Losing Close

The Ravens tied the NFL record with a 6th game decided by 2 or fewer point in the same season.  The previous teams to do so were:

  • 1970 Chargers (1-2-3 in such games)
  • 1989 Packers (5-1)
  • 2001 Jets (4-2)
  • 1997 Ravens (2-3-1)

The Ravens are now 2-4 in such games in 2021.

Defense Steps Up

The defense played well enough to win.  With season all but mathematically over, let’s review the most significant wins for the defense vs the Rams (in order of importance):

  • (Q1, 2:03): On 3rd/2 with ATS, Stafford threw for TE Tyler Higbee between the right hash and numbers.  Chuck Clark left his own assignment to undercut the route for an interception at the 17 and easily returned it for a touchdown.
  • (Q3, 11:12):  On 1st/10 at the Ravens 11, Bowser beat RT Rob Havenstein inside for a strip sack of Stafford recovered by Justin Houston which was the only red-zone failure of the game for the Rams.
  • (Q4, 1:20):  On 3rd/1, at the Ravens 8, RB Sony Michel ran left past penetration from Campbell and was stretched wide by Houston where Jimmy Smith tripped him up for RL-4.
  • (Q3, 3:36):  On 3rd/3, with ATS, Stafford again threw to Higbee PR2 (1 + 1) [4] and Stephens made an outstanding tackle from across the formation to deny conversion.
  • (Q2, 12:53):  On 3rd/10 with ATS, Stafford threw for WR Odell Beckham and Clark intercepted at the 4-yard line.  While this was an important 3rd down stop, the result was better than most punts.
  • (Q2, 2:22):  On 3rd/19 with ATS, Stafford threw to WR Beckham PM17 (17 + 0) [4] to force a punt.

Unsuspected Boots

The Rams were effective getting time and space for Stafford on play action boots, something I believe is an innate advantage of less mobile QBs:

  • (Q1, 7:37):  Zone block right, naked boot left (ZBR/NBL), Ferguson was fooled and blocked by WR Cooper Kupp as Stafford threw to TE Higbee PL7 (1 + 6) [1] with Seymour trailing
  • (Q1, 1:53):  ZBL/NBR, Kupp again blocked Ferguson and Stafford had time to throw to WR Van Jefferson PL9 (2 + 7) [1] with Queen trailing
  • (Q3, 4:42):  ZBL/NBR, Kupp again blocked Ferguson and Stafford threw to WR Jefferson PR9 (5 + 4) [5] with Clark closest
  • (Q3, 0:24):  ZBR/NBL, Kupp blocked Bowser and Stafford had ATS on throw to TE Higbee PL8 (1 + 7) [1] with Seymour soft
  • (Q4, 14:20):  ZBL/NBR, Kupp again blocked Bowser to help provide ATS for the Stafford throw to WR Ben Skowronek PR3 (0 + 3) [5] where Young made a quick tackle

Stafford did not find a deep shot to take on these plays despite excellent time.  However, all but the last was an offensive win.  Looking for common threads, the presence of Kupp should clue opposing DCs that a boot in that direction is a distinct possibility.  In addition, it appears the Rams may have been targeting Ferguson.

Lack of Points off Takeaways

There was mention on the broadcast that the Ravens had not scored points off a takeaway since week 2.  That is incorrect, but the lack of turnovers since that game vs the Chiefs has been alarming.  Prior to Clark’s pick-6, the Ravens had only 10 turnovers in the previous 14 games.  Let’s review:

  • Week 2 vs. Kansas City, (Q3, 2:09), Young intercepted Mahomes at the 44, the Ravens scored 5 plays later on Jackson’s 2-yard run to pull within 5 points.
  • Week 2 vs. Kansas City, (Q4, 1:26), Oweh stripped RB Edwards-Helaire and recovered.  The Ravens subsequently converted 4th/1 to seal the game.
  • Week 4 @ Denver, (Q4, 0:10), Averett intercepted Lock in the endzone.  The Ravens were able to tie the record for most consecutive 100-yard rushing games on the last snap of the game. 
  • Week 5 vs. Indianapolis, (Q1, 3:47), Oweh delivered a strip sack of Wentz recovered by Brandon Williams at the Ravens 19.  The Ravens drove to the 45 before punting.
  • Week 6 vs. Los Angelos Chargers, (Q2, 4:39), Elliott intercepted Herbert’s pass at the Baltimore 37.  Jackson was intercepted on the ball in and out of Bateman’s hands on the next play.
  • Week 7 vs. Cinncinnati, (Q4, 14:55), Burrow was intercepted by Humphrey for a touchback but the Ravens surrendered the ball on downs after advancing the ball to their own 38.
  • Week 11 @ Chicago, (Q2, 8:33), Bowser’s strip sack of Justin Fields was recovered by Campbell at the Ravens 34.  The Ravens drove 9 plays for a 35-yard Tucker field goal.
  • Week 12 vs. Cleveland, (Q2, 3:14), Jarvis Landry was sacked and stripped by Oweh with recovery by Queen.  2 plays later, Jackson was intercepted by Ward.
  • Week 12 vs. Cleveland, (Q2, 0:56), Mayfield’s unforced fumble was recovered by Oweh at the Ravens 49 but Jackson was intercepted by Harrison 5 plays later.
  • Week 14 @ Cleveland, (Q2, 5:32), Anthony Averett intercepted Mayfield and returned it to the 39, Tucker kicked a 50-yard field goal 4 plays later.

Declining to go Intentionally Offside

Chuck Clark has been intentionally offside 3 times in the past 3 seasons, but the coaches passed up 2 such opportunities in the 4th quarter.  Let’s review:

  • (Q4, 12:12): After Michel’s 7-yard run gave the Rams 1st and goal inside the 2-yard line, the Rams ran no huddle to keep the ravens from substituting a jumbo package.  In Buffalo (week 14, Q4, 8:16) the Ravens faced a 1st and goal at the 2, the Bills ran no huddle with the Ravens in dime, and Martindale directed Chuck Clark to line up in the Bills backfield where he was flagged for NZI.  That allowed the Ravens to substitute their heavy personnel (they were flagged for 12 men on the next play).
  • (Q4, 1:59): With the Rams 2nd and 2 at the Ravens 9-yard line, the Ravens were in danger of the Rams bleeding the clock with another first down.  In week 13, they faced a nearly identical 2nd-and-2 situation vs the Steelers and Clark was instructed to jump offside (Q4, 2:00).  The Ravens allowed the go-ahead TD, but Jackson drove them for a subsequent TD, but the offense failed the 2-point conversion).


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 Rams ran 55 such snaps.

Standard Nickel (33): 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 15 runs for 63 yards (4.2 YPC) and 18 pass plays for 140 yards (7.8 YPP).  33 plays, 203 yards, 6.2 YPP.

Jumbo/Big Nickel (17): Martindale deployed a nickel with 3 DL, 1 ILB, 2 OLB, 3 S, 2 CB as an alternate look vs some 11 and 12 personnel packages on early downs.  I would term this personnel group as both “Jumbo” and “Big” normally and separate the results, but the Martindale deployed a big nickel only with 1 ILB, never 2.  These plays included 4 runs for 17 yards (4.3 YPP) and 13 passes for 116 yards (8.9 YPP), 17 plays, 133 yards, 7.8 YPP.

Dime (5): The Ravens lined up with 6 DB (and either 1 DL, 2 OLB, 2 ILB or 2 DL, 2 OLB, 1 ILB) on 5 passing downs.  Chris Board was the sole ILB on each of these.  5 plays, 44 yards, 8.8 YPP.  The Ravens allowed 2 conversions among these 5 play, including the critical 4th-and-5 completion to Beckham. 

Pass Rush

Despite the fact Stafford has struggled with 5+ man pass rushes this season, Martindale did not employ much in the way of numbers or deception.

Stafford had ATS on 17 of 36 drop backs (47%) resulting in a pass or sack.  He also had 7 ball-out-quick (BOQ) instances (19%) and the Ravens generated 12 pressure events (33%) within 3 seconds.  By pressure situation:

ATS: 14/17 for 149 yards (8.8 YPP), 2 interceptions

BOQ: 3/7 for 17 yards (2.4 YPP)

Pressured: 9/11 for 134 yards, (11.2 YPP), 1 sack, 1 turnover

Results like this under pressure are what I would call an “inverted game”.  That said, 47% ATS is far too much to allow Stafford and the Ravens are fortunate the aggregate result was not worse.

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 3 plays, 27 yards, 9.0 YPP

4: 28 plays, 207 yards, 7.4 YPP, 1 sack, 2 turnovers

5: 5 plays, 66 yards, 13.2 YPP, 1 turnover

6+:  None

Total:  36 plays, 300 yards, 8.3 YPP, 1 sack, 3 turnovers

Martindale called 5 off-ball blitzes (0.14 per pass play), all individual.  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 5 plays went for 28 net yards (5.6 YPP) including Clark’s 2nd interception.     

There were 4 designed stunts which resulted in Inc, Inc, SF-9, PM5 (-1.0 YPP).

The Ravens showed simulated pressure 5 times where 2 dropped from the LoS to cover.  Those plays went for 41 total yards, (8.2 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 26 yards (8.7 YPP).

In words, the Ravens had some success with deception, but none with numbers.

Jaylon Ferguson led the Ravens with contributions to 4 pressures, including a QH. 

Other Notes

  • The Ravens rotated at safety on a down-by-down basis.  This is difficult for analysts, particularly when working from the broadcast video where deep safeties are not visible on every play.  That’s not a concern for the coaches, of course, and I think it’s possible that such rotation might obfuscate what the Ravens were attempting to do during the game from the opponent.
  • Tony Jefferson again played well, including an unreal change of target on the 2-point try denied by the Ravens (Q4, 0:57).  I think this game increased the chance he’ll return to Baltimore in 2022 on either a 1-year deal or perhaps a 2-year deal with a modest bonus to play special teams and have a role in dime/quarter and big nickel packages.
  • Malik Harrison played 1 snap at ILB (Q2, 15:00) when Queen left to deal with an equipment problem (it appeared to be his shoes).  That was his first defensive snap since week 7 vs the Bengals.

Star Treatment

Chuck Clark

  • (Q1, 7:16):  He was underneath as Stafford threw to TE Higbee PR19 (18 + 1) [5]
  • (Q1, 2:03):  On 3rd/2, he undercut Higbee’s route for a pick-6
  • (Q2, 12:53):  On 3rd/10, he intercepted Stafford’s pass for WR Beckham at the 4-yard line
  • (Q2, 2:26):  On 2nd/19, he dislodged the ball from WR Kupp 3 yards [4]
  • (Q3, 13:58):  On 3rd/7, he was trailing WR Jefferson with Stephens closing bracket from left but the completion went PM35 (34 + 1) [2]
  • (Q4, 2:43):  Stafford threw to WR Jefferson PM15 (6 + 9) [4] with Clark trailing.  After the play, he turned to emote at Queen.
  • (Q4, 1:59):  He rushed unblocked off the ORS to tackle RB Michel RM1
  • (Q4, 1:01):  He was closest to WR Beckham on PR7 TD but was unable to impact the throw

Chuck had one of his best games as a Raven.  The pick-6 makes me believe the Ravens could be effective using him more as a robber.

Tyus Bowser

  • (Q2, 15:00):  He missed the tackle at 16 yards on WR Kupp PM22
  • (Q2, 1:29):  He beat LT Andrew Whitworth outside for pressure as Stafford threw to RB Michel PM11
  • (Q3, 11:12):  He beat RT Havenstein inside for SF-9 to stop a Rams drive that had reached the Ravens 11 yard line
  • (Q4, 1:59):  He stood up TE Higbee to allow Clark to tackle Michel RM1

Tyus played every snap versus the Rams with only 3 OLBs active.  Ferguson and Houston split time opposite him.  This underscores the need for the Ravens to develop another Sam linebacker (Oweh and Hayes are both good candidates).

I do not award MVPs after a loss.