Third-Down Failures

It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the Ravens have such difficulty getting off the field.  We’ll inspect that from a couple of different angles.  Let’s start by reviewing each of the third-down plays:

  • (Q1, 2:26): On 3rd/5, Mahomes screened middle to RB Edwards-Helaire PM15 (-5 + 20) [2]. Elliott appeared to be blocked in the back by Kelce, but there was no flag.
  • (Q2, 15:00): On 3rd/9, with ATS Mahomes hit Watson for PM15 (9 +6) [2] who shook free of Peters.
  • (Q2, 12:55): On 3rd/Goal at the 5, Mahomes shoveled to FB Sherman PM5 (-3 + 8) [3].  Queen was out of position to cover.
  • (Q2, 11:23): On 3rd/4, with bunch right Smith followed Kelce, pressed, and Mahomes’ throw was off target to deny conversion.
  • (Q2, 8:41): On 3rd/5, Mahomes stepped up from initial pressure from Humphrey and threw to Hardman PM18 (11 + 7) [2] with Judon trailing.
  • (Q2, 1:54): On 3rd/14, Humphrey blitzed off slot for QH, Hardman beat coverage by 5 yards for PR49 TD (44 +5) [5].  See below under Peters for responsibility.
  • (Q2, 0:16): On 3rd/5, Mahomes threw to Watkins for a pitch-and-catch crosser PR7 (7 + 0) [4].
  • (Q3, 3:40): Brandon Williams bulled RG Remmers to blow up RB Williams’ RM0.
  • (Q4, 13:37): Clark simulated blitz on offensive right side (ORS) then raced to cover Edwards-Helaire lined up left of Mahomes. Mahomes threw to Edwards-Helaire PL18 (0 + 18) [1].  I assume the Ravens have rules on when to abandon a simulated pressure to avoid a coverage disadvantage, but this seemed unnecessary.
  • (Q4, 11:36): On 3rd/10, the Ravens rushed four including Judon’s stunt inside leaving the right edge open for Mahomes RR12.
  • (Q4, 4:42): On 3rd/6, both Clark and Smith broke to cover RB Williams on ORS, leaving Kelce open for PM17 (5 + 12) [4].
  • (Q4, 3:07): On 3rd/4, Clark tracked RB Williams too slowly from right to left and he caught PL5 (-3 + 8) [1], dragging Clark the last 4 yards to convert.
  • (Q4, 1:15): On 3rd/6, Edwards-Helaire ran up the middle for 5 yards to bring up 4th and 1.  The game was long decided, but the play is included here for completeness.

Notes on the third-down plays:

  • Mahomes had amazing touch on all but one of the passes.  Not only was each pass thrown either for the TD or for the conversion, but most were spotted for good YAC potential.
  • The Chiefs took advantage of the Ravens pass rush aggressiveness on multiple plays including once with a nigh impossible coverage matchup (Judon on Hardman) and another stunt by Judon which exposed the right edge.
  • When there was pressure, Mahomes stepped free or delivered accurately before taking the hit.
  • Something well within the Ravens control was understanding how to break down bunch coverages off the line.  They did it poorly all night, allowing some easy pitch-and-catch throws.  It would have been much less upsetting (and would have entailed less YAC) to watch Mahomes dissect trailing coverages.


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 Chiefs ran 73 such competitive, non-penalty snaps.

Base (10): This was a reflection of the fact the Ravens trailed for most of the game.  They first lined up in base late in the second quarter and continued to do so both on short yardage plays and first downs for a chunk of the second half.  The Ravens had most of their defensive success in base, with a stop on 3rd and 1, 2 on 4th and 1, and 2.1 YPP overall.

The Ravens lined up in the base defense far more than they had hoped based on their active linemen.  Broderick Washington was inactive, so the Ravens played the game with only 4 DL (excluding Ricard).  They had used just 1.80 DL snaps per play vs the Texans and obviously expected to use a lighter set of packages versus Chiefs, but the game situation dictated otherwise.

Standard Nickel (31): The Ravens used their standard nickel more than any other defense.  The Chiefs ran 16 times for 69 yards (4.3 YPC, long of 22 on their first offensive play) vs this package, including the only turnover.  They passed 15 times for 116 net yards (7.7 YPP).

Jumbo Nickel (5): Martindale deployed the package just 5 times, but it was not nearly as successful as the base defense.  The Chiefs ran 5 plays against jumbo nickel for 40 yards (8.0 YPP).  The flag on Jimmy Smith for illegal hands to the face occurred while in this package but is not included in the results.

So how many more defensive snaps did the DL play than what they could reasonably have expected?  The Ravens played 73 defensive snaps but might have hoped to play 65 had they performed a little better on both sides of the ball.  Had they played 65 with 1.80 DL per play (the rate against the Texans), they would have logged 117 snaps among Campbell, Ellis, Williams, and Wolfe.  They actually logged 142 (21% more) versus the Chiefs.

Dime (27): The Ravens showed a variety of dime looks, primarily on 3rd down and at the end of the first half.  Summarizing the results:

Standard–1 ILB, 3 OLB, 1 DL, 6 DBs (19 snaps): 137 yards (7.2 YPP).  These plays included 10 conversions and 0 drive-ending plays.

Heavy—3 OLB, 2 DL, 6 DBs (8 snaps): 134 yards (16.8 YPP).  These plays included 6 conversions and 1 drive-ending play.


If you’ve been reading my analysis for some time, you know my fondness for sub packages which address opponent personnel groups and the dime defense in particular.  The primary purpose of such packages is to get the opposing offense off the field on high-leverage snaps.  On Monday night, the Ravens ran 27 dime snaps, including 16 conversions (9 on 3rd down) and just 1 drive-ending play (Q2, 11:23).

Pass Rush

The Ravens pass rush was not successful, so it’s worth inspecting what they did to get after Mahomes.

Mahomes had Ample Time and Space (ATS) on 16 of 42 drop backs (38%) which is typical by today’s standards.  However, on 14 other occasions (33%) he delivered the football before the rush had a chance to develop (ball out quick or BOQ), so the Ravens had just 12 pressure events among 42 drop backs (29%).

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3 or fewer: None

4: 20 plays, 166 yards, 8.3 YPP

5: 21 plays, 219 yards, 10.4 YPP

6: None

7: 1 play, 0 yards

Total: 41 plays, 385 yards, 9.2 YPP

It’s fair to say that nothing worked, but perhaps surprising the Ravens did not use the variety of pass rush by numbers we have seen from Martindale versus other opponents.

Martindale sent 11 individual blitzes from off the LoS, including 3 by Humphrey and 3 by Judon.  That’s a low total per pass play for the 2018-20 Ravens.

After getting a QH or sack on 5 of 6 stunts vs the Texans, the Ravens stunted 17 times against the Chiefs, including 8 times by Judon.  Those 17 stunts were spread over 13 plays, only 3 of which resulted in pressure events.  The results of those 13 plays were PM15, PM15, PL7, Inc, Inc, PR20 (TD), PM10 (pressure 90), PR49 (TD, QH 44), PM9, PM5, PM7, PM9 (pressure 71), PM17.

The Ravens also dropped 2+ defenders from the LoS to cover on 9 occasions.

In total, the Ravens ran 10 deceptive blitzes which included 2 or more of the above elements.  Mahomes completed all 10 of those passes for 156 yards (15.6) and 1 TD.  He was not deceived.  

Brian Griese made references to Mahomes having the answer to everything the Ravens did.  I can’t recall a time where that was more accurate.

Individual Notes

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.  

Patrick Queen (46 snaps) played poorly and was replaced by Malik Harrison and Chris Board for 17 snaps following his horse collar tackle:

  • (Q2, 12:55): He was not in position to cover or tackle Sherman on the 5-yard shovel pass TD.  Sure, he could have been blocked anyway, but his positioning removed any chance to impact the play.
  • (Q3, 14:53): He tried to jam Edwards-Helaire at the LOS, but made almost no contact, which allowed the Chiefs RB to run under a 25-yard wheel route down the left sideline.
  • (Q3, 14:13): On the very next play, he dragged down Tyreek Hill by the right sideline and was flagged for a horse collar tackle.  The call might have been ticky-tack, but he spoiled a good play diagnosis by not simply pushing Hill out of bounds.

Marcus Peters played all 73 snaps and was beaten for 4 big plays:

  • (Q1, 7:23):  With ATS, Mahomes threw deep for Hill down the right sideline.  Peters undercut in an attempt to intercept, but was late, which allowed Hill 17 YAC.  I went into the math for his pick 6 versus Cincinnati last year, but Peters does not have to be correct very often to make that gamble correct.  In this case, the difference between 1st and 10 at the 20 and 1st and goal at the 3 is approximately 1.7 points.  If Peters had an 18% chance for an interception and another 18% chance to knock the pass down it would have been the right gamble, even assuming no interception return yardage.
  • (Q2, 15:00): As Mahomes had ATS, Peters was unable to stay with Watkins who shook free for a 15-yard reception (9 + 6 YAC) between the numbers and left hash.
  • (Q2, 6:46): Mahomes lofted a perfect pass to Hill over Peters for a 20-yard TD in the right side of the end zone.  Marcus had tight coverage off the line of scrimmage, but the pass was effectively undefendable.
  • (Q2, 1:54): It looks as if Peters was supposed to have the deep right in cover 3, but bit on Tyreek Hill’s crossing route, leaving Deshon Elliott to chase Mecole Hardman on his wide-open 49-yard TD reception.  This was a case of Peters playing his read, but at a much greater risk to reward ratio.

There is no sugar coating the outing for Peters.  It was his worst since joining the Ravens.