Ravens Ride Ends with High-Leverage Loss to Titans

As we walked through downtown prior to the game, we marveled at the temperature, but also hoped the wind we felt would not be a detriment to the space-intensive offense of the Ravens. 

By the end of the game, I was reminded of the old Marty Feldman line from Young Frankenstein, “It could be worse…It could be raining.”

While the wind had an impact to reduce usable space, the Ravens simply lost too many high-leverage plays and lost them in a way that further constrained their choices offensively.  Let’s review:

  • (Q1, 8:02): After the Ravens had driven to the Titans 36, Jackson threw a wind-affected, high pass for Andrews that he tipped into the waiting hands of FS Kevin Byard.  The runback and unnecessary roughness on Jackson set up the Titans with a 35-yard field they converted for their first score.
  • (Q2, 15:00): The Ravens offensive line was stood up on 4th and 1 and Jackson had to negotiate his way past LG Bradley Bozeman, who pulled, but did not find a block quickly.  The run was stopped for no gain and the Titans were again set up with a short field at the Ravens 45.
  • (Q2, 14:53): Following the change of possession, the Ravens lined up in their base package and WR Kalif Raymond outraced Humphrey down the seam for a TD catch in the end zone.  While the throw certainly should have been more difficult under the windy conditions, Chuck Clark was not able to provide anything in the way of a reduced window and Tannehill had a wide target area in the end zone.  The pass rush allowed ample time and space and Tannehill read the field and connected.
  • (Q3, 10:01): Jackson was again stuffed for no gain on 4th and 1 at the Titans 18 to end a 58-yard dive with no score.  The Titans employed a jumbo package and stood up or undercut all 5 linemen.
  • (Q3, 6:54): Following Henry’s TD pass, Jackson was stripped by DT Jurrell Casey to set the Titans up with a 20-yard field for their final score.

The plays above were directly resulted in all 4 Titans TD drives.  Once trailing, the Ravens abandoned their traditional run game and finished with Jackson recording 20 of 29 carries.  The Ravens averaged 6.4 YPC on those 29 carries, but the 2 failures on 4th and 1 outweighed their other run successes.

Field Position Woes

It’s often said by analysts that you make an average QB great with good field position.  This game was a shining example.

The Titans had 1 long drive (81 yards) highlighted by a 66-yard run by Henry.  Otherwise they took advantage of 3 short fields to score from 45, 35, and 20 yards.  Despite the fact they also started 5 drives inside their own 22, the average starting field position was the 34.

Had one not watched the game and simply examined the plays and yardage on the drive charts, it would be reasonable to assume the Ravens won the game.  They had drives of 91, 88, 64, 59, 58, 55, and 44 yards (twice), yet those 8 drives resulted in just 12 total points.  The Ravens average starting field position was their own 20 and their best was their own 26.

The Ravens ran a team record 92 offensive plays (excluding penalties), topping the previous high of 91 versus the Chargers in the OT win at San Diego in 2012.  The record for a regulation game was 87 in the 2012 home loss to the Broncos.  The Ravens once before allowed 92 snaps on defense (90 competitive + 2 kneels) vs the Rams in the 37-31 OT win in 1996.  They twice played 91 snaps in a regulation game (versus the Vikings in 1998 and Jets in 2000).

Failures Against the Run

Note: Individual plays use a shorthand where the field is divided into sections 1 through 5 and may include a division of air yards and YAC. For example, a 13-yard pass completed by the right sideline could be denoted as “PR13 (7 + 6) [5]”.

  • (Q1, 7:14):  On 2nd/7, standard nickel, LG Saffold blocked Williams then handed him off to LT Lewan for big push, Saffold blocked Bynes in L2, TE Smith blocked Clark in L2, RG Davis blocked Onwuasor in L2, to lead Henry RM9.
  • (Q1, 6:34):  On 1st/10, standard nickel, LG Saffold blocked Peko, RG Davis pushed Williams with initial help from C Jones, RT Conklin blocked Onwuasor, Bynes caught in wash on Henry RM7.
  • (Q2, 13:33):  On 1st/10, jumbo nickel, AJ Brown ran a jet-sweep right on which Ferguson lost containment despite penetration, RG Davis pancaked Wormley, TE Smith blocked Clark in L2 to lead RR9.
  • (Q2, 5:07):  On 2nd/10, jumbo nickel, RT Conklin blocked Wormley, TE Pruitt blocked Carr in L2, Bowser took a circuitous route then missed tackle at 4 yards, Henry stiff-armed Thomas twice on RM27.
  • (Q3, 8:37):  On 3rd/1, jumbo nickel, RT Conklin blocked Wormley, TE Pruitt blocked Fort, Judon was unblocked but missed tackle at -1, Carr overran play at 3 to spring Henry RM66.
  • (Q3, 1:45):  On 1st/10, base defense, LT Lewan kicked out Ward, LG Saffold sealed Peko, FB Blasingame stood up Onwuasor to lead Henry RM23.
  • (Q3, 0:59):  On the ensuing 1st/10, still base defense, LT Lewan blocked Wormley, C Jones blocked Peko, FB Blasingame blocked Bynes to lead Henry RM6.
  • (Q4, 11:00):  On 1st/10, jumbo nickel, WR Davis sealed Ferguson, WR Sharpe blocked Peters, RT Conklin blocked Clark in L2, to lead Henry RR8.
  • (Q4, 8:49):  On 1st/10, base defense, Tannehill ran a naked boot right on which edge defender Onwuasor was fooled resulting in RR9.

It’s fair to say the Ravens didn’t stop the run effectively with either their base or nickel packages (see above for details of the runs of 6+ yards).

Pass Rush

The Titans only dropped back to throw 16 times, so there should not be much to tell here.  Tannehill had ample time and space (ATS) on 6 of 15 drop backs (40%).  Of the 6 times with ATS, 4 were incomplete passes, but the 2 on which Tannehill connected were the 12-yard TD to TE Jonnu Smith (Q1, 3:42) and the next offensive play for the Titans, the 45-yard TD to WR Kalif Raymond (Q2, 14:53).

Let’s look at the pass rush results by numbers:

4: 2 plays, 7 yards (3.5 YPP)

5: 8 plays, 66 yards (8.3 YPP)

6: 5 plays, 7 yards (1.4 YPP), including the sack

7: 1 plays, 3 yards

The Ravens rushed 5 or more on 14 of 16 drop backs.  None of these yardage results is particularly extreme, nor is the aggregate result bad, but the 3 TDs and 0 INTs told the story.

Martindale didn’t do much in the way of deception.  He called 8 individual blitzers, 2 stunts, and 2 drops of 2+ men to coverage.  That’s a moderate level of deception for just 16 drop backs, but the Ravens never had the lead to press with more deception.


Note: all snap totals exclude penalties resulting in no play, kneels, spikes, and specials team plays resulting in a run or pass.  As such, they will be lower than other published totals.

The Titans ran 51 competitive, non-penalty snaps.

Jumbo (4): Martindale used a jumbo (4-4-3) package with 4 down DL when the Titans inserted 6’8” T Dennis Kelly as a 6th lineman (Q2, 12:09) and Williams penetrated to tackle Henry for a 4-yard loss which effectively stalled the 4th Titans drive.  The Titans did not again bring in Kelly, but the Ravens played 3 other jumbo snaps against 22 personnel in the 4th quarter.  In total, the Ravens allowed 0 yards on 4 runs while lined up in jumbo.

Base (19): These were exclusively 1st and 2nd down with 1 exception, Henry’s 3-yard TD pass (Q3, 6:59).  They resulted in 126 net yards (6.6 YPP).  That breaks down as 4 passes for 56 yards (2 TDs) and 15 runs for 70 (4.7 YPC).  There wasn’t any measure by which the base was successful despite the fact the run results were slightly less atrocious than the nickel.

Jumbo Nickel (12): The Ravens again used more jumbo nickel (3-3-5) against the Titans and their heavy run schemes. All but 1 deployment included Chris Wormley and 9 of 12 were Williams/Pierce/Wormley, the starters and best group of DL the Ravens have to offer.  The Ravens surrendered 15 yards on 3 pass plays and 124 yards on 9 runs (13.8 YPP) with this package.  Of the runs, 4 are detailed above.  It was an ugly result against the run for a defense designed to stop it.

Standard Nickel (9): The standard nickel included Bynes and Onwuasor at ILB with 2 down linemen.  The Ravens played it for 6 consecutive plays on the first Titans TD drive, culminating with Thomas’ sack that set up 3rd and 12 (TD to TE Smith).  That series of plays also included the unnecessary roughness call on Onwuasor.  For the game, they allowed -7 yards on 4 pass plays and 22 yards on 5 run plays while lined up in the standard nickel. 

Dime (7): Martindale only employed the dime defense on 3rd down and used their racecar dime (4 OLB, 1 DL, 0 ILB) on all but 1 such snap.  Those plays included 4 drive-ending incomplete passes, the 12-yard TD to Smith, and a 9-yard conversion on 3rd and 6 to WR AJ Brown (Q3, 5:59).

The oddball dime usage came with the Titans 3rd and goal at the 1 (Q3, 4:20).  The Titans had 11 personnel in the game, to which the most common response elsewhere on the field might be the jumbo nickel or perhaps the standard nickel.  However, with so little space to defend, it would not be uncommon to use a heavier defense at the goal line.  I can’t come up with a reason why the dime was used on the play, but the Martindale chose to line up with 2 DL, 2 OLB, 1 ILB, 6 DBs and surrendered the final TD on a 1-yard option run by Tannehill.   

Other Notes

  • Conspicuously absent from the run defense was Tyus Bowser, who took a circuitous pursuit path to Henry then missed the tackle on his 27-yard run (Q2, 5:07).  That was one of just 3 snaps he played on 1st or 2nd down.  He had a drive-ending PD 3 plays later (Q2, 2:48).  Bowser progressed this season under Martindale, but it seems clear the Ravens don’t trust him to set the edge and as such will need to pursue a heavier Sam linebacker if Judon departs.   
  • Matthew Judon had one of his worst games as a Raven.  He didn’t have a pass rush event of any sort and missed 3 significant tackles.  Of those misses, the 66-yard run by Henry is detailed above (see run failures).  He also missed behind the LoS on a 3rd down run conversion by Tannehill (Q1, 5:25) and on the conversion of a 3rd and 6 (Q3, 5:59) where he lost containment on AJ Brown approximately 4 yards short of the marker.
  • Josh Bynes had a mixed game with contributions to 5 tackles for gains of 9, 1, 4, 2, and 0.  However, he is also mentioned on 3 of the long run plays (see above).
  • Earl Thomas had a high-value sack (Q1, 4:23) which the Ravens wasted by allowing the ensuing TD on 3rd and 12.  He raced from far off the ball to tackle TE Smith for no gain (Q2, 5:46) on a short pass off a boot.  Henry’s jump pass TD appeared to be his coverage responsibility (Q3, 6:59).
  • Jimmy Smith may have played his last game as a Raven.  He had coverage of AJ Brown on an incomplete pass the only time he was targeted.
  • Marcus Peters Made an outstanding diagnosis to tackle Henry for a loss of 1 on a screen (Q1, 13:09).  He was only targeted 1 other time on which he registered a PD in coverage of WR Darius Jennings in the end zone (Q3, 7:02).