Due to Maureen’s recovery, the article is streamlined.  Thorough detail on pressure, packages, and scheme on the defense podcast with Sarah Ellison.

Taking it Seriously

The Bengals clearly treated this as a must-win game.  They had a chance for the #2 seed, a neutral-site AFCC and more importantly, desperately wanted to avoid The Flip with the Ravens.  They left their star QB in the game to throw 44 passes and absorb 6 QHs.  Of 40 balls where a target was determined in the gamebook, all went to receivers with 23 or more targets on the season and all but 2 to receivers with at least 51 targets.

Conversely, the Ravens were without Lamar Jackson and backup Tyler Huntley.  They chose to rest some of their best players (Andrews, Zeitler, Dobbins, Peters) and probably would have sat more had roster rules allowed.  The major exception was Calais Campbell who returned from injury, presumably for a chance to record sack number 100.

Going into the rematch, I have a few thoughts:

  • The 2012 Ravens won the rematch with the Broncos after a number of players, including Marshal Yanda) sat out with injuries in a lopsided week 15 loss at home.  Josh Bynes had the green dot that day with Ray Lewis, McClain, and Ellerbe all sidelined.  My point: Harbaugh has worked through such difficulties pragmatically before.
  • The Bengals performance against the Ravens does not invoke fear.  They are the better team whether Jackson plays or not, but they could manage only 4.0 yards per play versus a team that had Daryl Worley starting at corner.
  • Speaking of Worley, he had an up-and-down game as Burrow picked on him relentlessly.  The Bengals lost 2 TDs by their own mistakes (Chase drop, Burrow overthrow of Higgins) on plays where he was unable to make a play (never found the ball, slipped).  Worley is the Ravens number 4 outside CB now (Humphrey, Peters, Stephens) and Burrow attacked that, but the Bengals did not employ 10 personnel regularly to attack the Ravens weak CB group and force Pepe Williams onto the field.  That may be something we see in the playoffs.
  • The Ravens OL will need a more efficient effort to win, but they are capable.
  • There is no evidence the Ravens can cobble together a play-action script to maximize the value of their TEs with either Huntley or Brown at QB, but if they’ve been playing possum since the clincher vs Atlanta, we should see in the first quarter next Sunday.
  • The return of Dobbins and Zeitler should provide the Ravens run game a little more juice, but concussion protocol for Gus Edwards looms large as well.
  • The 2022 Ravens will need Lamar Jackson to have any hope of a run.

Star Treatment

Roquan Smith

  • (Q1, 12:50):  He made a fast downhill tackle of RB Mixon on PM2 (2+0) [3]
  • (Q1, 8:18):  On 2nd/7, he again took down Mixon for PM2 (2 + 0) [2]
  • (Q2, 8:11):  On 2nd/6, he was closest in zone on WR Boyd PR8 (5 + 3) [4]
  • (Q2, 7:50):  He assisted Jones on tackle of Mixon screen PR2 (-5 + 7) [4]
  • (Q2, 7:03):  On 3rd/8, he tackled WR Chase PL-2 (-1 -1) [1] which appeared to be an MT but touched while knee down to force punt
  • (Q2, 1:02):  On 3rd/12, he tackled RB Perine PL4 (1 + 3) [2] to force punt
  • (Q3, 12:23):  He worked off initial penetration from Urban to clean up Mixon RL0 with Hamilton
  • (Q3, 1:54):  He assisted Pepe Williams on PR9 tackle of Chase to bring up 3rd/1
  • (Q4, 8:44):  He had close trail coverage of Chase on PM8 (6 + 2) [2] and made tackle to bring up 3rd/1
  • (Q4, 4:01):  On 3rd/18, he shed TE Hurst to tackle RB Perine RR4 to force punt
  • (Q4, 2:11):  He tackled Perine RM1 with assist from Pierre-Paul
  • (Q4, 2:00):  On 3rd/5, he shot the left A-gap to tackle Perine RR1 to force a punt

Roquan had 16 tackles, including 4 that ended drives.  He was party to 11 defensive wins, which must be close to an NFL high this season.  His play with the Ravens has been almost uniformly stellar, in sharp contrast to his uneven 2022 (and prior) play with the Bears.  It was exciting for the Ravens to acquire someone with his pedigree as a tackler and in coverage but he has clearly benefited from playing with high-quality teammates.

David Ojabo

  • (Q3, 11:38):  He was initially pushed past the pocket by LT Williams but after initial pressure from Pierre-Paul, he chased down Burrow from behind for SF-5 recovered by Queen
  • (Q4, 4:01):  On 3rd/18, he held the right edge vs RT Adeniji to force RB Perine right where Smith tackled RR4 to force punt

David played 21 snaps (18 pass, 3 run) and made the defensive scoresheet only with his sack/fumble and did not have any other pressure events.  That’s not entirely unexpected since Burrow unloaded the ball quickly (BOQ) on 17 of 44 drop backs resulting in a pass or sack (39%).  His motor was on display for the cleanup sack and it’s good to see him eager/able to dislodge the ball when the opportunity presented itself.

With all of the other OLBs playing well, I do not expect to see him active during the playoffs, but it’s always possible with injury.

Brent Urban

  • (Q1, 10:24):  On 2nd/8, Burrow escaped Oweh (twice), B. Washington, and outraced Urban to the right edge for RR6
  • (Q3, 12:23):  He stood up RG Cappa to force Mixon left where Smith and Hamilton cleaned up RL0
  • (Q4, 7:20):  On 4th/inches, he was not fooled by play action and forced Burrow to ground his pass which gave the ball to the Ravens on downs
  • (Q4, 5:55):  He drew a hold from RT Adeniji to negate Perine RR17 and stall the drive

Brent played 22 snaps and is making a good case to return in 2023.

Jason Pierre-Paul

  • (Q1, 12:13):  He bulled LT Williams for pressure to flush Burrow left but he completed PL7 to WR Higgins
  • (Q1, 10:58):  He bulled RT Adeniji to retrack Mixon for Hamilton’s tackle RM2
  • (Q1, 5:17):  He bulled RT Adeniji who pancacked him in the cone for pressure which eventually became B. Washington QH and throw away in endzone
  • (Q2, 14:22):  On 2nd/4, he bulled LT Williams for pressure and Burrow overthrew a wide-open Higgins
  • (Q2, 7:06):  He knocked down Burrow’s pass intended for Chase at the LoS off initial pressure from Jones
  • (Q3, 11:38):  He bulled RT Adeniji for initial pressure and was not flagged for FM which set up Ojabo for SF-5
  • (Q4, 4:46):  On 2nd/16, he backed up TE Hurst to bubble Mixon left which allowed M. Williams to tackle RL-2
  • (Q4, 2:11):  He pursued off the right edge to assist Smith on Perine RM1

Jason led the OLBs with 39 snaps.  I scored him for a season-high 5 contributions to pressure events.