Defensive Notes vs. Dallas
On Monday, it seemed that overreactions to the loss were the norm in Baltimore.
The team missed an opportunity to win when playing on the road against one of the NFL’s best offenses. Losing by 10 is unusual for the Ravens, so it stood out in bold relief.
Would Jimmy Smith have made the difference? Probably not.
Are the Ravens unworthy/unable to strive for a division championship given this outcome? Of course not.
In some ways, the Ravens chance to win the division is greater given the results of this weekend.
So I choose to look at the results for what they are, but there is no absolute to be drawn from this outcome. The Ravens still need to win 2 of their remaining 3 division games (plus 1 or 2 others) to win a flawed AFCN.
The Pass Rush Fails to Deliver
Summarizing ATS by number of pass rushers:
Notes on the pass rush:
–No team will win often giving up 65% ATS, so the pass rush deserves examination.
–Dean Pees called just 3 deceptive blitzes which resulted in an incomplete as well as gains of 14 and 13 (TD) yards. In addition, Dak Prescott’s ability to run limited the Ravens’ options to sacrifice rush lane integrity for pressure.
–The Ravens allowed 50% ATS, even when rushing 5+, so numbers weren’t a successful strategy either. The Cowboys averaged 11.4 YPP when the Ravens brought 5+.
–That left Pees with what many thought might be the way to beat the Cowboys…sit back and wait for Prescott to make mistakes from the pocket. That didn’t work either, as we know now.
–In some ways the ATS number don’t tell the full story, because the Cowboys had both solid 3-second pockets vs 5+ and 4-second pockets vs. 3-4 rushers. Those extended opportunities gave Prescott a handful of deep opportunities, but more importantly, they stretched the field for YAC opportunities to Beasley, Witten, and Elliott.
–The only pass rusher who can claim individual success is Suggs who had 2 QHs and a pressure. Orr had 2 pressures as well. McClellan had his first pass rush contribution in some time with a sack to end the first Cowboys series.
–Williams (1 pressure), Jernigan (1 pressure), Pierce (0 pressures), Guy (0 pressures), and Z.Smith (1 pressure, 1 holding flag drawn) all did very little.
–C.J. Mosley had a QH on one of just a handful of pass rush attempts, but negated it with a roughing the passer flag on the Cowboys’ game tying TD (Q2, 6:01).
–Several of the pressure events the defense did deliver were free runs by Judon (Q2, 0:25), Correa (Q2, 0:25), and Weddle (Q3, 3:08). It’s good to get free runs when possible, but the Ravens didn’t win many 1-on-1 matchups with the Cowboys’ line.
–To summarize in words, the pass rush had a poor day and the coverage made it worse.
A Choice of Poisons
The Ravens faced a choice of problems in this game. They tried to defend the field with 4 DBs and a limited pass rush, which didn’t work. They also tried to defend the run with just 6 in the box and while more successful with that, they were less so once the run of long drives began.
The Cowboys’ heavy attack does not lead opposing DCs to 6-DB sets. The Ravens didn’t play any and on the season have still played just 1 snap of dime when Mosley has been healthy. None of the short zone coverage players (Powers, Orr, Mosley) made a positive contribution in coverage and each had a piece of soft coverage on a big YAC play.
The Ravens didn’t come close to a turnover and were credited with just 2 PDs on the day, neither at the LoS.
A Tiring Path through 5 Long Drives
The Cowboys were forced to punt on each of their first 4 drives and compiled just 58 yards of offense (3.4 YPPA) in the game’s first 20+ minutes.
What happened after that was demoralizing. The Cowboys scored on each of their last 5 drives (TD, FG, TD, TD, FG) and rolled up 359 yards of offense on 48 plays (7.5 YPPA), including 22 first downs. Dallas converted 7 of 8 times on 3rd down over those 5 drives.
The game turned on the infamous 1st and 30 play (Q2, 8:39) where Pierce was held by LG Leary, but the officials decided 2 flags in a row was enough for the Cowboys. Prescott ran for 12 yards on that play and the Cowboys would eventually score the game-tying TD.
It has been a very long time since I have seen the Ravens defense humbled so consistently.
Here is a racing-form review of the key plays which extended those drives:
–(Q2, 8:40) 1/30 Pierce penetrates vs. LG Leary, Prescott escapes left past Leary hold RL12, no flag
–(Q2, 7:57) 2/18 ATS, Prescott to Bryant PL12, Wright in coverage
–(Q2, 7:15) 3/6 ATS, Prescott to Butler PL41 left sideline, Wright close but did not find ball
–(Q2, 6:01) 3/Goal, Prescott rolls right, Mosley rushes after pocket break for QH/RTP flag, PR3 TD to Beasley
–(Q2, 1:16) 2/4, ATS, Prescott to Beasley PL8 then OOB, Wright soft along sideline
–(Q2, 1:04) 2/10, ATS, Prescott to Bryant PL16 in front of Wright, tackle inbounds
–(Q2, 0:25) 1/15, Correa unblocked pressure, Prescott to Bryant PM26 (11 + 15 YAC), Wright soft on slant
–(Q3, 12:00) 3/2, ATS, Prescott to Bryant PR9 in front of Young
–(Q3, 9:04) 1/10 ATS, Prescott for Williams, Young fails to find ball runs through receiver for 36-yard DPI
–(Q3, 8:10) 3/4 ATS, Prescott to Witten PM7 in front of Webb and Weddle
–(Q3, 7:37) 1/Goal ATS, Prescott to Bryant PL4, TD, Bryant boxes out Wright
–(Q3, 3:49) 2/4 Elliott RM9, Mosley MT at 3
–(Q3, 1:40) 3/5 ATS vs 3-man rush, Prescott to Elliott PR17 (-1 + 18 YAC), Orr very soft
–(Q3, 0:16) 2/8 ATS, Prescott to Witten PR11 (4 + 7 YAC) right sideline Young and Orr soft
–(Q4, 14:15) 2/8 ATS, Prescott to Witten PM9 in front of Mosley
–(Q4, 12:56) Ravens bring overload blitz right with Powers and Mosley, Prescott to hot read Escobar PR14 (8 + 6) between Z. Smith and Webb wide open
–(Q4, 11:37) ATS despite 7-man pass rush, Prescott to Bryant PM13 (7 + 6 YAC) TD, slant in front of Young
–(Q4, 6:40) 3/5 Orr pressure, Prescott to Beasley PL17 (0 + 17 YAC) beats Powers crossing then forces Powers MT at 7
–(Q4, 5:17) 2/8 ATS, Prescott to Butler PR8, Young hurt in coverage
–(Q4, 3:49) 2/9 ATS, Prescott to Beasley PM17 (9 + 8 YAC), Powers in coverage
As you can see, with 2 exceptions, the key plays on these long drives were all passes.
Matt Elam played 3 snaps defensively, replacing Webb. On the first occasion, he replaced Webb for a 3rd-and-11 play (Q1, 0:25). Webb tapped out, but soon after was holding his helmet by the sideline. Webb left again for Elam for 2 snaps (beginning Q4, 12:14).
Kamalei Correa played 2 defensive snaps. On the first, he rushed unblocked for a pressure (Q2,0:25).
Chris Lewis-Harris played 2 snaps in relief of Tavon Young on the final Cowboys drive.
Michael Pierce (41 snaps) and Brandon Williams (45) controlled the middle of the LoS when in. Neither made a significant pass rush contribution, but they did their job stopping the inside run. Most of the success the Cowboys had running the football was either by Prescott or to the outside.
Defensive stars of the game
3rd: Zach Orr
2nd: Michael Pierce/Brandon Williams
1st: Terrell Suggs