The Ravens Way
The Ravens won a 2nd consecutive game while averaging just 3.9 yards per offensive play. Despite the low YPP, they were efficient on 3rd down and again won the snap count battle decisively (77-57 after 76-57 vs Chicago in week 11).
All of this occurred on a night where Lamar Jackson became the first QB in 8 years to win a game despite 4 INTs.
How did the Ravens maintain control of the game without the turnovers? It started with stopping the run…
The Ravens entered the game with some poor portent for run defense, including:
- Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe were unavailable
- Their 5th active DL was journeyman NT Isaiah Mack
- They had 3 NTs (Williams, Ellis, Mack) plus a pair of 3-techs (Madubuike, Washington)
- The Browns run lots of 12 and 13 personnel which stretches defenses to field more DL snaps per play (2.37 on Sunday)
- The Browns have the most talented run-blocking line in the league
- They were facing a dynamic pair of RBs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt
By employing a stop-the-run-first approach, the Ravens held the Browns to 40 yards on 17 carries while still avoiding death by play action. They surrendered just 2 first downs by rush, 1 of which came on a QB sneak by Mayfield.
Chubb’s carries were a microcosm of the scheme problems the Browns faced. Let’s review:
- (Q1, 14:11): Facing 13 personnel (all TEs inline), Queen timed the snap and beat both LG Joel Bitonio inside then pulling TE Bryant to tackle Chubb RM-3
- (Q1, 12:32): With 13 personnel, Chubb could not find a good cut-back lane on zone left and was cleaned up from backside by Oweh for RL4
- (Q1, 7:22): With 13 personnel (Njoku, Hooper in line; Bryant FB) Queen stood up the pulling LG Bitonio to trip up Chubb RM2
- (Q2, 1:56): With 12 personnel, Chubb stretch left was compressed on backside when Williams penetrated vs. RG Wyatt Teller and Stephens undercut for tackle with assist Madubuike
- (Q3, 8:48): With 13 personnel and all TEs in line, Williams worked off double team from LG Bitonio and C JC Tretter to twist down Chubb RL-1 as Bowser held left edge vs. TE Bryant
- (Q3, 3:09): With 12 personnel, Chubb slipped past tackle attempt from Bynes for RM5 where Queen tackled
- (Q3, 1:18): With 12 personnel, both TEs in line, Washington held the left edge vs. LT Jedrick Wills and Houston pursued to tackle Chubb from backside RL1
- (Q4, 7:25): With 12 personnel, both TEs wide left, Bowser beat TE Njoku inside to force Chubb bubble left and Clark tackled RL5
It wasn’t any one thing that fueled the Ravens ability to stop Chubb. They held the point of attack well and usually had at least 1 significant penetrator. They denied cutbacks with dogged pursuit. They held the edges well and forced bubbles or unsuccessful cuts inside. They played relentless, physical defense from ILB and safety.
Regardless of the reasons, the Ravens ability to stop the run precipitated many 3rd and medium-long situations which helped the Ravens hold the Browns to just 4 of 13 such conversions.
Mediocre ATS Results
The Ravens allowed Mayfield a season-high 50% ATS rate (20 of 40 drop backs resulting in a pass or sack). That’s a lot of 3-second pockets, but Baker did not do appreciably better with ATS (6.6 YPP) than he did under pressure (5.9 YPP).
Going back to first principles on series success, a result of 6.6 YPP would be great if your favorite team could do so without variation. Since passing YPP numbers are typically in the 5.5-8.5 range, defenses need variation of result to stop drives. That variation comes specifically in the form of:
- Incomplete passes (particularly in streaks)
Mayfield’s (and Landry’s) ATS results were extremely barbelled with 10 incompletes and 2 sacks for -8 (including a fumble) offset by 3 big plays of 20, 36, and 38 yards. That left a small “middle class” of gains (1 each of 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 yards).
The overall set of gains was driven by outstanding coverage from the Ravens and made it difficult for the Browns to sustain drives.
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 57 such snaps.
Base (36): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB and 2 OLB primarily vs 12and 13 personnel on early downs. Among these were 14 run plays for 24 yards (1.8 YPC) and 22 pass plays for 217 yards (9.9 YPP). 36 plays, 241 yards, 6.7 YPP.
Standard Nickel (4): Martindale again used the standard nickel (including 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB) as the most common response to 11 personnel (which the Browns rarely used). 4 plays, 16 yards, 4.0 YPP.
Jumbo Nickel (1): Martindale deployed a single snap of jumbo nickel including 3 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 1 ILB on 2nd and 13 (Q4, 9:55). Bowser sacked Mayfield for a loss of 7. 1 play, -7 yards.
Rush Dime (16): The Ravens lined up with 1 DL, 3 OLB, 1 ILB, and 6 DB on obvious passing downs (all 3rd and 5+ as well as the end of each half). This could be described as the Ravens “we don’t care how many TEs you have on the field” package, which was deployed primarily based on down/distance/game situation. Chris Board was the sole ILB on each of these plays and Tyus Bowser, Odafe Oweh, and Justin Houston were the 3 OLBs on each as was the case in Chicago. With Campbell out, Justin Madubuike also played each of these snaps. The Browns converted just 1 of these 16 plays for a first down (Q1, 6:38). 16 plays, 12 yards, 0.8 YPP.
The Ravens played with less package variation than at any time in 2021 with just 4 employed and the base and rush dime comprising 91% of all snaps.
Martindale varied his rush scheme and the Ravens were most effective at the extremes of both numbers and deception.
For the game, the Browns had ATS on 20 of 40 drop backs (50%) resulting in a pass or sack, which is the highest this season. They also had 6 ball out quick (BOQ) instances (15%) and the Ravens generated 14 pressure events (35%) within 3 seconds. By pressure situation:
ATS: 8/18 for 131 yards (6.6 YPP), 2 sacks, 1 TO
BOQ: 3/6 for 15 yards (2.5 YPP)
Pressured: 7/13 for 82 net yards, including 1 sack, 1 TO (5.9 YPP)
Summarizing by number of pass rushers:
3 or fewer: 3 plays, 0 yards
4: 19 plays, 116 yards, 6.1 YPP, 1 sack, 1 TO
5: 12 plays, 123 yards, 10.3 YPP
6: 6 plays, -17 yards, -2.8 YPP, 2 sacks, 1 TO
Total: 40 plays, 222 yards, 5.6 YPP, 3 sacks, 2 TO
The Ravens rushed 5+ on 18 of 40 drop backs (45%) on which the Browns averaged 5.9 YPP.
Martindale called only 7 off-ball blitzes (0.18 per pass play) spread among 6 plays. I define off-ball blitzes as from a player who was either outside the slot receiver or more than 1.5 yards off the LoS at the snap. Those 6 plays went for -18 net yards (-3.0 YPP) including 2 sacks, 4 incompletes, and 1 fumble lost.
The Ravens used 2 stunts versus the Browns, both of which were on plays that went incomplete.
The Ravens showed simulated pressure 3 times where 2 or 3 dropped from the LoS. These plays were all incomplete passes.
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 2 deceptive rushes, both of which resulted in incomplete passes.
In words, the limited deception Martindale employed was effective without exception.
Odafe Oweh led the Ravens in pressure events with 4.5 including encouragement/recovery of Baker’s unforced fumble and a sack with ATS. Justin Houston had 4 pressures. Tyus Bowser had a QH and a sack with ATS, had a QH within 3 seconds, and lost a 3rd QH to a RTP flag.
Other Individual Notes
- Anthony Averett was quietly outstanding. He played every snap defensively and did not allow a reception (2 targets) after spending all week on the injury report.
- Justin Madubike (49 snaps) had a PD at the LoS, which was his only pass rush event. His 3 tackles were for gains of 2, -1, and 3 yards. It was the biggest workload of his career.
- Isaiah Mack played 5 snaps in his Ravens debut. The Browns gained just 14 yards in that tiny sample, but it’s a little surprising he did not see more time given the fact the Ravens had just 5 active DL and the Browns packages forced primarily base defense (3 DL).
- Geno Stone played all 16 dime snaps. He had a pressure on the game-sealing play and deserves a share of the credit for the success of the dime (0.8 YPP, see below)
- Chuck Clark contributed vs the run and pass. He had 1.5 pressures (unforced sack fumble, Q2, 0:53; Incomplete, Q2, 0:16). He had 2 PDs, including a drive ender (Q1, 4:19). I did not chart him for a reception allowed.
- Kristian Welch played 2 series (10 snaps) in place of Josh Bynes at MLB. Welch played without contact fear and assisted Madubuike on a takedown of Hunt for a loss of 1. Perhaps more interestingly, the Ravens had Malik Harrison active, but did not use him in either the Will or Mike role. I don’t think it’s an accident this is a game where Welch got a chance.
- (Q1, 12:38): Tyus was slow to read boot left, Mayfield threw to WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (DPJ) 22 yards  incomplete with drop assured by Clark hit
- (Q1, 7:56): He beat LT Jedrick Wills outside to flush Mayfield left for RL1
- (Q1, 6:10): He was not fooled by boot right, Mayfield threw to TE Harrison Bryant PR0 (-2 + 2) 
- (Q2, 12:58): He had close coverage of RB Chubb three yards , INC
- (Q2, 4:19): After Mayfield was flushed right by Oweh, he rushed after the pocket was broken for a QH as Mayfield’s pass for TE Austin Hooper was dislodged from behind by Clark
- (Q2, 0:21): He was held (not called) by RT Blake Hance on Madubuike’s PD
- (Q3, 8:48): He held the left edge vs. TE Bryant as Brandon Williams took down Chubb for RL-1
- (Q3, 1:22): He was not fooled by boot left but was flagged for RTP (HTH) as Mayfield’s pass for TE Hooper was incomplete 22 yards 
- (Q4, 9:55): He beat RT Hance outside but Mayfield stepped up in clean pocket, Washington shed Teller late to make Baker bring ball down, and Bowser finished for S-7
- (Q4, 7:25): He beat TE David Njoku inside to force Chubb bubble left for RL5
- (Q4, 6:43): He had tight underneath coverage as Mayfield threw incomplete for WR Jarvis Landry 18 yards 
- (Q4, 1:00): On 3rd/10, with ATS despite a 6-man pass rush he had man coverage of TE Hooper and dislodged the ball with ground for a PD 9 yards 
- (Q4, 0:54): On 4th/10, with a 6-man pass rush he had coverage of and tackled TE Njoku PL7 (3 + 4)  to end the drive/game
Tyus again made broad contributions against the run and as a pass rusher. He was also outstanding in coverage (3 incomplete passes and a game-winning tackle on PL7 when he was targeted).
- (Q1, 14:11): He timed the snap and beat LG Joel Bitonio inside and pulling TE Bryant to tackle Chubb RM-3
- (Q1, 7:56): He chased down Mayfield on a scramble RL1 where it looked like the QB might gain the corner
- (Q1, 7:22): He penetrated to stand up the pulling LG Bitonio and trip up Chubb RM2
- (Q1, 6:10): He closed quickly to pinball TE Bryant backwards then twisted him down PR0 (-2 + 2) 
- (Q2, 12:58): He had tight coverage of WR Landry 9 yards  as Mayfield threw INC OOB 9 yards 
- (Q2, 3:14): He recovered WR Landry’s fumble forced by Oweh
- (Q3, 9:48): He missed the tackle of RB Chubb at three yards on PL16 (0 + 16) 
- (Q3, 1:47): He took a hit to the ribs from TE Njoku and had to leave the game for several plays
- (Q4, 10:37): He penetrated unblocked through the right B-gap to tackle RB Kareem Hunt RR-3 with assist from Clark
He missed 2 tackles (including the play where his ribs were injured), but continued to play with the speed we’ve seen the last few weeks since the move to will LB. What was improved on Sunday was his willingness to take on contact in the form of bigger men (see Bryant, Bitonio above).
- (Q1, 4:19): On 3rd/16, he got a hand on Mayfield for pressure/flush right on what would become a drive-ending INC for TE Hooper
- (Q2, 3:53): He beat successive blocks from RT Hance inside and RG Wyatt Teller outside for pressure but Mayfield threw PL41 to TE Bryant
- (Q2, 3:14): On a direct snap to WR Landry, who rolled right leisurely with ATS, Odafe chased him down for a late SF-1 recovered by Queen
- (Q2, 0:53): He beat RT Hance for pressure and Mayfield fumbled the ball while retreating after Stone failed to scoop and score, Odafe recovered
- (Q4, 12:54): He beat a chip from TE Njoku then the pulling RG Teller for pressure as Mayfield threw to WR Landry PL16 
Odafe found multiple ways to get pressure and kept his motor running on a night where the secondary had receivers locked down.
- Tyus Bowser
- Patrick Queen
- Odafe Oweh
Honorable mention to Justin Madubuike, Justin Houston, Anthony Averett, Chuck Clark, and Geno Stone.