The Ravens converted their opportunity and are headed to the playoffs for the 3rd straight year with a chance to rewrite a tired narrative.

Thanks to a lopsided score, they were able to avoid scoreboard watching and start looking forward a little early…

Playoff Preparations

From a playoff preparation perspective, Sunday’s game could not have gone better for the Ravens defense.  To summarize:

  • The Ravens avoided any obvious defensive injuries.
  • They allowed the Bengals a franchise-record-low 40 offensive snaps.
  • Martindale did a good job spreading work so that no front-7 player had more than 27 snaps.
  • FS Deshon Elliott was pulled after a hard tackle on the next-to-last drive and missed 4 snaps.
  • Backups Kristian Welch, Nate Brooks, and Jordan Richards saw action in the 4th quarter with the Ravens leading 38-3 and did not allow a score.

The Ravens twice previously allowed just 40 offensive snaps (1/9/11 AFC WC game at KC, 10/14/18 at Ten).

To frame things a little less optimistically, the 2012 Ravens won the double-OT Mile High Miracle (87 defensive snaps) then convincingly thrashed the Patriots in Foxborough in the AFCC as 7.5-point underdogs.

Good News in the Secondary

What a difference a week makes in terms of secondary quality/depth.  To summarize:

  • The Ravens had to reach to the practice squad for a 4th CB (Pierre Desir) vs the Giants.
  • An injury to Marlon Humphrey forced Desir to play 5 snaps as last man up.
  • The Ravens top 3 corners, Humphrey, Peters, and Smith were all on the injury report this week.
  • The Ravens activated 5 CBs (Humphrey, Peters, Averett, Williams, and Brooks) vs the dangerous Bengals receivers.
  • Humphrey was not frequently targeted while Averett and Peters both played well (see Star Treatment below).
  • The Ravens allowed just 2.3 yards per pass play and had 2 interceptions without generating a single sack.
  • They held QB Brandon Allen to a perfect 0.0 passer rating after he had completed 69.4% of his passes with a 97.0 rating in 4 previous 2020 games.
  • Smith was extended for 2021, which (perhaps incorrectly) gives me hope he’ll return at some point during the playoffs.
  • The Ravens signed safety Jayron Kearse to the practice squad, opening the possibility the Ravens can return to some dime defense in the postseason.

If Smith can return, the Ravens have a formidable set of 5 CBs for the playoffs.  If not, their top 3 are still on par or better than any of the remaining playoff teams.

AJ Green’s Farewell

AJ Green has had a wonderful career for the Bengals, but it appears to be at a close as he will be a free agent this offseason.  After missing all of 2019, he plunged to career lows in almost every category including a drop from a career 8.7 yards per target to 5.0 this season.

On Sunday against the Ravens he had one of the worst games of his career with 0 catches on 6 targets, including 2 interceptions.  The 2nd pick (Q4, 2:54) had no impact on the game, but his lack of an attempt to knock the ball free from Chuck Clark looked bad.

Green will turn 33 on July 31 and will probably need to play for the vet minimum to continue his career.  Furthermore, his interception apathy and the efforts of amateur lip readers this season are likely to scare away some suitors.

His last 3 targets as a Bengal:

  • INT Peters
  • PD Ferguson
  • INT Clark

They can’t all go out like Ted Williams (HR in last AB) or Ray Lewis (goal line stand in the Super Bowl).

Third Down Domination

The Ravens converted their first 8 opportunities to stop the Bengals on 3rd down, including 6 3-and-outs on the first 9 Bengals possessions. By play, those results were:

  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete
  • Incomplete with intentional grounding for a loss of 14
  • PL3 on 3rd and 10
  • Incomplete
  • RM2 converted 3/1 (Q4, 3:33)

Including the penalty yardage on the grounding flag, the Bengals lost 9 yards on their 9 attempts on 3rd down.

“We Need a Concern to Balance the Euphoria”

OK, here’s one.  The Ravens allowed 147 yards on 19 run plays (7.7 YPC) and will next face the Tennessee Titans and Derrick Henry.

I don’t have anything else to go with that.  You probably shouldn’t have asked for a concern if you wanted to sleep well.


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 Bengals ran 40 such snaps.

Jumbo (0): The Ravens never lined up with just 3 DBs.  Even on 1st and goal at the 1, the Ravens lined up in the standard nickel and Peters intercepted Allen’s pressured floatation device.

Base (3): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB and 2 OLB versus 12 personnel.  Each deployment occurred on 1st or 2nd down.  The only successful play was a 21-yard completion to TE Carter (Q2, 3:05).  3 plays, 22 yards, 7.3 YPP.

Jumbo Nickel (13): Martindale made extensive use of an extra lineman in place of an ILB.  These personnel groupings are intended to provide stout run defense while maintaining a nickel secondary against 11 personnel.  The Bengals passed 4 times for just 8 yards versus this package, but they rushed 9 times for 87 (9.7), highlighted by Williams’ 55-yard scamper.  This is one of the tools I expect to see used against the Titans, but it will require better pursuit from the ILB and safeties.  13 plays, 95 yards, 7.3 YPP.

Standard Nickel (15): The standard nickel includes 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB.  Martindale again used it primarily as a response to 11 personnel on early downs.  The Bengals use a preponderance of 11 personnel, so Martindale changed up between the standard and jumbo nickel.  Taken together the results were OK (5.3 YPP).  15 plays, 54 yards, 3.6 YPP, 2 turnovers.

Rush Nickel (4): Martindale inserted packages with 1 lineman, 3 OLBs, and 2 ILBs on 3rd-down plays (3rd and 18, 3rd and 7, each of which was incomplete and ended drives) and then for the final 2 plays of the game (2 runs for 21).  In words, the defense did exactly what it was supposed to do in the situations with any leverage.  4 plays, 21 yards, 5.3 YPP.

Racecar Nickel (5): This package included 1 DL, 1 ILB, and 4 OLBs vs the Bengals.  It was deployed on 5 drive-ending 3rd downs of 6+ yards to go.  Chris Board was again used as the only ILB in this package (proxy dimeback).  The only result for positive yardage was a 3-yard pass on 3rd and 10.  5 plays, 3 yards, 0.6 YPP.

Dime (0): The Ravens never inserted a 6th defensive back.  However, they had one unusual formation on the 3rd play of the game when they inserted Tramon Williams as a 4th CB and removed Deshon Elliott vs a 4-WR set.  That 4-CB nickel isn’t in the statistics in this section, because the play (41-yard catch and run by Higgins) was wiped out by offensive pass interference.

Pass Rush

Martindale did not make much of an attempt to generate pressure by scheme vs the Bengals.

For the game, Allen had ATS on 6/21 (29%) drop backs.

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 2 plays, 8 yards, 4.0 YPP

4: 9 plays, 8 yards, 0.9 YPP, 1 TO

5: 8 plays, 32 yards, 4.0 YPP, 1 TO

6: 2 plays, 0 yards, 0.0 YPP

7+: None

Total: 21 plays, 48 yards, 2.3 YPP, 2 TO

In the most simple terms, everything worked.

Martindale used just 4 individual blitzes (.19 per pass play) from off the LoS with no more than 1 on any play.  That stands in sharp contrast to the 34 blitzes (.72 per play) versus the Giants.  The 4 plays included the intentional grounding flag (Q3, 9:13) and pressure by Campbell and Williams that led to Peters’ interception (Q3, 2:44).

The Ravens stunted only 6 times spread over 5 snaps, a total that cannot be attributed to frequent blitzing.  Those 5 plays resulted in 2 pressures and 3 BOQs. 

On 6 occasions they dropped 2+ from the LoS to cover.  That rate (29%) is typical for simulated pressure from Martindale in 2019-20.

Of 21 drop backs, just 2 were deceptive rushes as I define it by incorporating 2 or more of the above elements.  Each resulted in initial pressure from Tyus Bowser and the second was finished by McPhee’s QH and the intentional grounding flag (Q3, 9:13).

No Raven had a lot of success as a pass rusher, but Tyus Bowser had a late QH and 2 pressures.  Pernell McPhee had a pressure and a cleanup QH.  Campbell and Williams each had contributions to 2 pressures.

Star Treatment

Chuck Clark

  • (Q1, 6:55): On 3rd/18, QB Brandon Allen threw for TE Drew Sample 10 yards [3] incomplete as Clark delivered a thigh-high upending.
  • (Q2, 13:25): Allen rolled right and threw back across his body for TE Cethan Carter 10 yards [4] incomplete as Clark was in position to make a play on an accurate throw.
  • (Q2, 3:05): Allen threw under pressure to TE Carter PM21 (17 +4) [4] with Clark closest.
  • (Q2, 2:28): Chuck missed the tackle on RB Samaje Perine 7 yards into RM13.
  • (Q3, 14:25): He was blocked by TE Sample on WR Tyler Boyd jet sweep RR11.
  • (Q3, 9:19): On 2nd/12 with ATS, Allen threw 18 yards for WR AJ Green on the right sideline but Clark undercut for a PD/near INT.
  • (Q4, 2:54): On 1st/10 with ATS, he had the backend of bracket coverage of WR Green and intercepted with a nifty toe tap by the right sideline.

Chuck was replaced for the final 2 plays.

Tyus Bowser

  • (Q1, 3:44): He shed RG Quinton Spain then pulling C Trey Hopkins to tackle RB Bernard RR1.
  • (Q2, 0:41): On 3rd/1 with ATS, he rushed after Allen rolled left for a late QH as the ball went incomplete for WR Boyd 11 yards [1].
  • (Q3, 12:47): On 3rd/13, he bulled RB Bernard for pressure as Allen threw incomplete for WR Green approximately 25 yards [5].
  • (Q3, 9:55): He stretched the pitch to RB Perine all the way to the right sideline for RR-2.
  • (Q3, 9:13): On 3rd/12, he blitzed (free run) through the left A-gap to flush Allen right.  When McPhee knocked him down, Allen threw the ball away short of the LoS for a 14-yard intentional grounding flag.
  • (Q3, 0:28): On 3rd/10, Allen threw a swing pass to RB Trayveon Williams PL3 (-7 + 10) [2].  Bowser overran the play but managed to reach back for an ankle tackle to end the drive.

He continues to do a little bit of everything and played 53.6% of the snaps in a well-rotated OLB group for the season.

Marcus Peters

  • (Q3, 14:25):  He was blocked by WR Alex Erickson on WR Boyd’s jet sweep RR11.
  • (Q3, 12:47): He had tight coverage of Green approximately 25 yards [5] as Allen threw incomplete (well short) under pressure.
  • (Q3, 2:47): On 1st/Goal at the 4, he and Green remained in contact for 9 yards off the LoS (who was maintaining contact?) and Marcus was flagged for DPI to set-up 1st/Goal from the 1.   
  • (Q3, 2:44): On the next play, he intercepted Allen’s floater for Green in the endzone to end the drive.  It appeared he made the pick just a step late to turn the corner for a pick-6.

Marcus appeared to move well, which is a big relief entering the postseason.

Anthony Averett

  • (Q1, 7:22):  On 3rd/8, Allen’s PM41 (2 + 39) [2] to WR Tee Higgins was negated by WR Mike Thomas’ OPI drawn by Averett.
  • (Q1, 2:58):  He fought off a block from WR Thomas to push Boyd OOB for PL1 on a WR screen.
  • (Q1, 2:22):  On 3rd/18, Allen threw for WR Erickson 4 yards [1], Averett arrived simultaneously for a PD to end the drive.
  • (Q2, 1:23):  On 3rd/9, Allen threw to Erickson PL8 (3 + 5) [2] as Averett was again rubbed by RB Perine with shoulder contact but no OPI this time.  Anthony took down Erickson 1 yard short of the marker.
  • (Q3, 12:50):  On 2nd/13, Allen threw for Green 3 yards [1].  Averett undercut the route for a PD.
  • (Q3, 3:44):  He was blocked by WR Green to lead RB Williams RL55.
  • (Q3, 2:51):  He was flagged for DPI on WR Green 16 yards [1] on what appeared to be tight coverage to set-up 1st/Goal at the 4.

Anthony now has 6 PDs in the last 4 games

Defensive MVPs

  1. Chuck Clark
  2. Tyus Bowser
  3. Marcus Peters
  4. Anthony Averett

Honorable mentions include Calais Campbell, Pernell McPhee, and Brandon Williams.