Good Fight

The Ravens learned some things about themselves in a game where they were badly outmatched but narrowly defeated.  Let’s review:

  • Geno Stone took the green dot in the absence of Chuck Clark and played well.  There were coverage breakdowns, but most were matters of individual failure.
  • Tyler Huntley has a firm hold on the backup QB role for 2022.
  • The Ravens will need to address the defensive line this offseason, probably with more than 1 draft pick.
  • Despite a lack of injuries/absences at ILB, the group struggled in coverage and had some missed tackles.
  • Aaron Rodgers, as many good QBs would, ripped apart the replacement level secondary and ILB coverage. 

I don’t see a way in which the coverage problems can be fixed in 2021.

Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don’t

The Ravens had 4 key points in the game that required a difficult decision on a 4th down or 2-point attempt. Let’s review:

  • (Q1, 7:44): On 4th and goal at the Packers 3, Harbaugh decided to go for it rather than have Tucker kick.  I like this call because you don’t need to be right half or even 3 times in 7 because of the lousy starting field position for the Packers.
  • (Q4, 12:01): On 4th and 6 at their own 29, down 11, the Ravens chose to go for it and the resulting incomplete pass sent many fans to the exit.  I think this would pass muster from a win-probability standpoint at this point I the game.
  • (Q4, 4:47): Harbaugh chose to kick the extra point to trail by 7 rather than go for 2.  This is the one choice of the 4 that is aligned with what many other coaches would do, but completely counter to mathematical analysis.  The break-even, 2-point success percentage late in any game is only 38% (with 100% kick percentage assumed and 50% chance to win in OT) and when looking at a 2-point conversion chart, it’s the number I check to validate it.  The math involved is straight out of algebra 2 and the specific case has been written about so often it is hackneyed, but here is a link:

What is unusual about the decision is that I think Harbaugh and his staff on the headset should have known the Ravens needed to have a 2-point success rate in the mid-40% range to try the last 2-point conversion (see below), but the break-even success rate for the first try was much lower.  I can’t see a compelling reason why the chance to succeed on either attempt would have been materially different.

In another coincidence, one of the only coaches to try this prior to 2017 was Brian Billick in the 2001 game versus, you guessed it, the Packers (10/14/01, Q4, 0:38).

  • (Q4, 0:42): Harbaugh elected to go for the 2-point conversion.  I liked the decision based on the possible set of OT matchups.  While the Ravens have the better kicker, they also had shown little ability to stop Rodgers, so that would have supported a break-even success rate under 50%.  One reason I didn’t like it quite as much as against the Steelers 2 weeks ago is the remaining time and timeout situation. 

The Ravens left the Steelers with no time to respond, but the Packers would have had 42 seconds to try to drive for a game-winning FG.  If trailing by 1, the Packers would have been compelled to play 4-down football, which makes Rodgers even more dangerous.  If tied, the Packers could have been forced into a difficult 4th-down punt decision, which in turn impacts the aggressiveness on 3rd down.  If the Ravens had called their last timeout with (say) 3rd and 8, the Packers might have felt compelled to run or kneel the ball rather than throw and risk an incompletion/punt.

The Ravens lined up for 3 other 4th down attempts where there was no real choice.

  • (Q1, 11:15): 4th and 1 at the GB 20, tied (made it, but they were subsequently stopped on 4th and goal)
  • (Q3, 3:29): 4th and 1 at the GB 15, down 7 (Cleveland false start prompted FG attempt)
  • (Q4, 5:21): 4th and 6 at the GB 14, down 14 (made it to preserve hope)

Nonreciprocal Contact

The Ravens were flagged for at least 3 significant penalties in this game that will draw scrutiny this week.

  • (Q2, 13:46): Odafe Oweh was flagged for roughing the passer when he took multiple steps after the pass and shoved Rodgers.  While the shove was light and Rodgers seemed to flop, that was RTP by definition and Harbaugh was appropriately livid with Oweh on the sideline.
  • (Q3, 3:29): Ben Cleveland was flagged for a false start that changed a 4th-and-1 situation to 4th and 6.  From views I have seen, Cleveland lifted his left heel and moved after he and his linemates had been I stance for more than a second.  His reaction also indicates he knows he had committed a foul.
  • (Q3, 7:49): Kevon Seymour was the recipient of one of the worst DPI flags I can recall.  That turned an incomplete pass on 3rd and 10 into a conversion.  The ensuing TD meant the Ravens lost at least 4 points on the 2-play sequence.

What is most bothersome about the last call (Q3, 7:49) is the holding the Packers got away with on offense.  Specifically:

  • (Q2, 15:00): TE Davis spun around Levine on WR Davonte Adams PL11 (-1 +12)
  • (Q2, 5:14): Lewis threw down Bowser as Rodgers rolled left then went out to catch PL10 (4 + 6)
  • (Q3, 13:30): WR Lazard held Bowser’s right arm, but again no flag on RB Jones RM11

Any one of those plays could have stalled a different TD drive, so it’s not unrealistic to say the officials had a heavy footprint on this game.


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 Packers ran 57 such snaps.

Standard Nickel (39): 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 18 runs for 78 yards (4.3 YPC) and 21 pass plays for 129 yards (6.1 YPP).  39 plays, 207 yards, 5.3 YPP.

Big Nickel (10): Martindale deployed Anthony Levine as a 3rd safety for 10 snaps with just 2 CBs along with 2 DL, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB when the Packers played 12 personnel on early downs.  Among these were 5 runs for 20 yards (4.0 YPC) and 5 pass plays for 75 yards (15.0 YPP).  10 plays, 95 yards, 9.5 YPP.

Quarter (8): The Ravens lined up with no DL, 3 OLB, 1 ILB, and 7 DB on 8 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.  The Ravens ended 3 drives (on 4 3rd downs with this package, but also allowed 2 big plays (PM24, Q2, 0:38; PM25 to convert 3rd and 9, Q4, 14:26).  8 plays, 46 yards, 5.8 YPP.  Tony Jefferson played these snaps as the 4th safety in his return to the Ravens.

In addition to being a limited set of packages, the Ravens played nickel and quarter without playing any dime.  Past Ravens teams (particularly those with DC Mike Nolan) alternated primarily between base and dime.  I can’t recall a past Ravens team that (even for a game) alternated between nickel and quarter, including the most frequent employers of 7-DB packages (1996 and 2000).

Pass Rush

The Ravens had trouble generating meaningful pressure despite 3 sacks.

Rodgers had ATS on 17 of 34 drop backs (50%) resulting in a pass or sack, which tied for the highest percentage for a Ravens opponent this season (Cleveland, week 13).  They also had 11 ball out quick (BOQ) instances (32%) and the Ravens generated just 6 pressure events (18%) within 3 seconds.  By pressure situation:

ATS: 12/16 for 153 yards (9.0 YPP), 1 sack

BOQ: 7/11 for 41 yards (3.7 YPP)

Pressured: 4/4 for 56 yards, (9.3 YPP), 2 sacks

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 5 play, 55 yards, 11.0 YPP

4: 23 plays, 175 yards, 7.6 YPP, 2 sacks

5: 5 plays, -2 yards, -0.4 YPP, 1 sack

6: 1 play, 22 yards

7+: None

Total:  34 plays, 250 yards, 7.4 YPP, 3 sacks

The Ravens rushed 5+ on 6 of 34 drop backs (18%) on which the Packers averaged 3.3 YPP with 1 sack.

Martindale called 9 off-ball blitzes (0.26 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 26 net yards (3.3 YPP) with 1 sack.  Four of these plays featured Oweh rushing from a standing ILB position.   

The only designed stunt (Oweh) was incomplete on the Packers last offensive play of the first half (Q2, 0:20).

The Ravens showed simulated pressure only 4 times where 2 dropped from the LoS to cover.  Those plays went for 49 total yards, average 12.3 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 22-yard gain and 2 incompletes (7.3 YPP).

Tyus Bowser led the Ravens with contributions to 4 pressures.

Other Individual Notes

  • Josh Bynes (34 snaps) had contributions to 8 tackles, including 4 defensive wins.  He was rubbed off then slipped on Rodgers 9-yard TD pass to RB Aaron Jones (Q3, 7:46).
  • Patrick Queen (49 snaps) had a difficult game despite leading the team with 13 tackles.  I scored him for 2 missed tackles (Q2, 2:14; Q4, 11:56) and he had trouble covering WR Lazard off the LoS (Q1, 2:27; Q1, 0:27).  Rodgers targeted him relentlessly and he was consistently slow to mirror his leaking RB assignments.  His 13 tackles included 5 defensive wins and his best play was working off a block from LG Runyan to tackle Jones for no gain (Q4, 15:00).
  • Despite the lack of coverage talent, the Ravens rushed both outside corners on the same play (Q2, 6:28 and Averett had pressure, but Rodgers threw a 24-yard completion to TE Davis who had beaten Seymour.

Star Treatment

Tyus Bowser

  • (Q1, 2:27):  Tyus pointed out hip movement from RT Dennis Kelly and jumped across to force the call
  • (Q1, 2:27):  On 1st/15, he bulled RT Kelly for pressure but Rodgers threw to WR Allen Lazard PM17 (6 + 11) [4]
  • (Q2, 5:14):  He was thrown down by TE Marcedes Lewis as Rodgers rolled left for PL10 but no holding was called
  • (Q2, 0:38):  He beat LT Yosh Nijman outside for pressure but Rodgers threw to WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling for PM24 (17 + 7) [3]
  • (Q2, 0:31):  He dragged down Rodgers for ½ sack shared off initial pressure from Houston
  • (Q3, 13:30):  He again appeared to be held this time by WR Lazard on RB Jones RM11
  • (Q3, 12:45):  He lost the left edge to LT Nijman on RB Aaron Jones RM5
  • (Q4, 3:19):  On 3rd/5, he screamed for a false start on LT Nijman then crashed the left B-gap double teamed by Nijman and LG Jon Runyan to turtle Rodgers which allowed Madubuike to finish S-9

Tyus played well, but had he drawn the 2 holding flags for which he lobbied, the outcome of the game might have been different and Bowser would have been an easy choice for defensive MVP.

Justin Madubuike

  • (Q2, 5:53):  He was blocked by RT Kelly to help lead RB Jones RM7
  • (Q3, 13:30):  He was blocked by LT Nijman on Jones RM11
  • (Q4, 4:44):  He bulled then shed RG Royce Newman to tackle RB Jones RR0
  • (Q4, 3:19):  He bulled RG Newman then shed him to tackle Rodgers for S-9 to force a punt

I do not award MVPs after a loss.