Worry and be Happy

The table is set for the 2019 Ravens.

They’ve vanquished their most significant Super Bowl rivals (excepting the Chiefs), exposed the Patriots, taken control of the AFC’s #1 seed, lead the NFL in point differential and DVOA, and will be favored in every game for as long as they can win.

With these advantages, it appears the Ravens will still need to win each of their next 7 games to hoist the Lombardi. 

They’ve climbed a mountain to get here but the moon awaits.

Run Breakdowns

The Ravens had Michael Pierce return just as the 49ers made speedster Matt Breida and LT Joe Staley inactive.  The Ravens beefed up on the defensive line with 6 active players, and the wet conditions threatened to reduce the ability for all backs to cut.  While the stars seemed to be aligned for an ineffective run game, the 49ers gashed the Ravens for 174 yards on 29 carries (6.0 YPC), including 8 runs of 6+ yards.  To summarize those plays:

  • (Q1, 13:01):  Juszczyk blocked Judon, TE Kittle blocked Bynes in level 2, and WR Sanders blocked Clark in level 2 to lead Mostert RL8.
  • (Q1, 5:35):  Juszczyk Sealed Ferguson, Kittle blocked Humphrey, pulling LG Tomlinson blocked Peko, and pulling LT Brunskill blocked Clark to lead Mostert RL6.
  • (Q2, 11:58):  WR Samuel reversed, LT Brunskill held off Williams in the backfield then impressively pinballed Onwuasor into Clark in level 2, Thomas missed tackle at 9, and Humphrey was dragged 9 yards on RL20.
  • (Q2, 9:22):  RT McGlinchey teed up Ferguson for TE Kittle to win right edge, then spun backward to block Fort, RG Person blocked Peko, an WR James blocked Clark in level 2 to lead Mostert RR40 TD.  Peters whiffed at the 31 and Thomas missed the tackle at 8-yard line.
  • (Q2, 1:58):  C Richburg sealed Williams, RT McGlinchey sealed Ferguson, LG Tomlinson kicked out Ward, and RG Person blocked Thomas in level 2 to lead Mostert RM19.
  • (Q2, 0:32):  TE Kittle kicked out Clark, LG Tomlinson trapped Ferguson, LT Brunskill blocked Carr, and C Richburg blocked Judon in level 2 to lead Mostert RL16.
  • (Q3, 11:26):  Juszczyk cut Ferguson, Kittle blocked Judon, and RT McGlinchey sealed Williams then Onwuasor, to lead Mostert RR18.
  • (Q3, 10:58):  RG Person pancaked Ferguson, Kittle blocked Clark, C Richburg blocked Fort to lead Mostert RR9.

Notes on the run breakdowns:

  • The 49ers have one of the best blocking offensive lines, 2 outstanding blockers among their skill players (Kittle and Juszczyk), and speed at RB.  With the enormous exception of Jackson’s playmaking and field loosening, they are similar in both construction and talent to the Ravens.
  • With one exception, the runs went outside to minimize the impact from the Ravens behemoths.  The Ravens interior size is no secret, but there are few NFL teams with both the speed and OL talent to consistently scheme edge wins.
  • The 49ers line is a model in terms of looking for work.  They didn’t give up on level 2 blocks, even after succeeding at the point of attack.
  • From an OL scoring perspective, the 49ers had at least 4 highlight blocks among these 8 plays (Brunskill, McGlinchey, Tomlinson, McGlinchey in order).  While the Ravens had tackling difficulties on Mostert’s 40-yard run, these successes were primarily a function of the 49ers playing well as opposed to the Ravens playing poorly.
  • The Ravens never built a big lead against the 49ers, which meant they were never able to get them to stop running. 
  • To add some perspective, the Ravens had 13 runs of 6+ yards in the game (8 by Jackson and 5 by Ingram) which were fueled by a combination of misdirection and blocking scheme.  So, while it was disturbing to watch the 49ers success, they merely gave the Ravens a dose of the medicine they’ve been handing out to the entire league since Jackson arrived.


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 49ers ran 52 non-penalty snaps.

Base (22): The Ravens lined up in their base 3-4-4 more often than in any other game this season.  The 49ers gained 143 yards on these snaps (6.5 yards per play), including 1 sack.  Prior to Sunday’s game, they had only used 4 or fewer DBs on 37 total snaps in the first 11 games (3.4 per game).  The extensive use of the base set led to a reemergence of 5-tech usage, including 34 snaps for Chris Wormley, 2nd most among the defensive linemen.

Standard Nickel (4): Among 13 total nickel snaps, only 4 were the common 2 DL, 2 OLB, 2 ILB, 3 CB, 2 S variety.  The 49ers gained 11 yards on these 4 plays (2.8 yards per play).

Jumbo Nickel (9): The remainder of the Ravens nickel snaps had 3 DL and just 1 ILB.  The Ravens have used this variant a few times this season, but typically just a handful of times per game.  The Ravens used LJ Fort as the lone ILB in each of their jumbo sets, but Clark typically moved up next to him.  The jumbo variant wasn’t as successful for the Ravens, with 76 yards allowed on just 9 plays (8.4 YPP).  The most costly instance was the 33-yard TD to Samuel on 4th and 2 (Q1, 12:00).

Dime (17): The Ravens were never able to settle into the dime as they did with a big lead versus the Rams.  Nonetheless, they played 17 snaps of dime, including 11 in the first half.  Clark, Thomas, Smith, Peters, Humphrey, and Carr were the DBs on each of these plays.  Anthony Levine did not play a defensive snap in his old dime role. Situationally, Martindale deployed some version of the dime at the end of the half, on 3rd down and 3+ (1 exception), and on some 1st/2nd and long situations.  Among the 5 heavies on these snaps, the Ravens again most commonly (11 times) used 1 defensive lineman and 4 OLBs with no ILB (modified racecar).  The Ravens allowed 101 yards on 17 dime snaps (5.9 YPP), but also registered their only takeaway.

Pass Rush

The Ravens tried, primarily with a 5-man rush, to rattle Jimmy Garoppolo.  The Ravens allowed him ATS on just 8 of 23 drop backs (35%).  While that percentage is good from a defensive perspective, the Ravens generated just 8 plays with a pressure event with 7 cases where Garoppolo unloaded quickly before pressure could develop.

Let’s start with pass rush by numbers:

4: 3 plays, 16 yards (5.3 YPP)

5: 16 plays, 128 yards (8.0 YPP), including both sacks (1 takeaway)

6: 4 plays, 13 yards (3.3 YPP)

Through the first play of the 4th quarter, the Ravens used a 5-man rush (exactly, not 5+) on all but 3 of the 49ers 19 pass plays.  It was interesting Martindale felt a 5-man rush was needed when the 49ers line held up so well.  This will show up as a “relentless blitz” from the Ravens by some accounting methods that only consider numbers, but in fact the Ravens rushed a vanilla 5 for most of the game.

Martindale significantly scaled back elements of deception.  The Ravens used just 12 individual blitzes, ran 4 stunts, and twice dropped 2 men to coverage.  Only 4 drop packs met my definition of deceptive by pairing multiple deceptive elements on a single play.

Other Notes

  • The Ravens activated 6 defensive linemen, including 4 (Ellis, Peko, Pierce, and Williams) who would be at home at NT.  Ricard did not play a snap on defense after just 1 against the Rams.
  • The Ravens sacrificed at DB, where only 8 players were active, including Jordan Richards, who has played exclusively special teams.  Bennett Jackson, Iman Marshall, an Anthony Averett all were inactive.
  • Jimmy Smith (34 snaps) was targeted just 3 times.  He allowed an 18-yard completion to Sanders when left alone in the middle of the field with ATS (Q4, 15:00).  The other 2 throws his way were off target with tight coverage.  
  • Jaylon Ferguson had a tough game.  He was a prominent figure in much of what the 49ers did to win the edges (see above) and SF ran for 8.0 YPC while he was on the field.
  • Michael Pierce (24 snaps) contributed with 2 pressures (Q1, 8:47; Q2, 10:43) among 8 pass plays and forced Garoppolo to slide for a gain of just 1 when he dropped to cover (Q2, 0:20).  The 49ers consistently ran away from him otherwise.
  • A problem with partial events is that they don’t fit well into sentences.  However, the sack shared with Wormley (Q1, 12:44) was the first sack fraction of Earl Thomas’ career.

Star Treatment

Chris Wormley

  • (Q1, 12:44):  Chris bulled LG Tomlinson to flush Garoppolo, Ferguson missed the tackle 6 yards in backfield, Thomas and Wormley converged for S0.
  • (Q3, 5:14):  TE Kittle took a jet sweep right, Wormley forced him to bubble and Judon shed block from TE Celek to tackle RR-3.
  • (Q4, 6:33):  On 4th/1, he bulled through a double team from RT McGlinchey then RG Person to bat down Garopplo’s pass on the 49ers last offensive play.

Despite his significant overall snap count, the 49ers rushed for just 4.0 YPC (22 carries for 88 yards) with Chris on the field.    

Chuck Clark

  • (Q1, 14:54):  He assisted Ferguson on Coleman’s RM0.
  • (Q1, 6:37):  On 3rd/6, Ward beat RT McGlinchey for pressure, but was unable to finish.  Clark beat cut from RB Wilson for SF-6, Brandon Williams recovered.
  • (Q2, 10:43):  Chuck made a fast tackle on Garoppolo’s pass to RB Wilson PM7 (7 + 0) [4]. 

Chuck made contributions to 4 tackles which were defensive wins, among which his strip sack was one of the 2 biggest plays for the defense.  He was neutralized on some of the 49ers longer runs.

Defensive MVPs

  1. Chris Wormley
  2. Chuck Clark
  3. Michael Pierce