Competing Narratives

In many ways, one might say Ravens won by their normal formula:

  • They rolled to a 17-0 halftime lead and led 24-6 entering Q4
  • They rushed for 182 yards (5.7 YPC) against a tough defensive line
  • They won the play count by a 67-64 margin
  • They forced their opponent to abandon a successful run game

On closer inspection, this game was much more of a back-and-forth affair:

  • They survived a game without Brandon Williams despite allowing 194 yards on 18 carries (10.8 YPC)
  • They won the game with a voracious pass rush against the overmatched Eagles OL
  • They nearly gave it back with an embarrassing performance by the OL against the Philly DL
  • They had it given to them by several key drops by the Eagles
  • They nearly had it taken back by the officials with 3 awful flags (2 roughing the passer, 1 pass interference)
  • They nearly closed out the game with forced fumbles and INT opportunities (Humphrey FF, McPhee PD, Elliott FF, Queen PD, Elliott PD)
  • They nearly gave it back with a failure to convert those chances
  • They finally put the game away with the combination of a 2-point conversion stop by Judon/Fort, an onside-kick recovery by Proche, and a 1st down run by Jackson

Playing Small

With Williams and Wolfe sidelined, the Ravens activated just 4 DL, Campbell, Ellis, Madubuike, and Washington.  Reviewing their durability qualifications:

  • Campbell has been an iron man for the past 5 years, playing between 77% and 80% each season.  He had been reduced to 64% of snaps in 2020 prior to Philadelphia, presumably to maintain his effectiveness.
  • Ellis played just 21% of snaps in the first 5 weeks and was inactive vs Cincinnati.
  • Madubuike was coming off a 30-snap NFL debut vs the Bengals.
  • Washington had been active for 3 of 5 games and played 15% of the snaps

Not only is that a group that casts reasonable doubt about the ability to get through a game, but Ellis is the only true NT in the group. 

The departure of Michael Pierce this offseason threatened to expose the Ravens ability to stop the run.  However, looking back at the games missed by Brandon Williams over 2016-20 (all but the last with Pierce on the team), Ravens opponents had tremendous success running the football:

  • 2017 W3 Jax 35/166
  • 2017 W4 Pit 42/173
  • 2017 W5 Oak 25/108
  • 2017 W6 Chi 54/231
  • 2019 W4 Cle 29/193
  • 2019 W17 Pit 23/91
  • 2020 W6 Phi 18/194

Total 226/1156, 5.1 YPC

This is a year where COVID requires all plans to be mutable, but the Ravens were fortunate Williams’ absence came against a team with a suspect offensive line that was unable to lever the advantage into more sustained 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 Eagles ran 64 such snaps.

Jumbo (0): The Ravens never went to a jumbo package despite several goal line, short-yardage, and 6-OL plays. 

Base (7): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB and 2 OLB vs some 12 personnel as well as 2 jumbo packages.  All of those occurred on 1st/10 or 2nd/medium and there was just 1 after halftime (Q3, 4:25).  7 plays, 8 yards, 1.1 YPP, 1 sack.

It looked to me as if the Eagles needed to convince themselves they could not line up to play power football versus a depleted Ravens line missing both Williams and Wolfe.  The combination of a lack of early success and the lopsided score convinced them to abandon the strategy.

Jumbo Nickel (4): The Ravens used this package against 11 personnel (twice), 12 (once), and jumbo (once, Q4, 15:00).  Queen was the only ILB on each occasion.  4 plays, 14 yards, 3.5 YPP.

I don’t see the logic to inserting this package against 11 personnel, but Martindale may have been using it to scheme for a pass rush or run fit by Queen or a safety.  It’s also a good idea to show future opponents variation in response to offensive personnel.

Rush Nickel (1): The Ravens played a snap with 1 DL, 2 ILB, 3 OLB (2nd and 12, Q2, 2:19), which resulted in a 19-yard completion to Fulgham.

Standard Nickel (26): The standard nickel includes 2 down linemen, 2 OLB, and 2 ILB and is the Ravens most common response to 11 personnel on early downs.  26 plays, 162 yards, 3 sacks, 1 TO, 6.2 YPP.

It was when in the standard nickel the Ravens most felt the absence of Brandon Williams versus the run.  The Eagles rushed 10 times for 146 yards (14.6 YPC).  Ellis or Washington was in for each of those plays, which included runs for 74, 40, and 20. 

Dime (26): The Ravens showed a variety of dime looks, primarily on 3rd down.  Summarizing the results:

Standard–1 ILB, 3 OLB, 1 DL (or 2 ILB, 2 OLB, 1 DL), 6 DBs (17 snaps): 92 yards, 1 sack, 5.4 YPP

Heavy—2 DL, 3 OLB (or 2 DL, 1 ILB, 2 OLB), 6 DBs (1 snap): 5 yards.

Racecar– 0 ILBs, 4 OLBs, 1 DL, 6 DBs (8 snaps): 64 yards, 1 sack, 8.0 YPP

The Ravens stopped the Eagles 9 times and allowed 4 conversions on 3rd or 4th down while in the dime.

The Ravens began with Anthony Averett at RCB and Jimmy Smith at safety for the first 5 dime snaps (including 4 drive-ending plays in 4 opportunities on 3rd down).  When Averett was injured, Gilchrist was inserted as a safety (usually deep) on dime snaps with Smith back at CB.  The dime package was far less successful the rest of the way (5 plays for -4, -0.8 YPP with Averett, 21 for 165, 7.9 YPP with Gilchrist).

Pass Rush

Martindale again relied on a scheme-heavy pass rush to fluster Wentz and confuse a disjointed array of backup offensive linemen.

Despite 6 sacks and 17 QHs, Wentz had Ample Time and Space (ATS) on 17 of 46 drop backs (37%) resulting in a pass or sack.  That was approximately twice the rate the Ravens afforded Joe Burrow and the Bengals (19%) with their similar OL discontinuity issues.  The barbell results allowed for some deep shots on which the Ravens were fortunate the Eagles receivers frequently lost use of their hands.  Perhaps more frustrating is the lack of a turnover generated on 46 pass plays despite several fine opportunities.

Summarizing by number of pass rushers:

3: 1 play, 0 yards

4: 26 plays, 101 yards, 3.9 YPP, 2 sacks

5: 16 plays, 45 yards, 2.8 YPP, 4 sacks

6: 2 plays, 6 yards, 3.0 YPP

7: 1 play, 18 yards.  This was the 4th-and-9 TD to Fulgham (Q4, 3:55).

Total: 46 plays, 170 yards, 3.7 YPP, 6 sacks, 0 TOs

The Ravens sent 5+ on 19 of 46 drop backs (41%), which is in line with their season average (44%).

Martindale sent 20 individual blitzes from off the LoS, including 7 by Patrick Queen and 5 by DBs.  The Ravens used 7 individual stunts which resulted in 6 QHs and 1 pressure.  Of those 7 passes, only 2 were complete for 14 total yards.  On 8 occasions they dropped 2+ from the LoS to cover. 

Of 46 drop backs, 8 rushes were deceptive as I define it by incorporating 2 or more of the above elements.  Those plays included 3 completions for 67 yards.  The 50-yard pass to Hightower (Q3, 1:04) came against a deceptive rush (blitzes by Clark and Elliott).

The gamebook shows 16 QHs, none of which came on split sacks.  However, the scorer missed Elliott’s QH on the game’s 2nd play (Q1, 14:17).  They had 2 additional QHs wiped out by absurd roughing the passer calls:

  • (Q2, 0:04):  Campbell and Ferguson combined to knock down Wentz just after he threw his Hail Mary on what should have been the last play of the first half.  Campbell was flagged for the RTP despite the fact he did not take even 1 full step after the ball was released and simply used his hands to shove down Wentz.  Ferguson applied a similar, low-impact push.  If there is a fair review process, neither player will be fined by the league.  The flag negated a wonderful PD by Elliott and interception by Clark (his 2nd INT lost to a bad flag in 6 games).  It also allowed the Eagles a FG attempt (missed wide right) from 52 yards to end the half.
  • (Q4, 14:25): Ward took down Wentz and fell on him.  His contact came with head up and he did not hit Wentz above the shoulders, or low, so the official must have thrown the flag because he believed it was late or drove Wentz into the ground unnecessarily.  Instead of 4th and 5, the Eagles had 1st and goal at the 2 and scored 2 plays later.  The 5-point difference is what made the game close. 

As much as any other team, the Ravens need the QH/RTP dividing line clearly understood.  The variation by crew is significant and annoying.  It’s worse, however, when a tight RTP interpretation is combined with a QB-friendly interpretation of “in the grasp” (see Q4, 4:35). 

Individual Notes by Positional Grouping

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. 

Defensive Line

Calais Campbell (46 snaps) had his best game to date as a member of the Ravens.  See “Star Treatment” below.

Justin Ellis (28 snaps) sandwiched Wentz on a QH credited to Judon (Q4, 14:32).  He did not have another pressure event.  Justin was pancaked by RT Jack Dricoll to open a huge hole on the 74-yard run by Miles Sanders that was fumbled into the end zone for Philadelphia’s first score.

Broderick Washington (19 snaps) and Justin Madubuike (20) each had 1 pressure.


Tyus Bowser (32 snaps) had a quiet day on the stat sheet, in part because he was only on the field for 3 runs.  He beat RT Driscoll to blow up Wentz’s boot right which resulted in McPhee’s sack (Q2, 14:53).  He had a cleanup QH of his own (Q2, 2:00), a fast QH by stunt (Q4, 4:38), and set up Campbell’s stunt flush of Wentz with an underneath move to cross the face of RT Brent Toth (Q4, 4:35).  He dropped 11 times from the LoS to cover. 

Matthew Judon (48 snaps) contributed 3 QHs and the game-winning tackle of Wentz on the final 2-point try (Q4, 1:55).  He was deployed off the LoS and blitzed on 3 occasions.

Pernell McPhee (37 snaps) had another outstanding game.  See “Star Treatment” below.

Patrick Queen (56 snaps) made just 2 tackles, but flashed with 2 fast QHs (Q2, 0:16; Q4, 4:45), excellent coverage of RB Scott in the back of the end zone (Q4, 14:32), and a hold drawn on LG Nate Herbig (Q4, 5:20).  His PD (Q4, 14:35) could have sealed the game had he been able to secure the interception.  He missed a tackle 13 yards past the LoS on Wentz’s 40-yard scramble right (Q4, 5:55).  We’ve seen some of the peaks possible as a run defender and pass rusher, so it’s nice to see some positive coverage examples to help round out his play.


Collectively, the secondary had its second worst game of the season which included some long plays allowed and some others where the Eagles helped them out.  Nonetheless, that included 1 sack, 1 other QH, 3 PDs, 3 forced fumbles, a recovered fumble (2, if you want to count Clark and Smith on the same play), and an interception negated by penalty.

Addressing them collectively (excluding Elliott—see “Star Treatment”):

  • (Q1, 13:30): Peters was burned when he tried to jump Hightower’s vertical route, but the Eagles WR dropped the pass 53 yards downfield.
  • (Q1, 4:16): Averett directed Hightower out of bounds (OOB) to keep him from chasing down a well-placed pass down the left sideline.
  • (Q2, 5:32): Peters was blocked by Wentz on RR20 by Hurts.
  • (Q2, 0:04): Elliot’s persistent poking dislodged the Hail Mary from WR Fulgham and Clark intercepted it (negated by RTP).
  • (Q3, 3:40): Humphrey forced a fumble after WR Ward’s catch, but it rolled OOB.
  • (Q3, 1:04): Hightower beat Humphrey badly for PL50 (32 + 18 YAC) [1] on a play where both Elliott and Clark blitzed.
  • (Q4, 15:00): Humphrey had tight coverage of Hightower in the end zone, incomplete.
  • (Q4, 14:54): Smith covered Fulgham across the field and knocked down the pass by the right pylon.
  • (Q4, 9:25): Smith again had tight coverage of Fulgham and disrupted his concentration on a crossing route that denied 4th and 5.
  • (Q4, 6:29): Wentz threw PL10 to Fulgham to convert 3rd and 8 between Humphrey and Smith.
  • (Q4, 6:21): Humphrey telegraphed his blitz off the slot, but still beat RT Toth for S-6.
  • (Q4, 5:55): Peters had a missed tackle on Wentz 31 yards into his RR40.
  • (Q4, 4:45): Peters had tight coverage in the back of the end zone on Fulgham, incomplete.
  • (Q4, 4:35): Humphrey tackled RB Scott for PL1 on a pass thrown as Wentz was going down.
  • (Q4, 3:55): Humphrey and Peters were right on top of Fulgham in the middle of the end zone, but neither was able to make a play on the ball as Wentz threw PM18 TD on 4th and 9.
  • (Q4, 3:11): Peters had tight, single coverage of Fulgham 49 yards downfield.  The 2 payers jostled for position on a jump ball and Peters knocked it away, but was flagged for DPI.  In the words of Gene Steratore…”I would have preferred not seeing a flag on that play whatsoever.”

It’s hard to come down on the secondary as a group when they made some big plays and the pass rush flourished.  However, most of the pass rush was fast pressure this week and Humphrey and Peters each lost some coverage on long plays as well as others that were dropped. 

Jimmy Smith was excellent in a role that shifted from S to CB in game and in addition to good coverage of Fulgham, he had a hand in holding TE Zach Ertz to just 33 yards on 10 targets.

Star Treatment

Calais Campbell (51 snaps) drove the Ravens pass rush:

  • (Q1, 15:00):  He ran over RG Jamon Brown for S-7.
  • (Q1, 14:17):  He tackled RB Miles Sanders for a PR-6 (-6 + 0) [4] after he caught Wentz’s deflected screen pass.
  • (Q1, 4:16):  On 3rd/6, he swam past RG Brown for a fast QH through the right A-gap.
  • (Q2, 11:14):  On 3rd/9, he dictated outstanding under position between C Jason Kelce and RG Brown then easily beat Kelce for S-11 when Brown peeled off.
  • (Q2, 0:11):  He was blocked by C Kelce and LG Herbig on Sanders RR26.
  • (Q2, 0:04):  He was flagged for a ticky-tack roughing the passer on the Eagles failed Hail Mary which allowed an end of half FG attempt.
  • (Q3, 4:25):  He sent RG Brown somersaulting away from the play on his way to take down Wentz for S-5.
  • (Q3, 3:40):  On 3rd/15, he beat RT Driscoll outside for pressure.
  • (Q4, 7:12):  He beat RG Brown outside for initial pressure closing off the front of the pocket on Ward’s S-7.
  • (Q4, 4:38):  He again moved across the face of RG Brown to draw the attention of both Brown and RT Toth.  That allowed Bowser to stunt through the right A gap for a fast QH.
  • (Q4, 4:35):  Bowser returned the favor by crossing the face of RT Brent Toth which allowed Calais to loop outside for the initial pressure.

Campbell not only played 80% of the snaps when the Ravens were shorthanded on the DL, but also played his best game since joining the Ravens. 

Deshon Elliott (64 snaps) was all over the field.

  • (Q1, 14:17):  He rushed unblocked off the OLS for a fast QH on Wentz’s screen PR-6.
  • (Q1, 3:05):  He stripped Wentz as he was tackling him which was eventually recovered by Jimmy Smith.
  • (Q2, 0:04):  On Wentz’s Hail Mary, Deshon continued to work until he knocked the ball free from WR Fulgham on the ball intercepted by Clark, then negated by RTP.
  • (Q3, 7:33):  He chased down RB Sanders at the 7-yard line and forced a fumble from behind that rolled into the end zone where it was recovered by Arcega-Whiteside for the first Eagles TD.
  • (Q3, 3:44):  He rushed outside LT Mailata and leapt for a PD 10 yards in the backfield to knock down a screen pass for Scott which had 3 blockers in front.
  • (Q4, 4:38):  He was unable to haul in a room-service interception at the 5-yard line which would have put the game away.

The interception drop was disappointing, but Elliott has shown all of the playmaking skills the Ravens could have hoped for.

Pernell McPhee (33 snaps) delivered another big game:

  • (Q1, 15:00):  He forced LT Mailata to give ground which closed off the blind side for Wentz on Campbell’s S-7.
  • (Q1, 14:17):  He tipped the screen pass which fluttered to Sanders who was tackled by Campbell for PR-6.
  • (Q2, 14:53):  On 3rd/5, he cleaned up on Bowser’s initial pressure for S-7. 
  • (Q2, 3:31):  On the wildcat pass back and return, he pursued Hurtz well which helped limit the gain to 3 yards.
  • (Q2, 0:16): He was unable to collect Wentz’s floater which would have resulted in at least half-ending FG attempt.
  • (Q3, 3:44):  He beat TE Ertz for a fast QH on a screen left that was knocked down by Elliott.
  • (Q4, 6:29):  On 3rd/8, he beat LT Jordan Mailata then threw RB Scott into Wentz for a QH.

Neither of his defected passes showed up as a PD in the Gamebook.  The first because the pass was complete, the 2nd is simply an error that should be corrected. 

This is now consecutive top-shelf games for McPhee as a pass rusher.  He’s had good games here and there between injuries over the last 5 seasons, but the last time he had 7 total QHs in consecutive games came in weeks 2 and 3 of 2015 with the Bears.

Defensive MVPs

My list:

  1. Calais Campbell
  2. Deshon Elliott
  3. Pernell McPhee

Chuck Clark, Jimmy Smith, and Matthew Judon all earned honorable mention.