Ravens Relentless Pressure KO’s 49ers

Rarely has the Ravens defense delivered a game of pressure like that on Monday night.  Among 50 pass plays resulting in a pass or sack, they pressured the 49ers QBs within 3 seconds on 33 occasions (plus 2 others excluded as detailed below).  Let’s review and look at some common threads:

  • (Q1, 13:59):  Queen rushed unblocked off ORS for pressure on PR3
  • (Q1, 13:21):  Madubuike bulled RG Feliciano for pressure on INC, PD Stephens
  • (Q1, 13:17):  Clowney bulled RT McKivitz for pressure on PM58
  • (Q1, 12:27):  Madubuike bulled then pancaked RG Feliciano at feet of Purdy then QH from ground on PM13
  • (Q1, 9:00):  Urban bulled LT Williams into Purdy for QH on PL18
  • (Q1, 8:27):  Pierce bulled LG Banks into cone for pressure on INC
  • (Q1, 6:57):  Oweh pressure naked book then Humphrey cleaned up S-12, negated by Darby DH (not counted as pressure)
  • (Q1, 6:11):  Clowney bulled then elevated vs. LT Williams for PR/PD
  • (Q1, 6:06):  Clowney bulled LT Williams into Purdy on INC
  • (Q2, 14:22):  Stephens blitzed unblocked off OLS and elevated for PD, tipped to Humphrey for INT
  • (Q2, 4:53):  Pierce bulled RG Feliciano into cone for pressure on PM8
  • (Q3, 13:33):  Queen blitzed unblocked off ORS for QH on PD/near INT by Darby
  • (Q3, 12:07):  Jones bulled RT McKivitz for QH/PD which floated to Queen for INT
  • (Q3, 11:45):  Pierce backs up double team from C Brendel and LG Banks for pressure on PD/near INT Stephens
  • (Q3, 10:59):  Oweh beat pulling RG Feliciano outside to flush Purdy left on PL5
  • (Q3, 9:36):  Jones bulled double team from RG Feliciano and C Brendel for pressure on INC, drop by Samuel
  • (Q4, 14:57):  Smith chased down Purdy for late QH after ATS (not counted as pressure) as wild flip was collected by McCaffrey for PR-1
  • (Q4, 10:24):  Van Noy bulled RT Burford for pressure on PM12
  • (Q4, 9:54):  Jones bulled LG Banks then beat him inside for pressure on INC, PD Hamilton
  • (Q4, 9:51):  Madubuike beat LT McKivitz inside to flush Purdy right, Jones followed up to force overthrow OOB
  • (Q4, 9:43):  Jones stunted over Oweh for pressure as Purdy stepped up for PR22
  • (Q4, 9:14):  Urban bulled LG Banks to phonebooth pocket as Van Noy bulled/shed RT Burford for S-5
  • (Q4, 8:49):  Pierce bulled RG Feliciano for pressure on PL33
  • (Q4, 8:19):  Clowney bulled then shed LT McKivitz for S-3 and Urban fell on late as Purdy developed stinger and left game
  • (Q4, 7:15):  Van Noy beat RT Burford with speed outside for pressure on PR5
  • (Q4, 6:56):  Clowney bulled LT McKivitz then beat him inside for pressure on PL5
  • (Q4, 4:35):  Clowney beat LT McKivitz outside for fast pressure/MT, cleaned up by Urban for S-9
  • (Q4, 4:01):  Urban bulled RG Feliciano for pressure on Darnold PR10 to Kittle
  • (Q4, 3:54):  Clowney stunted over Smith pick for fast pressure through left B-gap on INC
  • (Q4, 3:15):  Clowney engaged LT McKivitz then beat him outside for pressure as Darnold threw high, INC
  • (Q4, 3:10):  Queen blitzed unblocked through left B-gap for pressure on Darnold PL24 slant to Aiyuk
  • (Q4, 2:44):  Madubuike bulled RG Feliciano into Darnold on PL7
  • (Q4, 2:16):  Harrison was unfooled by Darnold naked boot right and forced throw OOB, INC
  • (Q4, 2:00):  Clowney fought past RT Burford outside but MT as Urban shed LT McKivitz and cleaned up S-11
  • (Q4, 1:09):  Van Noy shocked then beat RT Burford outside as Darnold pass for Kittle was INT by Williams

Comments on the pressures:

  • The Ravens 66% pressure rate is by far the highest of 2023 (Seattle 56%) and only the second time they have exceeded 50% in a game this season.
  • Their season pressure rate is up to 42% (up from 40% prior to this game).
  • Of their 4 sacks, 3 were the result of compound pressures, a microcosm of the season.  They continue to lead the NFL with 54 sacks (Miami 52, Buffalo 50) and are 6 sacks short of the team record of 60 set in 2006.
  • Unlike past defenses with Ryan and Martindale, Macdonald has schemed pressure primarily with a 4-man rush.  Only 3 of the Ravens 23 second-half pressures came with a 5 or 6-man rush.
  • The Ravens feasted on 49ers reshuffled OL who lost 3 players to injury (Williams, Banks, and Moore) and used all 8 active linemen.  As much as we complain about the Ravens issues, OL talent degrades as the season progresses and most NFL teams are in a lot worse shape at this time of year.
  • Normally, opponents move aggressively to get the ball out quickly when the Ravens are generating a lot of pressure.  This was an odd game where the Ravens lead did not afford the 49ers the option to dink and dunk with lots of BoQ throws to reduce pressure, particularly in the 4th quarter.

The Conversation Behind the Card               

Watching Brock Purdy approach Kyle Shanahan Kyle Shanahan to let him know he’d been cleared to play again after his stinger resulted in one of the most meme-worthy images of 2023.  Shanahan raised his play sheet to cover his mouth while he talked with Purdy in a “caption-this” moment.

Interestingly, it was Brian Greise who told Purdy to ask Shanahan who was to call signals for the next drive when the 2 spoke briefly (Q4, 6;19).

Shanahan said after the game that he never considered putting Purdy back in given his injury and the fact the 49ers had 3 offensive linemen out.

Flipping the Narrative

The Ravens thrived in an underdog role this week, so it may not be ideal to have them defend the mountain vs the talented Dolphins in week 17.  That said, much changed or will change in terms of the public narratives about the 49ers and Ravens.  Let’s review:

  • The Ravens passed a significant litmus test for playoff success with a road victory over a top NFL team.  I don’t think it’s possible to point to the Ravens and say “who have they beaten?”  The more reasonable question is now “why aren’t they undefeated?”
  • Both the Ravens and 49ers have been posted absurd DVOA measures all season.  With the win, the Ravens moved ahead in terms of the 2023 rankings.  Through 15 games, they have the 4th best DVOA since 1981 and the 49ers now are 5th.  The 3 higher ranked DVOA teams are the 2007 Patriots (15-0), 1991 Redskins (14-1), and 1985 Bears (14-1).  As a further point of comparison, the 2019 Ravens were 11th on this list.
  • The game ended any reasonable chance for Brock Purdy to win the MVP.  Purdy went from a significant favorite to a 13-1 underdog at the best pricing.  Meanwhile, the best price I can find on Lamar Jackson is now less than even money (actually 5-8, meaning if you expected him to win the award 8 of 13 times, you’d consider it a fair wager).  A Jackson MVP wager was available at 5-1 prior to the game.

As much as this created a feel-good night for the Ravens, the narrative may flip yet again if the Ravens lose to the Dolphins.

Packages

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 49ers ran 68 such snaps.

Base (13): The Ravens used their 4-DB/3-DL package 13 times, primarily on 1st down.  Harrison played all 11 of his snaps at OLB in this personnel group.  These included 5 runs for 49 yards and 8 passes for 43 net yards.  13 plays, 92 yards, 7.1 YPP, 1 sack, 1 INT.

Uncovered Nickel (8):  The Ravens used a 1-OLB uncovered nickel as an alternative to base.  In each case with a DL positioned outside the tackle with no flanking OLB.  These plays included 3 runs for 4 yards and 5 pass plays for 14 net yards.  8 plays, 18 yards, 2.3 YPP, 1 INT.

Standard Nickel (15): The Ravens used their standard nickel as a response to the 49ers 11 and 12 personnel packages, primarily after Hamilton left the game.  The Ravens played Humphrey at SCB and Darby outside on each such snap.  These plays included 2 runs for 10 yards and 13 pass plays for 120 net yards.  15 plays, 130 net yards, 8.7 YPP, 3 sacks, 1 INT.

Big Nickel (24):  The Ravens used the big nickel as their primary response to 11 and 12 personnel while Hamilton was available.  Each big nickel snap included Hamilton at SCB and Stone at SS.  These plays included 8 runs for 58 yards and 16 pass plays for 97 net yards.  24 plays, 155 yards, 6.5 YPP, 1 INT.

Rush Nickel (5): The Ravens used their rush nickel with 3 OLB and just 1 DL on the final 5 plays of the 49ers last TD drive.  It featured Clowney, Robinson, and Van Noy rushing the QB with Madubuike.  5 plays, 31 yards, 6.2 YPP.

32 Dime (3): The Ravens used their 32 dime with 2 OLB and just 1 DL on 3rd or 4th and long situations.  It featured Madubuike as the lone interior lineman and Darby added as a 6th DB.  3 plays, -1 yards, -0.3 YPP.

The 3 dime snaps bring the Ravens season total to just 9.  Macdonald has not removed either of his star ILBs for any significant snaps, so the Ravens have gone with a 3-man front when they have played dime, which has primarily been used on end-of-half and end-of-game pass defense.

Pass Rush

Macdonald used 5or more pass rushers on 12 of 50 plays (24%) resulting in a pass or sack and complemented that with a modest numbers of blitzes, stunts, and simulated pressures to confuse the OL.

For the game, 49er QBs had ATS on 10 of 50 drop backs (20%).  On those 10 plays, they averaged 6.3 YPP with 2 INTs.  They also delivered the ball before pressure could develop (BOQ) 7 times (14%, 7.1 YPP).  The Ravens generated a pressure event on 33 plays (66%), which included 4 sacks, 3 INTs and gained 5.9 YPP.  The 33-7 ratio of pressures to BOQ throws is extremely unusual.  Typically, a team’s BOQ throws will go up sharply when pressured regularly.

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3 or fewer: 1 play, 6 yards

4: 37 plays, 209 yards, 5.6 YPP, 4 sacks, 4 TOs

5: 9 plays, 84 yards, 9.3 YPP

6: 3 plays, 9 yards, 3.0 YPP, 1 TO

Total:  50 plays, 308 yards, 6.2 YPP, 4 sacks, 5 TOs

Macdonald dialed up 7 individual blitzes over 6 plays (.14 per pass play) from off the LoS, 1 double and 5 singles.  On those 6 plays, the 49ers gained 24 yards (4.0 YPP), 2 TOs.

The Ravens stunted 11 times among 9 plays (.22 per pass play).  Those plays resulted in 80 yards (7.3 YPP). 

The Ravens used simulated pressure only 3 times resulting in 24 yards (8.0 YPP, 1 TO) with 2 or more dropping from the line of scrimmage.

I define a deceptive pass rush as incorporating 2 or more of the above elements (off ball blitzes, stunts, and simulated pressures).  The Ravens schemed 6 such plays on which 49ers gained 0 yards with 2 INTs.

In words, the 49ers passing game managed to generate some big plays and a good average YPP despite pressure, but turnovers were their undoing as the Ravens piled up 11 PDs and 5 INTs to move into the NFL lead in both categories.

Clowney led the team with 9 pressures, including 1 sack and 1 PD at the LoS.  Urban had shares of 5 pressure events, including 2 sacks and 1 QH.  Among the others, Madubuike, Pierce, Jones, and Van Noy each had shares of 4 pressure events.  Amazingly, Madubuike’s sack streak came to an end at 11 games in a game with this sort of intense pressure.

Star Treatment

Kyle Hamilton

  • (Q1, 13:59):  He tackled RB McCaffrey PR3 (-5 + 8) [5]
  • (Q1, 13:17):  He was blocked effectively by WR Aiyuk on TE Kittle PM58 (12 + 46) [3]
  • (Q1, 11:47):  He undercut QB Purdy’s pass for WR Samuel in endzone for INT
  • (Q1, 10:23):  He was blocked by LT Williams on McCaffrey RL14
  • (Q1, 6:06):  On 3rd/9, he had tight coverage of McCaffrey as Purdy underthrew him wide to force punt
  • (Q2, 8:54):  On 2nd/8, he missed the tackle of Samuel at 0 yards on PR3 (-5 + 8) [5] but then cleaned up after Madubuike subsequently missed
  • (Q2, 8:08):  On 3rd/15, he drew a chop block flag from McCaffrey, was fallen on by LG Banks, then managed to get up and collect Humphrey’s PD for his 2nd INT
  • (Q3, 1:21):  He was blocked by FB Juszczyk to help lead WR Samuel RR6
  • (Q4, 9:54):  He undercut Purdy’s pass for Samuel 8 yards [3] for PD
  • (Q4, 9:43):  He tackled WR Aiyuk on PR22 (15 + 7) [4] between he and Smith in zone

Kyle’s knee injury was one of the few black clouds over a statement win.  He contributed to 3 drive-ending plays.  His 2nd interception (after the chop block/pancake) should remain a Hamilton highlight we’ll see for the rest of his career.

Jadeveon Clowney

  • (Q1, 13:17):  He bulled RT McKivitz for pressure on Kittle PM58
  • (Q1, 6:11):  He bulled then elevated vs. LT Williams for PR/PD which dropped among linemen
  • (Q1, 6:06):  On 3rd/9, he bulled LT Williams into Purdy who threw INC to force punt
  • (Q2, 3:29):  On 1st/9, he was sealed by LT Williams on McCaffrey RL9 TD
  • (Q4, 8:19):  On 1st/10, he bulled then shed LT McKivitz for S-3 on Purdy’s last play
  • (Q4, 6:56):  On 1st/10, he bulled LT McKivitz then beat him inside for pressure on PL5
  • (Q4, 4:35):  He beat LT McKivitz outside for fast pressure but missed S-9 which was cleaned up by Urban
  • (Q4, 3:54):  On 3rd/9, he stunted past Smith pick through left B-gap for fast pressure as Darnold threw INC
  • (Q4, 3:15):  On 2nd/1, he engaged LT McKivitz then beat him outside for pressure as Darnold threw INC
  • (Q4, 2:00):  He fought past RT Burford outside but missed S-11 which again was cleaned up by Urban

Jadeveon was having success vs All Pro LT Trent Williams but then feasted vs LT McKivitz and the rest of the 49ers reshuffled OL.  He was party to 3 sacks, including 2 cleaned up by Urban after his misses.

Marlon Humphrey

  • (Q1, 6:57):  He cleaned up initial pressure from Oweh for S-12 which was negated by Darby DH
  • (Q1, 6:52):  He pushed WR Samuel OOB on RR1 off bubble from Oweh
  • (Q1, 0:57):  He was nearest in zone on Kittle PR20 (15 + 5) [4]
  • (Q2, 14:22):  Macdonald blitzed both outside CBs, Stephens elevated for PD, and Humphrey collected deflection for INT
  • (Q2, 8:08):  On 3rd/5, he deflected Purdy extended-play pass at 6 yards which was collected by Hamilton for INT
  • (Q3, 10:22):  On 2nd/5, he bulled the pulling RT McKivitz to bubble McCaffrey as Smith and Madubuike cleaned up RR-1
  • (Q3, 1:21):  He missed the tackle at -5 yards (despite big hit) on backwards pass to Samuel RR6
  • (Q4, 15:00):  He had tight coverage of Samuel 5 yards [1] as Purdy threw INC
  • (Q4, 3:50):  On 4th/9, he failed to wrap up allowing Samuel to fall forward for PL9 conversion

Marlon combined physicality with opportunistic playmaking in one of his finest games of the season.

Brent Urban

  • (Q1, 9:00):  He bulled LT Williams into Purdy for QH on PL18 to WR Aiyuk
  • (Q2, 6:18):  He diagnosed screen left but Purdy threaded past his outstretched arm to McCaffrey for PL6 (-4 + 10) [1]
  • (Q4, 9:14):  He bulled LG Banks to phonebooth pocket and Van Noy shed RT Burford for S-5
  • (Q4, 4:35):  He cleaned up Clowney initial pressure/missed sack for S-9
  • (Q4, 4:01):  He bulled RG Feliciano for pressure on Darnold PR10 to Kittle
  • (Q4, 2:00):  He again cleaned up on initial pressure/missed sack by Clowney by shedding LT McKivitz outside for S-11

It was the first multi-sack game of Brent’s career.  He had his best career pass rushing game, including contributions to 5 pressures and probably had the best overall game of his 10-year career despite playing just 25 snaps. 

Defensive MVPs

  1. Kyle Hamilton
  2. Jadeveon Clowney
  3. Marlon Humphrey

Honorable mention to Travis Jones, Michael Pierce, Brent Urban, Kyle Van Noy, and Marcus Williams