Primary Secondary

The Ravens secondary held up well in the Ravens first game since Marlon Humphrey’s injury.  Let’s review:

Anthony Averett had contributions to 3 drive-ending plays (see “Star Treatment” below) including an interception and a PD that should have been collected by Brandon Stevens for a 2nd.  He was flagged for pass interference on WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (DPJ) which converted a 2nd and 14.  Aside from the 34-yard strike to WR DPJ, he gave up just 2 short receptions to Jarvis Landry (7 and 5 yards) on which he allowed 0 YAC.

Chris Westry was in position for a PD, if not an interception, but somehow was flagged for pass interference when Jarvis Landry twisted him away from the football with his right arm.  He surrendered a toe-tap, 27-yard reception to WR DPJ along the left sideline after he was flagged for illegal contact.  On that play, he had step-for-step coverage of DPJ, and was funneling the WR to the sideline, but failed to find the football in the air.  He came back to knock down a pass intended for DPJ 20 yards down the left sideline (Q4, 11:44).  He will be a player central to the Ravens secondary plans for 2022 and beyond, but the finger injury is a concern for the remainder of this season.

Tavon Young had coverage responsibility for WR Jarvis Landry on the Browns first TD (Q1, 0:44).  He was also flagged for a 2-yard DPI on Austin Hooper that set up the Browns for their 2nd TD (Q2, 8:19).

Brandon Stephens led the team with 8 tackles and allowed 3 receptions as I scored it.  The 8-yard reception to RB Kareen Hunt denied conversion of 3rd and 11 (Q1, 14:09).  He surrendered a 9-yard pass to Hooper that converted 2nd and 8 (Q1, 9:32), and a 12-yard play to DPJ (Q2, 6:13) immediately preceding the interception by Averett.  The twice-bobbled interception opportunity (Q2, 2:00) was a missed opportunity, but I like the fact Stephens was in position for the play.  If he is to be successful as the next Ravens free safety, he’ll need to both be in position and find a way to secure a higher percentage than he has to date.

Chuck Clark had a mixed game detailed below (see “Star Treatment”).  What success the Ravens secondary has the rest of this season will be highly dependent on Clark’s leadership.

If you’re not as positive about the performances of the DBs on Sunday, perhaps it is worth considering the support they got from the pass rush…

Mayfield ATS

The Browns had ample time and space (ATS) on 14 of 32 drop backs (44%) vs the Ravens after a 50% rate in the first meeting.  Both rates are very high for today’s game.

This time around, Mayfield had 126 yards with ATS (9.0 YPP), but also threw an interception.  Without ATS, he threw for just 64 yards on 18 plays (3.6 YPP).  Each metric is below what I would consider situationally acceptable from the perspective of the offense.

The Ravens need to find ways to generate more meaningful pressure, but their secondary played well under difficult circumstances.

The Schedule

A final tip of the hat to one of the worst breaches of scheduling equity in league history. 

Among the biggest recurring problems are:

  • Teams forced to play multiple teams coming off byes
  • Byes preceding divisional games for 1 but not both teams

The NFL can easily rid themselves of such complaints by simply creating 16 divisional game pairings that occur after a bye for each team.  Both problems go away, all byes are accounted for, and the range of available league schedules is not materially reduced.  Furthermore, there is a chance for improved quality of divisional games, since 1/6 of all such games would have a double bye the week before.

I have never heard any reasoning (certainly no compelling argument) why this should not be the case.

The NFL took a long time to adopt final-week divisional games and then time-of day matching, but those had positive impacts for both competitiveness and importance of such games.


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 Browns ran 59 such snaps.

Base (35): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB and 2 OLB versus a variety of Browns heavy formations on early downs.  Since the Browns deployed an average of just 2.14 WRs per snap, they used a lot of 1 and 2 WR packages.  Among the base package snaps were 21 run plays for 71 yards (3.4 YPC) and 14 pass plays for 62 yards (4.4 YPP) with 1 interception.  The passing results were a big improvement from the first matchup when the Mayfield threw for 9.9 YPP against the base defense.  35 plays, 133 yards, 3.8 YPP.

Standard Nickel (12): Martindale again used the standard nickel (including 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB) as the most common response to 11 personnel.  Among these were 3 runs for 14 yards (4.7 YPC) and 9 pass plays for 57 yards (6.3 YPP).  11 plays, 71 yards, 5.9 YPP.

Jumbo Nickel (1): Martindale deployed 1 snap of jumbo nickel (Q2, 6:13) including 3 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 1 ILB as an alternative look vs 11 personnel.  1 play, 12 yards.

Rush Dime (10): The Ravens lined up with 1 DL, 3 OLB, 1 ILB, and 6 DB on 5 obvious passing downs.  Chris Board was the sole ILB on each of these plays and Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, and Justin Houston were the 3 OLBs on each.  10 plays, 75 yards, 7.5 YPP.  The results for this package were not nearly as good as the first matchup and included the 34-yard coverage breakdown to Donovan Peoples-Jones (Q1, 4:13).

Jumbo (1): Martindale deployed a jumbo package with 4 DL, 3 ILB, 2 OLB, and 2 DB on 1st and goal from the 1 (Q2, 8:19).  Chris Board lined up as a safety in goal-line defense on the OLS.  1 play, 1 yard.

Pass Rush

The Ravens had trouble generating meaningful pressure, particularly when rushing 4.

The Browns had ATS on 14 of 32 drop backs (44%) resulting in a pass or sack, which is a good result for the offense.  They also had 10 ball out quick (BOQ) instances (31%) and the Ravens generated just 8 pressure events (25%) within 3 seconds.  By pressure situation:

ATS: 10/14 for 126 yards (9.0 YPP), 1 INT

BOQ: 9/10 for 54 yards (5.4 YPP)

Pressured: 3/8 for 10 yards, (1.3 YPP)

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 1 play, 8 yards, 8.0 YPP

4: 16 plays, 133 yards, 8.3 YPP

5: 13 plays, 48 yards, 3.7 YPP

6: none

7+: 2 plays, 1 yard, 0.5 YPP, 1 INT

Total:  32 plays, 190 yards, 5.9 YPP, 1 INT

The Ravens rushed 5+ on 15 of 32 drop backs (47%) on which the Browns averaged 3.3 YPP with 1 INT.

Martindale called 11 off-ball blitzes (0.34 per pass play) spread among 8 plays.  I define off-ball blitzes as from a player who was either outside the slot receiver or more than 1.5 yards off the LoS at the snap.  Those 8 plays went for 35 net yards (4.4 YPP) with 1 INT. 

The Ravens had 2 designed stunts versus the Browns.  Those plays went for a total of 7 yards (3.5 YPP).

The Ravens showed simulated pressure only 3 times where 2 dropped from the LoS to cover.  Those plays average 7.3 YPP.

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 3 deceptive rushes which resulted in INT, PL13, PL4 (5.7 YPP).

Tyus Bowser led the Ravens with contributions to 4 pressures, plus a 5th that came after 3 seconds and forced an INC.      

Other Individual Notes

  • Justin Madubike (45 snaps) had a share of 2 pressure events (Q3, 9:48; Q4, 11:39) and lost 2 other pressures to short runs (Q1, 5:36; Q3, 11:14).  He blew up (but did not get tackle credit) for 2 run plays for loss (RB Johnson for a loss of 2, Q2, 2:10; Chubb for no gain, Q4, 12:27).  He penetrated unblocked and pursued to tackle Chubb RM-2 (Q4, 6:51).  
  • Broderick Washington tied his career high for snaps (35, Detroit) and deserves a share of the credit for the Ravens neutralizing the Browns run game again.  He had his first career sack overturned by Harbaugh’s challenge (Q3, 8:18), which was the only QH of the day for the Ravens.
  • Josh Bynes (39 snaps) had tackle contributions on 5 runs that were defensive wins by the FO definition (the tackles came on gains of 1, -2, 5, 1, 1, yards).  He’s been one of the best Ravens defenders since taking over at MLB vs the Chargers.  While he has made contributions as a run defender, in coverage, and even as a pass rusher, the Ravens have benefitted most from his play speed and sure tackling.  I don’t see a reason why the Ravens will not try to bring him back for 2022.   

Star Treatment

Tyus Bowser

  • (Q1, 14:52):  Tyus rushed unblocked off the ORS for fast pressure and Houston diagnosed the screen to RB Chubb to tackle PL-1
  • (Q1, 11:20):  He drew offensive holding on 6th OL Blake Hance to negate RB Chubb RL9
  • (Q1, 7:38):  On 3rd/15, he beat TE Austin Hooper’s chip for pressure as Stephens diagnosed the screen to force Mayfield to ground the ball
  • (Q1, 5:36):  He chased Mayfield OOB for RR3 off pressure from Ferguson and Madubuike
  • (Q1, 2:10):  He was caught in the wash crossing the field to cover RB Hunt on PR5 to convert 3rd/3
  • (Q2, 9:08):  He contained and tackled RB Chubb RR2 off Oweh’s win vs. pulling LG Joel Bitonio
  • (Q2, 3:30):  He was blocked by WR Rashard Higgins on RB D’Ernest Johnson RR13
  • (Q2, 2:10):  He, Oweh, and Bynes contained RB Johnson for RM-2 off initial penetration by Madubuike
  • (Q3, 9:42):  On 3rd/7, he beat RT James Hudson outside for pressure as Mayfield screened to RB Johnson for PM7
  • (Q3, 7:48):  On 3rd/13, he and Clark contained RB Johnson RR8 to force punt
  • (Q4, 11:39):  On 3rd/10, he ran past RT Hudson to flush Mayfield right where he threw the ball away
  • (Q4, 7:34):  On 3rd/4, he rushed Mayfield after he broke the pocket and forced him to ground the football at the knees of Landry by the right sideline

In addition to his team-leading pressure contributions, he contributed to 3 drive-ending plays vs the Browns.

Anthony Averett

  • (Q1, 10:19):  On 2nd/14, with ATS (negated) he was flagged for DPI on WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (DPJ) for an 18-yard conversion
  • (Q1, 4:13):  On 3rd/4 with ATS, Mayfield threw to WR DPJ PR34 (26 + 8) [5] on a play where Stone and Averett were not on the same page with coverage of DPJ and Landry
  • (Q2, 5:32):  On an 8/0 pass rush with 3 blitzers, Mayfield had ATS and threw to Landry 16 yards [5] to the inside of the field. Averett had been turned around twice, then found the ball for an INT. 
  • (Q2, 3:30):  Anthony was blocked by Landry as part of RB Johnson RR13
  • (Q2, 2:00):  On 3rd/7 with ATS, he undercut Mayfield’s pass for WR DPJ 15 yards [4] for a PD which was bobbled twice then dropped by Stephens
  • (Q4, 11:39):  On 3rd/10, he had tight coverage of Landry 13 yards [5] and Mayfield threw away OOB under pressure

The first 2 plays were key to 2 Cleveland scoring drives, but Anthony also contributed to 3 drive-ending plays.

Chuck Clark

  • (Q1, 10:51):  On 1st/17, he took down Landry after PR3 (1 + 2) [5]
  • (Q2, 11:38):  He was outraced to the edge by RB Chubb for RL15
  • (Q2, 8:19):  He lost TE Hooper off the LoS for PR1 TD
  • (Q3, 9:00):  He took down RB Chubb RL4 after missed tackles by Ferguson then Washington
  • (Q3, 7:48):  On 3rd/13, he and Bowser contained RB Johnson RR8 to force punt
  • (Q4, 8:10):  On 2nd/7, he took down FB Andy Janovich for PR3 (1 + 2) [5]
  • (Q4, 6:03):  On 3rd/11, he contained WR DPJ for PL4 by the left sideline with Seymour getting push OOB

It was a solid, but mixed game from Clark.  Whether for 2021 or beyond, the Ravens would benefit from improving communication and understanding of responsibilities in the secondary, including the ability to communicate coverage switches pre-snap.

I do not award MVPs after a loss.