Hamiltanomaly

Kyle Hamilton became the 11th DB in NFL history to record 3 sacks in a game (none have ever had more).  He matches the team record for a DB established by Bennie Thompson in the Ravens inaugural season (11/10/96 at Jax).

There are significant differences between the 2 performances, however:

Hamilton: Kyle had 3-drive-ending sacks for a total of -36 yards, including a forced fumble.  Hamilton accomplished the feat in a game where he played 84 non-penalty snaps.

Thompson: Bennie was the Ravens quarter back (7th DB in 7 DB packages) during the 1996 season.  In particular, the Ravens used the quarter package to spy Mark Brunell, who led the NFL in passing yards, made the Pro Bowl, and was a dangerous scrambler (396 rushing yards).  Thompson tracked down Brunell 3 times for a total of -5 yards (0, -3, -2), but 2 of those stalled drives.  Thompson entered in the quarter sub package 22 times that day as a replacement for–you guessed it–Ray Lewis.  Ray got the green dot (and was essentially on the field for every play) starting in 1997 and wore it for all but a handful of the games for which he was active through 2012.

Breaking Down the Fair Catch Mistake

The fair catch by Flowers probably cost the Ravens the game Sunday.  Let’s review the circumstances:

  • The Ravens led by 3 after the safety which appeared initially to take the game to the 2-minute warning
  • The Officials reviewed the play (it was a scoring play, so automatically reviewed) and determined Minshew stepped out of the end zone with 2:03 on the clock
  • The time was put back on the clock a little late, but the Ravens had their hands team out for the potential onside free kick with a 7-2-1-1 alignment
  • For some reason, Harbaugh inserted Flowers for the return rather than his Pro Bowl returner, Devin Duvernay
  • Prior to the kick, Harbaugh is visible on the sideline signaling to Flowers first with the number 2, then with a thumbs up (presumably when he got a response from Flowers)
  • Sanchez booted a 62-yard punt that Flowers fair caught at the 18 (by the 2023 rules, the fair catch inside the 25 meant the Ravens got the ball at the 25)
  • In terms of timing, kickoffs do not start the clock until the receiving team fields the ball and not at all if the ball is fair caught, so the Ravens received the ball with 2:03 still remaining
  • Harbaugh was visibly upset about the fair catch after the play
  • Del’Shawn Phillips can be seen having words with Flowers after the play which I guess was a teaching/accountability moment
  • The Ravens first run (Gordon, 1 yard) took 0:04 off the clock
  • The Ravens 2nd run (Gordon, no gain) ran another 0:04 off the clock
  • Finally, the Ravens tried a sweep with Flowers, but Agholor was flagged for an illegal block to stop the clock after just 0:07 more
  • The punt from Stout took another 0:07 off the clock for a 0:22 total possession time
  • That left 1:41 on the clock and the Colts needed just 0:44 to drive for the game-tying FG with some clock management failures of their own
  • In the post-game press conference, Harbaugh diplomatically said the time was added back late and they had difficulty communicating the desire not to fair catch to Flowers
  • He referred to the fair catch as Flowers’ “decision”

Some thoughts on the moment:

  • Had Flowers been able to run off exactly 3 seconds on a return, the Ravens would have burned off approximately 1:35 on 3 kneels or straight-ahead runs and punt with 25 seconds remaining, accounting for the Colts timeout.  That would have left a Herculean challenge for Minshew to get in FG range from the Colts 40 within 20 seconds or so.  More importantly, it would have virtually eliminated the chance for a Colts TD.
  • Flowers returned only 7 punts in his career at Boston College, so I’m not sure why he was the ideal guy to put back there over Duvernay (who was one of the front 7).
  • To venture a guess, I think Harbaugh may have believed Flowers’ additional speed would be useful either 1) fielding a directional punt and particularly one after a bounce; or 2) tracking down a squibbed punt of some sort.
  • The Ravens seemed to have a very reasonable alignment to field an onside punt with 7 up front, 2 back 18 yards (designated catchers Bateman and Agholor), Hamilton back 30 yards, and Flowers 45.  In addition, Flowers (near the left hash) and Hamilton (outside the right hash from the perspective of the kicker) were offset to cover more of the field.
  • Length of the kick had a lot to do with whether or not a fair catch was optimal.  Had the punt been between 10 and 20 yards, a fair catch was certainly appropriate.  Had the kick reached Hamilton, I’m on the fence, but a fair catch probably would have made sense.  For a kick all the way to Flowers, the Ravens probably would have wanted to have a rule about where he fielded it to balance the desire to run 3 seconds off the clock with the risk of fielding a punt in traffic and taking a big hit that might cause a fumble.  Depth is a basis upon which Flowers should have made a decision.
  • Other than the signal from Harbaugh, it’s not clear the Ravens expected the Colts to try anything but a directional punt with the intention of recovery.
  • The Ravens had all 3 timeouts at that moment and it’s not unusual to have a timeout after you see how an opponent lines up to make an onside kick, so I’m not sure why Harbaugh did not want to take time to discuss what he saw and what he was expecting with the full understanding the clock was at 2:03.
  • I can hear Harbaugh on the headset asking his staff “Does Zay know not to fair catch this?”  The signal he made was a start on answering that question, but it didn’t go far enough.

Crowd Noise

The Ravens have some new graphics for crowd noise I did not see at the opener with a flock of Ravens tearing apart a Colts banner.

As it turned out, this was a great game for crowd noise and the Colts 3 false starts, each of which technically stalled a drive, were the payoffs.

Listening to the broadcast, the crowd noise is fairly muted, but you can tell the broadcast team seems to be almost screaming at each other.

Adding Injury to Insult

The Ravens lost 3 more key contributers (Edwards, Bateman, and Ojabo) who were unable to finish the game.  As of Sunday night, the injuries have been identified as concussion, hamstring, and ankle respectively.

The Ravens are now stretched critically thin at OLB after Ojabo left after the 2nd Colts drive (4 snaps).  Jeremiah Moon was activated for the game (47 snaps).  Tavius Robinson (52 snaps) and Jadeveon Clowney (51) also had heavy workloads.

Unless the Ravens suddenly have several players return, they will be forced to make some IR moves in the next week.  Their entire inactive list on Sunday was made of key players who are currently walking wounded (injured, on the 53, and not on IR).

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 Colts ran 84 such snaps.

Base (8): The Ravens used their 4-DB/3-DL package primarily (6 of 8 snaps) with Malik Harrison inserted as 1 of 2 OLBs.  Hamilton also played SS on these snaps.  These included 5 runs for 6 yards and 3 passes for 47.  8 plays, 53 yards, 6.6 YPP.

Standard Nickel (67): The Ravens used the standard nickel as the primary response to the Colts 11 and 12 personnel packages.  The fact that this nickel was inherently “heavy” with Hamilton at SCB makes the package flexible for use vs 11 and 12.  The Ravens alternated between Ronald Darby (55 snaps in all packages) and Rock Ya-Sin (29 snaps) at LCB.  These plays included 25 runs for 105 and 42 pass plays for 131.  67 plays, 236 yards, 3.5 YPP.  

Rush Nickel (1): For 1 snap (Q3, 6:22), Macdonald inserted Clowney, Moon, and Robinson along with Madubuike on 3rd and 3.  Minshew converted on a 10-yard pass to Downs.  1 plays, 10 yards, 10.0 YPP.  The Ravens do not currently have enough healthy OLBs for this package with Oweh, Ojabo, and Bowser unavailable.

Uncovered Nickel (7): Perhaps as a means to deal with a shortage of healthy OLBs, Macdonald deployed an alignment that included 3 DL, 1 OLB, and 2 ILB, 2 S, and 3 CB.  It was highly effective with the exception of the last play of the third quarter (Q3, 0:13) when Washington lost the left edge to Raimann and Moss ran for 21 yards.  These included 5 runs for 28 and 2 passes for 2.  7 plays, 30 yards, 4.3 YPP.

Dime (1): Macdonald deployed a dime package on the final play of regulation with both Hamilton and Stone very deep and Maulet at SCB.  1 play, 0 yards.

Pass Rush

Macdonald employed a combination of numbers, simulated pressure, and off-ball blitzes to pressure Minshew.

For the game, Minshew had ATS on 10 of 49 drop backs (20%), a low total.  On those 10 plays, he went 6 of 10 for 91 yards (9.1 YPP).  He also delivered the ball before pressure could develop (BOQ) 20 times (41%, 4.6 YPP).  The Ravens generated a pressure event on 19 plays (39%), including 5 sacks but no turnovers.  With pressure, Minshew was 6 of 14 for 6 net yards (0.3 YPP).

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3 or fewer: none

4: 24 plays, 58 yards, 2.4 YPP, 3 sacks

5: 15 plays, 65 yards, 4.3 YPP, 1 sack

6+: 10 plays, 67 yards, 6.7 YPP, 1 sack

Total:  49 plays, 190 yards, 3.9 YPP, 5 sacks

Macdonald dialed up 27 individual blitzes (.55 per pass play) from off the LoS including 4 pairs.  Of the 27 blitzes, 20 came from ILB, 6 from Hamilton and 1 from Stone.

The Ravens stunted 6 times, all singles.  These plays resulted in 6 total yards (1.0 YPP). 

The Ravens showed simulated pressure on 12 occasions where 2 or more (3 players once) dropped from the LoS.  Minshew completed 4 of those 8 passes for 5 yards (0.4 YPP), including 4 sacks.

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 11 deceptive rushes (22%) on which the Colts gained 15 yards (1.4 YPP).

Hamilton led the team with contributions to 6 pass rush events including 2 pressures, 3 sacks, and a PD at the LoS.  Pierce and Clowney each had contributions to 4 pressure events.

Star Treatment

Kyle Hamilton

  • (Q1, 13:56):  On 3rd/8, he blitzed unblocked off the ORS for a fast S-10 as Minshew backpedaled left to force punt
  • (Q1, 4:13):  On 3rd/8, he blitzed unblocked off the ORS beating late pickup from RB Moss for another S-10, forced punt
  • (Q2, 15:00):  He rushed unblocked off the OLS to twist RB Moss 270 degrees (MT) before Urban cleaned up RM-1
  • (Q2, 14:23):  On 2nd/11, he beat block by TE Ogletree to trip down WR Pittman PL0 (-3 + 3) [2]
  • (Q2, 7:42):  He shed WR Pittman to tackle WR Downs PL5 (-2 + 7) [2]
  • (Q2, 0:47):  On 2nd/15, he pushed out Downs for PL6 (4 + 2) [1]
  • (Q2, 0:42):  On 3rd/9, he again rushed unblocked off the ORS for S-16 and dislodged the football, recovered by the Colts
  • (Q3, 9:27):  He rushed unblocked off the ORS to tackle RB Sermon RM3
  • (Q3, 5:57):  He blitzed unblocked off the ORS, then redirected himself for a leaping PD in backfield
  • (Q4, 5:02):  He had coverage of Downs 6 yards [5] as the pressured Minshew threw low, INC
  • (Q4, 2:14):  He rushed unblocked off the OLS for pressure but held up on QH, as Minshew threw INC
  • (Q4, 1:36):  He rushed unblocked off the OLS for pressure but again held up on QH, as Minshew threw PL12 to Downs

Among 9 tackles were contributions to 6 defensive wins.  Even Kyle’s missed tackle resulted in a retracking of Moss where he was cleaned up for a loss. 

Hamilton’s game will appropriately be listed among the greatest ever by a Ravens DB, including some of Reed’s multiple INT games.  I don’t think there is any doubt it’s the greatest ever by a Ravens nickel.  Off the top of my head, I would nominate Corey Ivy’s game vs the Steelers on 11/26/06 as the previous best by a nickel (2 tackles including 1 SF-13 which was returned by Thomas for a TD, 3 PDs including 1 INT).

This offseason I had many discussions on the podcast about how Hamilton should be deployed.  My conclusion was that the decision should not be based on the secondary talent around him (i.e. playing SCB because Stone was a better player than any of the SCB options).  While the Ravens dearth of available DBs appears to have forced Hamilton to reprise his 2022 nickel role, it may well be the spot where he can most impact the defense.

Michael Pierce

  • (Q2, 4:57):  On 3rd/1, he had MT at 0 on RB Moss RM1 after he bulled and shed LG Nelson and C French
  • (Q4, 5:02):  On 3rd/6, he bulled C French for pressure to flush Minshew on eventual INC
  • (Q4, 2:11):  He bulled LG Nelson with help block from C French MT on sack as Minshew flipped the ball to avoid intentional grounding in endzone
  • (Q4, 2:05):  On 3rd/11, he bulled LT Raimann for pressure despite help block from LG Nelson as Minshew stepped out of endzone for safety
  • (OT, 10:00):  He stunted over Clowney to cause Minshew to pull the ball down but his MT on sack was cleaned up by Clowney and Smith for S-2
  • (OT, 4:15):  On 4th/1, he stood up LG Nelson and C French as Stephens penetrated unblocked through the left C gap to tackle Moss RM0

Michael was too much for the Pro Bowl LG Nelson.  He played with outstanding leverage and gave the Colts interior trouble, even when double teamed.  The Colts averaged just 2.7 yards per pass play and 3.6 yards per play overall, both best among Ravens linemen.  He accomplished all of this despite a heavy workload (54 snaps)

Roquan Smith

  • (Q1, 1:34):  He had the second of 3 missed tackles at 4 yards on what became Moss RL12
  • (Q1, 1:05):  He registered a PD off his helmet 12 yards [4] intended for TE Ogletree
  • (Q1, 1:00):  He assisted Worley on tackle of WR McKenzie PL3 (-2 + 5) [1]
  • (Q2, 4:57):  On 3rd/1, he assisted Stone on cleanup of Moss RM1
  • (Q2, 4:18):  He assisted Madubuike on tackle of Moss RM2
  • (Q3, 0:13):  He was outraced to the left edge by Moss on RL24
  • (Q4, 5:45):  He rushed through the right B-gap to blow up Moss RM0 cleaned up by Queen
  • (OT, 10:00):  He cleaned up for S-2 with Clowney off initial pressure from Pierce
  • (OT, 9:21):  On 2nd/12, he made a nice open field tackle of Moss on PR6 (1 + 5) [4]
  • (OT, 7:00):  He assisted Moon on tackle of Moss RL0
  • (OT, 6:00):  He penetrated off ORS unblocked to tackle Moss with assist from Queen RR0

Roquan tied for the team lead with 12 tackles, including half a sack, 6 defensive wins, and registered a PD.

Brandon Stephens

  • (Q1, 4:19):  He dislodged a bobble by WR Pittman 6 yards [2] for PD
  • (Q1, 1:34):  He had the 3rd of 3 missed tackles on RB Moss RL12
  • (Q2, 13:05):  On 3rd/11, he shed TE Granson to assist Queen on tackle of Pittman PL4 (-2 + 6) [1] to force punt
  • (Q2, 10:36):  He had tight underneath coverage of WR Pierce but was outleaped on PM23 (19 + 4) [2]
  • (Q2, 6:56):  On 2nd/5, he took down Pittman PR2 (2 + 0) [4]
  • (Q3, 5:55):  On 2nd/10, he had tight coverage of WR Pierce 35 yards [1] as Minshew overthrew under pressure
  • (Q4, 1:31):  He tackled Pittman PL7 (3 + 4) [1]
  • (Q4, 1:12):  On 2nd/3, he pushed Pittman OOB PL2 (-2 + 4) [1]
  • (Q4, 1:07):  On 3rd/6 (after a false start), he was credited with a PD as he covered WR Pierce 30 yards [1] and the WR was unable to maintain possession to the ground
  • (OT, 6:17):  He and Stone sandwiched Pittman on PL34 (32 + 2) [1] but the WR came down with the football but without his helmet
  • (OT, 4:15):  On 4th/1, he penetrated unblocked through the left C-gap to tackle Moss RM0 with assist from Queen
     

Brandon allowed the 2 longest pass plays of the day to Pittman (34) and Pierce (23), but he had tight coverage in both instances.  Those were also the first 2 plays he’s given up of 20+ yards this season in almost 30 targets.  He came through with 2 PDs and had 2 other drive-ending tackles, including what might have been the biggest play of the game (OT, 4:15).

Defensive MVPs

  1. Kyle Hamilton
  2. Michael Pierce
  3. Roquan Smith

Honorable mention to Brandon Stephens and Patrick Queen