I Dare You

Mike Macdonald had a simple game plan vs the Browns that I can summarize as “I Dare You.”  By component:


The Ravens played their nickel defense on all but 2 plays (1 of which was a penalty).  On those 63 plays, they held the Browns to 188 yards (2.98 per play).  The other 2 snaps of base:

  • (Q1, 4:18): On 3rd and 1, Bryant took the snap under center and pitched to DTR.  DTR’s pass was incomplete for Cooper deep right but Stephens was flagged for a 37-yard DPI.
  • (Q1, 4:11):  On the ensuing 1st and 10, Elijah Moore ran left, reversed his field, and was touched down by Tavius Robinson for a loss of 20.

The Ravens could not be budged from their nickel package, even with injuries to Daryl Worley and Arthur Maulet, because Thompson-Robinson never was able to beat it regularly and the Browns were not able to run the ball effectively despite the lighter front.

Pass Rush

Macdonald employed primarily a 4-man rush versus the Browns with minimal deception.

For the game, Thompson-Robinson had ATS on 15 of 40 drop backs (38%), a high total attributable to passive rush numbers/scheme.  On those 15 plays, he went 11 of 15 for 94 yards (6.3 YPP).  He also delivered the ball before pressure could develop (BOQ) 7 times (18%, 1.9 YPP), including 1 interception.  The Ravens generated a pressure event on 18 plays (45%, an exceptionally high total for mostly 4-man rush), including 4 sacks and 2 turnovers.  With pressure, Thompson-Robinson was 4 of 14 for -34 net yards (-1.9 YPP). 

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3 or fewer: none

4: 36 plays, 84 yards, 2.3 YPP, 3 sacks, 2 TO

5: 2 plays, -11 yards, -5.5 YPP, 1 sack

6+: 2 plays, 0 yards, 0.0 YPP, 1 TO

Total:  40 plays, 73 yards, 1.8 YPP, 4 sacks, 3 TO

Macdonald dialed up 6 individual blitzes (.15 per pass play) from off the LoS including.  Of the 6 blitzes, 5 came from ILB, 1 from SCB Maulet.

The Ravens stunted 7 times, including 1 pair.  These plays resulted in 24 total yards (3.4 YPP), including 1 INT. 

The Ravens did not have a single simulated pressure.

I define a deceptive pass rush as incorporating 2 or more of the above elements (off ball blitzes, stunts, and simulated pressures).  The Ravens ran 1 deceptive rush (double stunt) which resulted in an incomplete.

Van Noy led the team with 4 full pressure events (2 pressures, 1 QH, 1 PD).  Clowney also had contributions to 4 pressures.  Madubuike had a S-13 and another QH.

Generating regular pressure with a 4-man pass rush almost always results in defensive success.  The Ravens were never incented to make a change since the Browns were so regularly frustrated.

Eyes on the QB

Unlike the other opposing QBs to date, DTR made a number of poor throws which presented interception opportunities.  The Ravens were well-deployed to take advantage with their preponderance of zone and the resulting eyes on the QB.

In total, DTR threw 9 passes that were deflected (PD Maulet and INT Stephens were on the same pass) and 8 passes with some significant interception risk.

It’s difficult to see the Ravens turning away from their zone schemes until better QBs start finding ways to beat them or they are unable to stop the run consistently with light boxes.  To date, the Ravens lead the NFL with just 3.8 yards per play (run or pass) and 4.1 YPP.

Star Treatment

Kyle Van Noy

  • (Q1, 9:51):  He beat RT Jones outside to flush Thompson-Robinson (DTR) left which resulted in a PD by Worley intended for WR Moore
  • (Q2, 14:20):  On 3rd/12, he stunted through the left A-gap for a QH as DTR threw PR6 (5 + 1) [5] to TE Njoku
  • (Q2, 10:21):  On 3rd/6, he bulled RT Jones for pressure as DTR threw PR6 (6 + 0) [4] to Njoku to convert
  • (Q2, 8:55):  On 3rd/4, he rushed unblocked off ORS and batted down DTR’s pass to force punt
  • (Q3, 1:57):  He drew a holding flag on LT Wills to negate RB Ford RL8

Kyle did not have a tackle but made an immediate impact on the Ravens pass rush with 4 pressure events among just 16 pass plays.  The Browns ran for just 8 yards on 7 carries (1.1 YPC) with him in the game.

Justin Madubuike

  • (Q1, 11:36):  On 2nd/3, he stood up LG Bitonio to force RB Ford outside where Queen tackled RM-2
  • (Q1, 6:38):  He was sealed by RT Jones on RB Hunt RM6
  • (Q1, 5:38):  He cleaned up on Harrison’s win of the right edge vs. Njoku to tackle Hunt RR2 with assist Harrison
  • (Q3, 13:10):  On 3rd/21, he dipped under RT Jones outside but missed the sack on DTR as he flushed him backwards.  He and Clowney chased the QB left and DTR lost the football without contact for a team S-18 recovered by LT Wills.
  • (Q3, 4:44):  He beat RG Teller outside and tripped over the ducking DTR for S-13
  • (Q4, 9:46):  On 3rd/10, he bulled LG Bitonio into DTR for QH as the QB overthrew WR Peoples-Jones by 10 yards for Stone’s INT

Justin led the DL with 35 snaps and turned in his best game of the season with the reduced workload.

Roquan Smith

  • (Q1, 10:31):  He assisted Hamilton on a quick tackle of TE Bryant PR2 (-1 +3) [5]
  • (Q1, 9:55):  He read DTR to deliver a PD on ball intended for Peoples-Jones 12 yards [3]
  • (Q1, 3:18):  On 2nd/23, he helped contain DTR with Queen and Maulet prior to a pitch ruled an illegal forward pass
  • (Q1, 3:08):  On 3rd/31, he tackled RB Ford PM5 (3 + 2) [3] to force FG attempt
  • (Q2, 3:02):  On 3rd/6, he created late pressure by the left sideline on INC thrown OOB
  • (Q3, 15:00):  He had a fast downhill tackle on RB Ford PM4 (4 + 0) [4]
  • (Q3, 13:14):  On 2nd/21, he delivered another PD 13 yards [4] intended for WR Cooper
  • (Q3, 6:15):  On 3rd/2, he assisted Maulet on tackle of Ford RM1
  • (Q4, 13:36):  He worked off a pick from Queen to stunt through the left A-gap for a QH as DTR threw incomplete
  • (Q4, 11:48):  He was blocked by C Harris to help lead Ford RR10
  • (Q4, 11:23):  He diagnosed a screen left to RB Ford to tackle PL-4 (-4 + 0) [2]  

Among his 10 tackle contributions were 5 defensive wins.  He was a predator coming downhill and demonstrated how well he reads the QB with a pair of PDs.

Arthur Maulet

  • (Q1, 6:59):  On 3rd/3, he reached back for a pass well behind WR Cooper and deflected it for what became Stephens’ INT
  • (Q1, 3:18):  He helped contain DTR on his roll right RM4 where he was flagged for an illegal forward pass
  • (Q2, 14:20):  On 3rd/12, he undercut TE Njoku on PR6 (5 + 1) [5] to force punt 
  • (Q3, 6:15):  On 3rd/2, he worked off a block from WR Peoples-Jones to tackle Ford RM1 with assist Smith
  • (Q3, 1:09):  On 2nd/3, he shed a block from WR Moore on stretch left to tackle Ford RL-2

Arthur replaced Hamilton at nickel after Worley’s injury and played well in 44 snaps.  If Worley’s injury is serious, the Ravens may activate another safety from the practice squad (Harmon or Lucien), simply activate Marcus Willaims, or commit to Maulet going forward at SCB.

Geno Stone

  • (Q1, 11:11):  On 3rd/5, DTR completed PM15 (5 + 10) [2] to Njoku on which Stone slipped but recovered to tackle
  • (Q3, 4:17):  On 3rd/21, Queen dove at Njoku and the ball was deflected but Stone was unable to corral INT
  • (Q4, 9:46):  On 3rd/10, DTR overthrew Peoples-Jones by 10 yards where Stone intercepted and returned for 36 yards
  • (Q4, 0:12):  He rushed unblocked off the OLS for pressure as DTR overthrew Tillman in endzone

Geno is an ideal cover-2 safety and demonstrated the value of playing for the overthrow on his INT.  The Ravens have had stunning success through 4 games with cover-2 as opposing QBs have either funneled their passing games to the outside/short (Stroud, Burrow, Minshew) or thrown deep without success (Burrow, DTR).

Defensive MVPs

  1. Roquan Smith
  2. Kyle Van Noy
  3. Justin Madubuike

Honorable mention to Brandon Stephens, Patrick Queen, Geno Stone, Kyle Hamilton, Jadeveon Clowney, and Arthur Maulet.