Dime/Quarter Exposed in Collapse
With the score 28-7 at the half, the Ravens not only appeared to have the game well in hand, but had followed their typical script vs the Dolphins with a pair of turnovers helping fuel the big lead.
I looked forward to a second half where the Ravens could play a soft zone with 6 DBs on the bulk of plays and wait for more mistakes. After all, the Dolphins had just 20 yards and an interception on the 6 first-half plays with 6+ DBs.
What happened was a shock best describes by numbers:
2nd-half snaps with 6+ DBs: 20
Runs: 2 for 32 yards
Passes: 18 for 234 (13.0 YPP)
Passer Rating: 158.3 (perfect)
The failure can primarily be ascribed to secondary breakdowns, but a lack of pressure and inability to get coverage contributions from ILB also played a role. Another portion of this can be blamed on injuries at CB, including the return of Peters. However, this team is built with safety depth to play best in exactly these sorts of situations. Stated otherwise, this is not a case of an opponent finding the Ravens weakness, it’s a matter of beating their strength.
The only tonic, aside from a return to health, is for these same players to get better at doing the things they just failed at.
Injuries Pile Up
The Ravens were again reduced to 2 available OLBs with the injury to Steven Means on his only snap. Oweh played all but 2 snaps in the second half and appeared tired.
Injuries played an ongoing role at CB where Marcus Peters had a shaky return. Marlon Humphrey rotated out for the end of the first series of the 2nd half then sat out the last 2 series of the game. Marlon’s condition must be serious for the team to sit him at that juncture. The coverage looked night and day without him.
Pepe Williams played well at SCB and may now be the Ravens best CB but was lost on the penultimate snap making a play in the back of the end zone.
The Ravens forced the Dolphins to 3rd down on 11 occasions but were only able to force 2 punts. On 7 occasions, the Fish converted on 3rd down and twice more they had a gain that was subsequently converted on 4th down. Let’s review:
- (Q1, 12:10): On 3rd/7, Tua threw to TE Gesicki PM12 (11 + 1)  with Pepe Williams just missing a PD.
- (Q2, 9:18): On 3rd/2, Pepe Williams took down WR Hill PL1 (1 + 0) . The Dolphins then converted on a 4th/1 direct snap to FB Ingold RM1.
- (Q2, 7:03): On 3rd/18, Houston rushed unblocked by LT Armstead for near S-12. Tua slipped free but faced follow-up pressure from Campbell as he threw incomplete for RB Edmonds 6 yards  who was separated from the football by Hamilton.
- (Q2, 2:32): On 3rd/5, Tua completed PL4 to WR Waddle ruled short of conversion on Humphrey’s tackle. Tua then converted on 4th/1 with RM1 sneak.
- (Q3, 9:46): On 3rd/10 with ATS, Tua completed PR11 (11 + 0)  to WR Waddle in front of Armour-Davis who was too soft.
- (Q3, 7:57): On 3rd/13, the Ravens had 7 DBs on the field. A 2-man pass rush allowed Tua ATS for zipper PM14 TD to TE Gesicki in back of end zone with Clark underneath making no play on ball. Gesicki appeared OOB on stadium replay that was not shown on TV.
- (Q3, 4:57): On 3rd/2, Pierce appeared held by C Williams that went unflagged. Tua threw PM10 (10 + 0)  to Hill between Peters, Queen, Bynes and M. Williams.
- (Q3, 2:16): On 3rd/18, Madubuike beat RG Hunt then RB Edmonds inside for QH. Tua threw high for Waddle 9 yards , but Peters pushed him OOB for PD to force a punt.
- (Q4, 12:18): On 3rd/Goal, B. Washington beat C Williams left for pressure as Tua threw PL2 TD to WR Cracraft with Pepe Williams trailing.
- (Q4, 7:54): On 3rd/10, facing a 5/2 blitz Tua completed PM48 TD (46 + 2)  to WR Hill over Peters and Hamilton.
- (Q4, 5:27): On 3rd/6, Campbell swiped past LG Eichenberg for pressure but Tua completed PL60 TD (40 + 20)  with M. Williams closest. Since Williams was on the opposite side of the field and dropped at the snap (no other safety was deep), it appears Armour-Davis was assigned to cover Hill all the way down the field. This appears to have been a serious scheme weakness if it was not an assignment failure by one of the safeties.
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 Dolphins ran 69 such snaps.
Jumbo (1): The Dolphins converted a 4th/1 sneak by Tua. 1 play, 1 yard.
Base (15): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB plus Harrison lining up at OLB exclusively on 1st and 2nd down with the exception of a 4th/1 direct snap to FB Ingold. These included 5 runs for 13 yards and 10 passes for 112, including the 59-yard completion to Waddle (Q2, 14:14). 15 plays, 125 yards, 8.3 YPP.
Standard Nickel (11): The standard nickel includes 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, 2 ILB, 3 CB, and 2 S. Macdonald used it primarily as a response to 11 personnel on early downs as well as a pair of 3rd/2 snaps. 11 plays, 31 yards, 2.8 YPP.
Big Nickel (16): This version of the nickel included 3 down linemen, 1 OLB, and 2 ILB, 2 CB, and 3 S as a response to multiple TEs. Normally, this package would include 2 OLB and only 1 lineman, but the shortage of healthy OLB forced the Ravens to deploy with the extra lineman. 16 plays, 104 yards, 6.5 YPP.
Standard Dime (23): The version of the dime employed against the Dolphins included 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 1 ILB. In each case, the Ravens used 3 S and 3 CB. After playing solid dime defense for 52 minutes, they surrendered 4 plays of 20+ yards (PM48, PL60, PM21, RM28) in the final 7:54 (see above for more detail). 23 plays, 262 yards, 11.4 YPP.
Quarter (3): The Ravens lined up with Oweh, Houston, Queen, 1 DL, 4 S, and 3 CB on 3 plays. The first was the last play of the first half (RL3). The next 2 were each TD passes (PM14, Q3, 7:57; PM7, Q4, 0:19).
Macdonald used very little in the way of either numbers or scheme to disrupt Tagovailoa and the failure to generate much pressure allowed the southpaw to pick apart the secondary.
For the game, Tua had ATS on 14 of 51 drop backs (27%) which is a little lower than normal. However, he also delivered the ball before pressure could develop (BOQ) 24 times (47%) with an array of screens, slants, swings, and play action. The Ravens generated a pressure event on just 13 plays (25%), including their only sack.
Summarizing by number of pass rushers:
3 or fewer: 7 plays, 57 yards, 8.1 YPP
4: 31 plays, 274 yards, 8.8 YPP, 2 TOs
5: 12 plays, 126 yards, 10.5 YPP, 1 sack
6: 1 plays, 2 yards, 2.0 YPP
Total: 51 plays, 459 yards, 9.0 YPP, 2 TOs, 1 sack
The Ravens rushed 5+ on only 13 of 51 drop backs (25%) on which the Dolphins averaged 9.8 YPP.
Macdonald used 9 individual blitzes (.18 per pass play) from off the LoS, including 2 blitzers on each of 3 plays (PM48, PM2, PM21). These 6 plays resulted in 3 pressure events (2 pressures on gains totaling 23 yards, 1 sack for -8) and 3 BOQ (56 yards).
The Ravens stunted 6 times, but just once after halftime despite the fact both interceptions were coincident to stunts in the first half.
The Ravens showed simulated pressure on 9 occasions with 2 dropping from the LoS on each occasion. These included each of the Dolphins last 3 TDs (PM48, PL60, PM7).
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 just 3 deceptive rushes (6%). The Dolphins rolled up 71 yards (23.7 YPP).
Justin Houston led the Ravens with contributions to 6 pressure events, including their only sack.
Damarion (Pepe) Williams
- (Q1, 12:10): On 3rd/7, he just missed a PD reaching across TE Gesicki on PM12 conversion
- (Q2, 10:58): He was pancaked by LG Eichenberg on Waddle PL6 TD
- (Q2, 9:18): On 3rd/2, he denied conversion to Hill with fast tackle on PL1
- (Q3, 10:28): On 2nd/24, he took down Hill quickly on PM14 (14 + 0)  with Clark also close
- (Q4, 15:00): He delivered a hit on PM12 to Waddle failed to dislodge the football and then made the tackle
- (Q4, 12:22): He swatted away a TD pass to TE Cracraft in endzone 3 yards 
- (Q4, 12:18): On the next play, he surrendered PL2 TD to TE Cracraft
- (Q4, 8:02): He separated WR Wilson from the football 8 yards  but no PD was awarded
- (Q4, 0:24): He dislodged a pass intended for Waddle in the back of the endzone  but came down hurt and was forced to leave the game for the final Dolphins play
Despite his size, Williams displayed outstanding ability to go across the body of a receiver to find the football.
- (Q1, 10:42): On 2nd/6, he deflected a ball intended for WR Hill then collected it while lying on the ground for a high-difficulty interception
- (Q2, 14:14): On PM59 (18 + 41) , he missed a tackle on Waddle at 47 yards
- (Q2, 10:58): He was blocked by LT Armstead on WR Waddle PL6 TD
- (Q2, 1:25): He bracketed Waddle deep approximately 35 yards , collected Tua’s pass, and executed sideline toe tap for INT
- (Q4, 13:36): On Waddle PL16 (5 + 11) , he missed the tackle at 7 yards
- (Q4, 7:59): Tua threw for Waddle 9 yards  which was subsequently tipped by Queen and dropped by Marcus.
- (Q4, 5:27): On 3rd/6, he was closest on Hill PL60 (40 + 20) . However, since he bailed from the LoS on the opposite side, this was either an assignment error or exceptionally bad scheme to leave Armour-Davis without safety help over the top in coverage of Hill.
Incredibly, Williams was not able to convert the easiest of his 3 INT opportunities (Q4, 7:59), which would have all but sealed the game. Each of his previous 2 INTs was a remarkable skills effort and would rank in the top 10-15% of interceptions by difficulty. I’m reminded that for all Ed Reed’s interceptions, he didn’t have close to a 100% success rate but consistently found ways to get his hands on the football.
- (Q2, 7:48): He was not fooled by boot left and pressured Tua to underthrow RB Edmonds incomplete 2 yards 
- (Q2, 7:45): He beat pulling TE Smythe for fast S-8
- (Q2, 7:03): On 3rd/18, he was unblocked by LT Armstead but was unable to bring down Tua for S-12 which was eventually drive-ending incomplete
- (Q2, 1:31): He was again not fooled by boot and flushed Tua right on incomplete for Waddle 10 yards 
- (Q2, 1:25): On 2nd/10, Justin beat RT Little outside for pressure as M. Williams intercepted deep left
- (Q4, 13:36): He, Oweh and Campbell combined to pressure Tua who none-the-less threw PL16 to Waddle
Houston’s awareness (particularly of the boot) was on display in this game. If the Ravens are to operate their pass rush with as many IDL as they have, those players are going to need to generate regular pressure as well. I do not award defensive MVPs after a loss.