Formula 1 Win
The Ravens won by what I like to refer to as their 2019 formula on Monday night. Let’s review:
- They never trailed, rolling up a 14-point lead, then never allowed the Saints closer than 11
- They ran the ball effectively despite the fact the Saints knew it was coming and they were without their top 2 RBs
- They avoided turnovers while collecting 1 themselves
- They played tipped balls well, including interceptions by Hamilton (negated by penalty) and Houston
- They held the Saints to 3/11 on 3rd down while converting 9/15 themselves
- They outsnapped the Saints 65-49 which helped keep the defenders rested
- Tackling was excellent with 1 notable exception
The Ravens will play primarily bad teams the rest of the way and demonstrated the ability to put away a mediocre team on the road in the fashion to which we’ve become accustomed in the Lamar era.
Arrival and Return
Roquan Smith and Tyus Bowser each made their 2022 Ravens debuts against the Saints and gave us a glimpse of some possibilities.
Smith played a secondary role at ILB (37 snaps,76%), but made his presence felt as a tackler and in coverage. He was on the field for the turnover and all 4 sacks. He and Patrick Queen complemented each other well, including some blitz games. Notes are included below in Star Treatment.
Bowser’s return eased the SAM burden for Oweh, who played well in reduced snaps. Tyus ended the first Saints drive with a controlled rush of Dalton which forced him to throw the ball away and delivered a hard QH late in the game (Q4, 4:35).
While each made individual contributions, it’s their impact on defensive depth that stands out from this game.
That brings us to the next topic…
Flexing Depth, Hiding Weakness
The Ravens significant OLB depth issues from earlier this season are now a thing of the past. Despite the fact Jason Pierre-Paul had to leave early, the Ravens received quality play from Bowser, Oweh, Harrison, and Houston.
David Ojabo and JPP should be available soon as the OLB corps swells back to one of the better units in team history.
If the Ravens can avoid further injuries, Macdonald will be able to optimize use of his OLBs rather than deploying out of necessity as he was forced to for much of the season’s first half. This will mean a more rested group of pass rushers and the opportunity to have more OLBs rush from the inside.
The newfound depth at ILB and emergence of Kyle Hamilton allowed Macdonald to deploy a predominance of big nickel against the Saints without much concern for the offensive package (11, 12, or 13). Normally, a 3rd WR on the field is said to “force the nickel”, but such offensive personnel did not force the Ravens to employ a 3rd CB on Monday.
Since the team’s biggest defensive weakness is now their 3rd CB (Brandon Stephens, Pepe Williams, Jalyn Armour-Davis), the emergence and playmaking of Hamilton as a SCB has been a revelation. I expect we’ll see more of Hamilton as SCB until other teams figure out how to exploit him.
Complementary Pass Rush
While the Ravens were very effective in terms of their pass rush against the Saints, much of it was complementary. Let’s review the sacks and turnover for starters:
- (Q1, 0:08): Houston exploited a pick from Queen that eliminated LG Peat and Kamara to stunt for S-8
- (Q3, 5:43): Houston cleaned up S-2 off initial blitz pressure from Queen
- (Q3, 2:08): Front-side pressure from Hamilton forced Dalton to pull the ball down as Humphrey delivered S-9
- (Q4, 14:04): Houston was first in on Dalton and turned him, but did not appear to have a solid grip when Campbell delivered his thunderous hit to complete the shared S-9
- (Q4, 8:31): Urban deflected Dalton’s pass and Houston collected the ball in the air to effectively seal the game
These were obvious 2-man examples, but the secondary also both benefited from and complemented the pass rush.
It is more valuable to have regular 1-on-1 pass rush wins unnerving an opposing QB, but creating effective results as an 11-man unit may be the Ravens best route to success in 2022.
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 Saints ran 49 such snaps.
Base (7): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense for 7 snaps on which the Saints played a mix of 11, 12, and 13 personnel. The Saints passed 3 times for 36 yards and ran 4 times for 12 yards. 7 plays, 48 yards, 6.9 YPP.
Standard Nickel (6): The Ravens used the standard nickel for 6 snaps on the last 2 drives of the game. Pepe Williams was inserted at SCB for all but 1 of the plays. 6 plays, 74 yards, 12.3 YPP.
Big Nickel (15): This version of the nickel included 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB, 2 CB, and 3 S. Kyle Hamilton was the SCB for each of these plays. Macdonald deployed it versus a mix of 11, 12, and 13 personnel. These included 6 runs for 20 yards and 9 pass for 35 net yards, including an interception. 15 plays, 55 yards, 3.7 YPP.
Rush Nickel (7): The version of the dime included 1 down linemen, 3 OLB, and 2 ILB. In each case, the Ravens used 3 S and 2 CB with Hamilton added. These plays included 3 drive ending plays (INC, S-8, S-9) and 4 early snaps on the Saints TD drive. 7 plays, 2 yards, 0.3 YPP.
Rush Dime (1): The version of the dime includes 1 down linemen, 3 OLB, and 1 ILB. The Ravens had this personnel group on the field only once (Q2, 0:33) on which Smith dropped Kamara on a 1-yard pass right. 1 play, 1 yard.
Standard Dime (11): The version of the dime includes 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 1 ILB. In each case, the Ravens used 3 S and 3 CB with Hamilton added. Macdonald deployed this for 8 of the first 9 plays on the last drive of the half as well as 3 other passing situations. 11 plays, 63 yards, 5.7 YPP.
Quarter (2): The Ravens lined up with 7 DBs on the last 2 plays of the first half. Bowser, Campbell, Oweh, and Queen were on the field with 7 DBs. Both passes were incomplete with pass rushes of 3 and 2 men. 2 play, 0 yards.
Macdonald employed a variety of pressure looks and deception which almost uniformly caused problems for the Saints.
For the game, Dalton and Hill had ATS on 10 of 34 drop backs (29%). On those plays, Saints gained 87 yards (8.7 YPP). Dalton also delivered the ball before pressure could develop (BOQ) 8 times (24%, 56 yards, 7.0 YPP). The Ravens generated a pressure event on 16 plays (47%) which gained 52 net yards (3.3 YPP), including 4 sacks and 1 INT.
Summarizing by number of pass rushers:
3 or fewer: 3 plays, 13 yards, 4.3 YPP
4: 24 plays, 130 yards, 5.4 YPP, 2 sacks, 1 TOs
5: 6 plays, 52 yards, 8.7 YPP, 2 sacks
6+: 1 play, 0 yards
Total: 34 plays, 195 yards, 5.7 YPP, 4 sacks, 1 TO
Macdonald dialed up 11 individual blitzes (.32 per pass play) from off the LoS including 1 pair. Of the 11, 2 were from Humphrey with the remainder either Smith or Queen. On the 10 plays where they blitzed, the Ravens generated 3 sacks and allowed 61 yards (6.1 YPP) with 41 of those coming on the TD to TE Johnson.
The Ravens stunted 7 times (.21 per pass play), all of which were singles. Those 7 plays went for 11 net yards (1.6 YPP) and included 2 sacks.
The Ravens showed simulated pressure on 5 occasions where 2 or more dropped from the LoS. Those included the sack by Humphrey and 24 net yards (4.8 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 4 deceptive rushes (12%) on which the Saints gained -6 net yards, including 2 sacks.
Individually, Houston had 2.5 sacks, Campbell had a half sack, QH, and PD, Oweh had 3 pressures, and Humphrey had a sack and a pressure in 2 rushes. 11 different players had a pressure event of some sort.
Other Individual Notes
- Patrick Queen had a fine game with contributions to 2 of Houston’s sacks (see above) and a PD to go along with a game with 5 tackle contributions and no misses.
- Brent Urban helped blow up Alvin Kamara when he beat TE Trautman inside to set up the big 3/1 stop by Smith and Humphrey. He bulled RG Throckmorton before tipping the pass that would be intercepted by Houston (Q4, 8:31).
- (Q1, 0:08): On 3rd/8, he stunted through the left A-gap for S-8 exploiting an outstanding pick by Queen who eliminated RB Kamara and LG Peat
- (Q2, 10:09): He was guilty of a neutral zone infraction alertly claimed by LT Hurst
- (Q3, 5:43): He cleaned up S-2 off initial pressure from Queen. Dalton somehow avoided the fumble by pinching the end of the football until ruled down.
- (Q4, 14:04): On 3rd/7, rushing from the inside he beat RG Throckmorton for the initial pressure and S-9 split with Campbell
- (Q4, 8:31): He collected Urban’s tipped pass for an INT to effectively seal the game
Justin’s playing time increased to 65%, but that was still just 32 plays (24 passes). If I was to choose a word to describe his performance vs the Saints, it would be “synergistic”, because he had help from another teammate on each of his 4 big plays.
- (Q1, 1:01): While engaged by RG Ruiz he batted down Dalton’s pass under pressure from Oweh
- (Q1, 0:55): He beat C McCoy left for a fast QH as Dalton threw PM12 to Kamara
- (Q2, 1:56): He crossed the face of RG Ruiz to run himself out of the play on RB Kamara RM9
- (Q4, 14:04): On 3rd/7, he stunted past Oweh for a hard, shared S-9 off Houston’s initial pressure
- (Q4, 6:52): He swam past C Ruiz left to tackle RB Kamara RM-4
Calais continues to be ageless and amazing. He played 31 snaps coming off illness and has led the DL with 58.4% of snaps played for the season (Madubuike 57.5%).
- (Q1, 15:00): QB Dalton completed PR15 (15 + 0)  to WR Olave between Harrison and Smith
- (Q1, 9:47): On 2nd/3, he assisted Washington to stand up RB Kamara RM2
- (Q1, 9:11): On the next play 3rd/1, he and Humphrey filled the gap created by Urban’s pressure and Harrison’s edge set to tackle Kamara RL0
- (Q2, 9:55): On 3rd/3, he blitzed through the right A-gap for pressure as Dalton threw to TE Johnson PR1 (1 + 0)  to force punt
- (Q2, 0:33): With BOQ, he tackled Kamara PR1 (-2 + 3)  quickly and inbounds
- (Q2, 7:50): He was caught in the wash on Kamara RM10
- (Q3, 7:12): Dalton threw to WR Olave open in zone behind Queen and Smith PL13 (13 + 0) 
- (Q3, 2:48): He beat a L2 block from LT Hurst to tackle RB Washington RM3
There was a lot to like about Roquan’s first game, but it was Queen and not Smith who was on the field for the vast majority of plays. This is likely a matter of learning the playbook because the Ravens otherwise payed a big price for a 2-down ILB.
- (Q1, 10:36): He collected the tipped pass intended for TE Johnson, negated by questionable DPI call on Clark
- (Q1, 10:23): He took down RB Funk PL7 (1 + 6)  with a good open-field tackle
- (Q3, 2:08): On 3rd/14, he bulled RB Kamara for pressure to close off front side on Humphrey S-9
- (Q4, 6:23): On 2nd/20, he took down WR Callaway PL5 (5 + 0)  with a downhill tackle
- (Q4, 5:30): On 4th/3, Dalton completed PL7 (6 + 1)  to WR Smith where Hamilton tackled him inbounds
See above for significance of Hamilton’s play in recent weeks and how the Ravens may approach the remainder of the season.
- (Q1, 1:20): He drew offensive holding on the pulling RG Ruiz to negate Hill RL3
- (Q1, 1:01): He bulled LT Hurst for pressure as Dalton’s pass was deflected by Campbell at the LoS
- (Q2, 10:53): On 2nd/7, he maintained disciplined containment of the right edge and tackled RB Washington RR-1
- (Q4, 14:09): He beat LT Hurst on a delayed rush for pressure as Dalton’s pass for Kamara was defensed by Queen
- (Q4, 4:27): He bulled LT Hurst for pressure as Dalton overthrew WR Callaway 20 yards  with tight coverage from Humphrey
Odafe didn’t finish plays like Houston in this game, but he provided complementary pressure, made a nice run play, and drew a holding flag despite a reduced snap workload (28).
- Justin Houston
- Calais Campbell
- Kyle Hamilton
Honorable mention to Patrick Queen, Odafe Oweh, Roquan Smith, and Brent Urban