Ravens Struggle to Get off the Field

The Gamebook from Sunday will say the Ravens allowed just 3 of 12 conversions on 3rd down while the Browns did not attempt a play on 4th down.

That sounds good, but we know the Ravens surrendered a 3rd down conversions by penalty and 3 more on 4th-down flags.  Since penalties are not included in conversion stats, the Browns were awarded a first down on 7 of the 13 occasions they reached 3rd down.  Let’s review:

  • (Q1, 13:03):  On 3rd/4, with ATS Mayfield completed a 12 yard pass to Landry PL12 (4 + 8) [1].
  • (Q1, 11:08):  On 3rd/5, Mayfield overthrew Seals-Jones 24 yards [1] with tight coverage by Jimmy Smith to force a punt.
  • (Q1, 5:34):  On 3rd/5, Thomas rushed unblocked off ORS as Mayfield threw 15 yards for WR Ratley who bobbled the ball before collecting it out of bounds.
  • (Q1, 0:53):  On 3rd/2, with ATS Mayfield threw for TE Harris 7 yards [5], but the ball was off his fingertips, INC.  On the subsequent 4th/2, Fort had coverage of Hunt and intercepted Mayfield’s overthrow 20 yards [1].  The play was negated by Peters’ defensive hold on WR Beckham.
  • (Q2, 14:23):  On 3rd/9, Mayfield threw a screen to Hunt PR8 (-4 + 12) [4].  Humphrey upended Hunt 1 yard short of the sticks, but Judon’s encroachment on the ensuing 4th/1 allowed Cleveland to convert.
  • (Q2, 12:02):  On 3rd/6, Mayfield’s pass for Beckham in the endzone [1] resulted in a ticky-tack DPI by Jimmy Smith that was challenged, but upheld.
  • (Q2, 7:36):  On 3rd/18, Mayfield threw to Hunt PL6 (-7 + 13) [2].  Bowser hustled for the tackle and the Browns punted.
  • (Q2, 4:06):  On 3rd/6, Mayfield threw to Landry PR12 (10 + 2) [5] with Peters trailing.
  • (Q2, 2:09):  On 3rd/1, Hunt took a handoff after a fake to Chubb and ran right where he was contained by Thomas and tackled by Ferguson for a loss of 8.
  • (Q2, 1:07):  On 3rd/10, Clark rushed through the right B-gap then elevated for a PD to end the drive.
  • (Q3, 4:59):  On 3rd/6, Mayfield threw to Hunt PL7 (7 +0) [1] to convert despite Smith’s fast tackle.
  • (Q3, 3:32):  On 3rd/10, Mayfield’s throw for Hodge was behind the receiver, INC, and set him up for a big hit from Jimmy Smith.
  • (Q4, 8:58):  On 3rd/2, Williams beat the RG Wyatt Teller outside and Fort penetrated unblocked up the middle, Williams missed the tackle but Pierce, Wormley and Clark surrounded Chubb for a loss of 4.  On the ensuing 4th/6, Jimmy Smith attempted to jab Beckham in the chest at the LoS, but contacted his facemask and was flagged to set up 1st/Goal at the 3.

The 4 penalties in the list above kept the Browns in the game until midway though the 4th quarter.

Pass Rush

The Ravens wanted to keep Baker Mayfield uncomfortable and allowed him ATS on 11 of 33 drop backs (33%).  While that would normally be an above average result for the defense, it was accomplished with extensive numbers and deception.  Summarizing:

Mayfield with ATS: 8/11, 99 yards (9.0 YPP)

Mayfield without ATS: 13/22, 93 yards (4.2 YPP), 2 TDs, 1 INT

Let’s look at the pass rush results by numbers:

3: 1 play, 0 yards

4: 10 plays, 93 yards (9.3 YPP)

5: 12 plays, 78 yards (6.5 YPP)

6: 4 plays, 9 yards (2.3 YPP), 1 INT

7: 6 plays, 12 yards (2.0 YPP)

The Ravens continue to produce significantly better results rushing with numbers.  This game also continued a trend of poor Mayfield play when facing numbers.  By the most common definition, the Ravens “blitzed” (used 5+ rushers) on 67% of drop backs (above their league-leading average), but Martindale both did the Ravens a disservice and did Mayfield a favor when he limited pass rush numbers.

Martindale also dramatically increased deceptive elements on Sunday.  He called 24 individual blitzers, 3 stunts, and 4 drops of 2+ men to coverage.  Among just 33 drop backs, that’s a remarkable amount of deception, including 10 deceptive rushes which combined 2 or more such elements.  Mayfield was 5/10 for 66 yards and 1 INT when facing a deceptive pass rush.

If you think you saw more than 3 stunts, the likely reason is that Judon and others rushing from more than 1.5 yards off the LoS frequently looped to find a gap and in such cases are designated as a blitzer, not a stunter. That’s because I don’t want to double count deceptive elements. 


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 Browns ran 52 non-penalty snaps.

Jumbo (3): The Ravens inserted 4 DL as part of a 4-4-3 goal line defense.  The first instance resulted in a 1-yard TD pass to TE Harris.  The last 2 resulted in losses of 1 and 4 yards on consecutive plays to turn 2nd and goal at the 1 into 4th and goal from the 6 (beginning Q4, 9:33).  Has the game changed much since I was a kid?  I still fondly remember my 1974 game of “Paydirt” (otherwise know as Sports Illustrated Football) had defense A titled as “Standard (4-4-3)”.

Base (7): These plays included 3 of the 5 instances the Browns inserted McCray as a 6th offensive lineman.   They resulted in 0 net yards, but did include the 3-yard TD to Beckham (Q4, 8:05).

Jumbo Nickel (14): The Ravens have used more jumbo nickel (3-3-5) against teams that favor heavier personnel, which describes the Browns.  Chris Wormley (14 of 14) and Brandon Williams (13 of 14) were the most regular linemen in this package.  Bynes (4) and Fort (10) again split the snaps as the lone ILB.  The Ravens surrendered 57 yards (4.1 YPP) with this package.

Standard Nickel (6): The standard nickel included Bynes and Onwuasor at ILB with 2 down linemen.  The Browns ran the ball on the first 2 plays of the 2nd half for 7 and 12 yards and Martindale abandoned the standard nickel for the remainder of the game (5 remaining nickel snaps were all jumbo).  This has been a recurring theme which has limited Onwuasor’s snaps, because the only other package in which he plays is base.  The Browns gained 38 yards vs the standard nickel (6.3 YPP). 

On the great Ravens defenses of the past, the team was consistently able to dissuade opponents from 11-personnel runs with a front 6 that combined elite edge setting (Burnett, Suggs, Johnson) with space eaters able to reestablish the LoS (Adams, Siragusa, Ngata), and inside backers who read, pursued, shed, and maintained gap control (Lewis, Sharper, Scott).  The 2019 Ravens still have top tier interior linemen vs the run (Pierce, Williams).  However, their lack of top run-stopping talent at OLB and ILB force Martindale to make schematic compromises to limit/accept damage from the run that most of the other 31 teams have had to make for the last 2 decades.  One of those compromises is to lean on the run-stopping advantages of the jumbo nickel at the cost of coverage and pass rush flexibility offered by the standard nickel.   

Dime (22): The Ravens again lined up in 2 forms of the dime.  Summarizing the results:

Standard–1 ILB, 2 OLB, 2 DL, 6 DBs (8 snaps): 89 yards (11.1 YPP)

Racecar– 0 ILBs, 4 OLBs, 1 DL, 6 DBs (14 snaps): 62 yards (4.4 YPP), 1 INT

The Browns only touchdown drive generated by their offense (as opposed to the drive given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by 3 penalty conversions) started from their own 25 (Q4, 11:32) with 6 plays against the standard dime generating 74 yards including 3 of the 4 longest plays of the game for the Browns.  LJ Fort, who has a fine game personally, was the lone ILB for each of the standard nickel snaps.  Brandon Williams and Michael Pierce each had opportunities as the lone DL (0-tech) in the racecar.

Other Notes

  • Jaylon Ferguson played 13 run snaps on which the Browns gained just 22 yards.  He cleaned up containment by Thomas by beating RT Chris Hubbard outside to tackle Hunt for a loss of 8 (Q2, 2:09) on what appeared to be a halfback pass.  It may be recategorized as a sack in the coming week, but it denied 3rd and 1 and was among the game’s biggest plays as the Ravens scored twice in the final 2 minutes of the half to turn a 6-0 deficit into a 14-6 lead.    Jaylon was effectively sealed by LT Greg Robinson on the Browns’ first play of the 2nd half (Q3, 7:36) as Chubb ran left for 7 yards.  Other than the above (uncredited) sack, I did not score Ferguson for any pressure events among 22 pass snaps.
  • The Ravens dressed just 5 defensive linemen and Martindale spread the snaps well among Williams (37), Pierce (31), Wormley (30), Peko (18), and Ricard (1).  The DL snap for Ricard was just his 2nd in the past 4 weeks.
  • Tyus Bowser had 2 pressures and a QH in 13 pass rush snaps.  He was not targeted in 6 snaps dropping to coverage.  He hustled to tackle RB Kareem Hunt for a gain of 6 to deny 3rd and 18 on a play where he began as a pass rusher (Q2, 7:36).  Bowser is moving more before the snap in passing situations as Judon has been the last 6 games.  That has resulted in more gap choice situations for Tyus which are more likely to result in a pressure, QH, or sack.
  • Domata Peko continues to make the most of limited playing time.  He had 2 tackles (1 solo, 1 assists) in 18 snaps and added a pressure on the Browns first TD pass (Q2, 11:58).  He helped shut down the left edge with Judon with impressive push of C JC Tretter on Chubb’s RL1 (Q1, 6:16) for which Judon received tackle credit.
  • Jihad Ward rushed unblocked through the left B gap for a drive-ending pressure (Q3, 3:32) on which Mayfield threw incomplete to behind Hodge.  On the next defensive snap (Q4, 11:32) he flushed and pursued Mayfield right on what became an incomplete pass.  Ward continues to line up exclusively as an OLB in all but the racecar package.
  • Earl Thomas had a mixed game which included a sack negated by penalty (Q4, 8:13) and containment of Chubb to blow up his run for a drive-ending 8-yard loss (Q2, 2:09).  However, he ha the back end of bracket coverage on Landry (Q4, 11:06) and missed the tackle to allow an additional 11 YAC on longest Browns play from scrimmage.  Two plays later (Q4, 9:57) neither he (closer) nor Carr was able to disrupt Mayfield’s 23-yard completion to TE Seals-Jones between the hashes.

Star Treatment

Note: Individual plays use a shorthand where the field is divided into sections 1 through 5 and may include a division of air yards and YAC. For example, a 13-yard pass completed by the right sideline could be denoted as “PR13 (7 + 6) [5]”.

Chuck Clark:

  • (Q2, 11:58):  On 1st/1, Clark had tight coverage on Landry in the back of the end zone but never found the ball to deflect or dislodge, PR1 [4] TD.
  • (Q2, 1:18):  Mayfield overthrew WR Ratley 19 yards [4].  Clark dove for a near INT but the ball hit the ground, no PD.
  • (Q2, 1:11):  Mayfield threw for Landry 6 yards [4] but Clark deflected in the passing lane, INC.
  • (Q2, 1:07):  On 3rd/10, Clark rushed through the right B-gap then leapt for a PD to end the drive.
  • (Q3, 5:02):  On 2nd/6, Mayfield threw for TE Harris 6 yards [4] but Clark peeled off Beckham and arrived with the ball to strip, PD/INC.
  • (Q4, 11:32):  As Mayfield was flushed right and pursued by Ward and Fort, Clark directed Chubb out of bounds and guarded the right sideline, forcing Mayfield to ground the ball.
  • (Q4, 9:36):  Clark, unblocked off ORS, leapt for a PD on slant for Ratley.
  • (Q4, 8:58):  On 3rd/2, Clark helped surround RB Chubb and tackle for a loss of 4.

Ferguson’s drive-ending tackle of Hunt for a loss of 8 (Q2, 2:09) set up the Ravens first TD.  Clark then took over the game defensively with near INT, PD, PD in a 3-play sequence to set up the second TD.

LJ Fort:

  • (Q1, 14:16):  Fort moved to defend the right edge but was held by C JC Tretter to negate a 13-yard run by Chubb.
  • (Q1, 0:48):  On 4th/2, Fort collected Mayfield’s overthrow for Hunt with one hand 20 yards [1].  The interception was negated by Peters’ DH on Beckham.
  • (Q3, 3:36):  He undercut Chubb for a PD/apparent INT at the LoS [4] but the INT was reversed on review. 
  • (Q4, 11:32):  He rushed after the pocket was broken and forced Mayfield to ground the ball incomplete by the right side line. 
  • (Q4, 8:58):  He penetrated unblocked up the middle to help blow up Chubb’s RM-4.

Defensive MVPs

  1. Chuck Clark
  2. LJ Fort
  3. Tyus Bowser