker Mayfield without play action:

• 228 dropbacks

• 217 attempts

• 131 completions (60.3%)

• 6.1 Y/A

• 1,321 yards

• 825 air yards

• 12 TD, 6 INT

There are a few key elements, fundamentally, to successful play action —

  1. The down and distance are practical for a team to call a run play.
  2. The OL executes opening run-block steps with salesmanship
  3. The QB’s footwork and ball fake are well executed.
  4. The defense fears the run.

The fourth point is argued and scoffed at by various statistical and analytical pundits until they’re blue in the face. It’s just impractical to think that a team like the Browns, with a stout offensive line and two dynamic running backs, don’t threaten defenses to jump on play fakes. Takes some cojones to let Nick Chubb hit the hole with a head of steam and not try to cut him off.

Mayfield is extremely consistent with his footwork into play actions and the Browns offense as a whole does an awesome job selling their play fakes.

Overall, the Browns offense is quite reminiscent of the Titans rushing and play action attack. The Browns use a larger variation of run concepts with more gap scheme, while the Titans keep strict zone concepts for the most part. The biggest difference is that Mayfield doesn’t deal with pressure nearly as well as Ryan Tannehill. If the Ravens want to stuff the Browns offense, they will need to harass Mayfield and prevent big plays on play action. Sending some backside blitzes from DB’s early to harass Mayfield, not losing backside contain and being able to defend the run from some two high concepts should help the Ravens.

Gaining a lead early and diminishing the threat of the Browns rushing attack will also force Baker into more traditional drop-backs, as the threat of run diminishes when a defense is defending a two score lead.

A large part in defending the play action is dialing up pass blitzes against run looks. While this opens up rushing lanes, being able to put a defender in Mayfield’s face as soon as he squares to throw the ball will result in drive killing hits, sacks and turnovers. Wink Martindale loves to dial up fire blitzes and delayed A-gap blitzes with off-ball linebackers. Tyus Bowser has seen increased usage in this role, using Bowser and Patrick Queen to attack downhill and seek out Mayfield will kill drive efficiency.

Again, a ton of responsibility will be on the Ravens weakside linebackers to keep contain and take away bootlegs. It’s easier said than done, as Mayfield executes these fakes with great consistency. Understanding what personnel and alignments the Browns run play action from will allow the Ravens to properly dial up the blitzes necessary to pressure Mayfield.

In their Week 1 matchup, the Ravens took an early lead, which makes play action less effective. The Ravens defensive backs also did a nice job maintaining their deep thirds and ensuring that they wouldn’t get beaten overtop at any cost. The Browns responded by throwing some intermediate play action looks and gaining 10-15 yards, but the Ravens ultimately prevented the Browns from hitting any big plays on play action. The Browns would be wise to start out with those intermediate throws on play action, then see if they can hit double moves on the Ravens secondary for a huge play. The Titans had a ton of success doing so against Baltimore.

Yannick Ngakoue could be a major factor with his explosive speed and ability to win quickly using his staple cross-chop. Mayfield can’t hurt defenses with his legs past the line of scrimmage like Tannehill can, although he’s mobile enough to get himself into space and launch the ball downfield. If the Ravens allow Mayfield to find space and scan the field, he has a big time arm and good ball placement when there’s no threat of pressure.

In the end, if the Ravens want to find themselves at 8-5 with three losing teams set to finish the season, they must pressure Baker Mayfield.