Ravens vs Colts 11/8/20

Overcoming Obstacles

Like the win at Seattle in 2019, this win might be remembered as a starting point for the 2020 Ravens in terms of overcoming adversity.  To summarize, the Ravens:

  • Won on the road
  • Won a game with playoff implications
  • Won missing 4 Pro Bowlers from 2019 (Stanley, Humphrey, Campbell, Ingram)
  • Won despite a COVID scare that altered their routines and kept 7 defenders out of practice
  • Came from behind at the half for the first time (of just 7 games, playoffs included) in the Jackson era

The Best Challenge of the Harbaugh Era?

The Ravens have been aggressive challengers throughout Harbaugh’s tenure (109 in 217 games, including playoffs, .502 per game).  He’s succeeded on 44% of those challenges (48/109).  However, to make the lofty claim of most successful challenge ever, that play would require:

  • Success/reversal
  • A high leverage play in the game
  • A game with playoff implications if not a playoff game itself
  • Knowledge of the rules which made the challenge other than obvious

The challenge that resulted in Peters’ interception meets the above criteria.  If there is anyone out there who would like to rank these plays, I’d be happy to discuss a scoring methodology and have you present your findings on a Filmstudy Short.


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 Colts ran just 63 such snaps.  Examining the use of packages, Martindale did not use nearly as much variation as he has in past games.  Much of that was due to the shortage of defensive backs.

Jumbo (0): The Ravens never used a jumbo package.  Even when Clark’s DPI gave the Colts 1st and goal at the 1, they used the nickel vs 12 personnel.

Base (9): The Ravens used their base 3-4 defense with 2 ILB and 2 OLB vs some 12 personnel packages, 8 of which occurred on 1st or 2nd down prior to halftime.  The Ravens only use of base after halftime came on the pivotal 4th-and-1 play (Q4, 5:34) when the Colts lined up with an unbalanced jumbo formation with 2 TEs and the 6th OL (G Danny Pinter) lined up as a fullback.  9 plays, 41 yards, 4.6 YPP.

Jumbo Nickel (2): The Ravens used this package on consecutive plays (beginning Q4, 7:30) against 11 personnel.  Board was the only ILB and these 2 plays happened to be the 2 missed by Patrick Queen after he left the game briefly.  2 plays, 6 yards.

Rush Nickel (11): Martindale continued to use Chris Board as a proxy safety on what otherwise would have been standard dime snaps.  The resulting package is a nickel with 1 DL, 2 ILB, 3 OLB.  To get a sense of the dime-esque nature of these snaps by down and distance:

  • Prior to the final 2 Colts drives: 3/5, 2/12, and 3/9
  • Final 2 Colts drives: First 2 plays and first 6 plays respectively

The most common game situations in which the Ravens play a standard dime defense are:

  • 2nd and long
  • 3rd and medium/long
  • End-of-half drives vs no huddle
  • End-of-game drives with a significant lead

Board finished with just 2 tackles but made contributions both in this package and in the racecar nickel.  11 plays, 70 yards, 6.4 YPP. 

Racecar Nickel (7): The Ravens played 7 snaps with 1 DL, 1 ILB, 4 OLB (by down and distance: 3/5, 3/6, 3/6, 3/6, 3/9, 3/5, 4/5) on which the Colts converted just once.  Once again, Chris Board was used as a proxy dimeback with the Ravens short on safeties they were willing to use on defense.  Board replaced Patrick Queen on each of these snaps (Queen missed just 2 others after he left with an injury beginning Q4, 7:30).  7 plays, 16 yards, 2.3 YPP. 

Standard Nickel (30): 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. 

With Campbell lost after just 3 snaps, the Colts rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries (6.0 YPC) versus the standard nickel.  That’s not wholly unexpected given the significance of the injury and quality of the Colts line. However, Indianapolis had rushed for just 3.5 YPC entering Sunday’s game.  I suspect (but don’t have data to support):

  • other teams have employed heavier alignments (more base) against their multiple-TE looks; and
  • the Colts have done more running with the lead in other games, resulting in more frequent heavy opponent fronts

30 plays, 168 yards, 5.6 YPP.

Dime (4): The Ravens used Anthony Levine as a 3rd safety on just 4 snaps and never employed the 4-CB dime the Steelers forced them to field 15 times in last week’s game.  Each of the dime snaps against the Colts occurred on the final drives of the half/game and included 1 DL, 2 ILB, 2 OLB, and 6 DBs.  On each of the 3 pass plays, the Ravens rushed just 3 men.  4 plays, 38 yards, 9.5 YPP.

Pass Rush

For the second consecutive week, the Ravens faced a veteran QB who prioritized getting rid of the ball quickly.  To summarize:

  • Rivers has averaged just 2.52 second to throw for the season (5th lowest in the NFL)
  • On Sunday he completed 14 of 15 passes behind the LoS
  • In contrast he completed just 1 of his 5 throws of 20+ yards and had 1 intercepted
  • His 2.4 average completed air yards per throw against the Ravens was the lowest in the entire NFL in week 9 (prior to MNF)

Martindale responded with a vanilla pass rush which was virtually without scheme or numbers through 3 quarters before finally adding some wrinkles with the Ravens up 11+ points. 

The Ravens failed to generate much impactful pressure, in large part because Rivers delivered the ball 20 times before pressure could develop.  He had Ample Time and Space (ATS) on 12 of 41 drop backs (29%).  Brissette was pressured on his only drop back (Q2, 0:03).

Summarizing by number of pass rushers (excludes 2 spikes):

3: 4 plays, 24 yards, 6.0 YPP

4: 28 plays, 158 yards, 5.6 YPP, 1 TO

5: 8 plays, 24 yards, 3.0 YPP

6: 2 plays, 21 yards, 10.5 YPP

Total: 42 plays, 227 yards, 5.4 YPP, 1 TO

The Ravens rushed 5 men on 10 of 42 drop backs (24%), which is less often than in any other game this year (Washington 31%).  However, not until the 23rd pass play (the last Colts snap of Q3 at 4:51) did the Raven rush 5 for the first time.

Martindale used 12 individual blitzes from off the LoS, most of which were zone blitzes (meaning they had a corresponding drop from the LoS).  Chris Board led the team with 4 individual blitzes.  None of the 12 were converted for a pressure event.

The Ravens used just 5 individual stunts split over 4 pass plays, each of which occurred on the final 2 drives.  Those 4 plays included 2 pressures.  Prior to the game, I thought stunts would be one of the schemes the Ravens would use for pressure because it does not require numbers and stunting is compatible with not blitzing.  In the advance scouting process, the Ravens may have determined stunting might not be successful given Rivers’ rapid delivery of the football.  Martindale may also have decided stunting would make it too difficult to defend the screen game.

On 5 occasions they dropped 2+ from the LoS to cover.  Only against Washington (3) did the Ravens use simulated pressure less often. 

Of 42 drop backs, 3 rushes were deceptive as I define it by incorporating 2 or more of the above elements.  Those plays all resulted in incomplete passes. 

Do the lack of a sack and total of just 2 QHs indicate the pass rush is again broken or became so with the loss of Campbell?  No, I look at the results as a conscious choice to reduce variation on pass results vs a QB capable of beating an aggressive unit.  The defense allowed just 10 points with modest help from the offense.  The 5.4 YPP allowed is excellent and the Ravens shined on high-leverage plays by holding the Colts to 4 of 16 on 3rd and 4th down. 

Martindale built another defensive game plan appropriate to the opponent and modified to fit the game situation in the second half.

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

The Ravens activated 5 DL for the first time since week 2 and that turned out to be fortuitous when Campbell was injured.   Broderick Washington was the only scratch.

Justin Ellis (16 snaps) contributed a pressure and batted down a pass.

Derek Wolfe (47 snaps) generated a team-high 3 pressures.  The Ravens allowed just 3.7 YPC when he was on the field as opposed to 8.0 YPC when he was not.  He also played 34 pass snaps, which is more than all of the other linemen put together (33).  For the final 2 drives of the game, he was the only Ravens lineman on the field.


Chris Board had a career high for snaps (31) in a performance that was not without warts.  Of his snaps, 25 were pass plays due primarily to his platoon WLB usage with Harrison.  He pursued to take down Himes for a gain of 3 to end the first Colts drive.  He was completely ineffective as a pass rusher despite several opportunities to blitz from off the LoS.

Jaylon Ferguson (18 snaps) was used in an increasingly specialized role (17 snaps on 1st or 2nd down).  He was twice beaten by practice-squad call up DeMichael Harris on jet sweeps (Q1, 7:04; Q1 0:25).  The first was well timed and would have been difficult to contain, but Jaylon was caught without a dance partner and might have had a chance to impact the okay had he been a couple of yards upfield.  On the second, Ferguson failed to penetrate or identify the ball carrier on a play that was run at a more leisurely pace.

Malik Harrison (32 snaps) split the WLB snaps with Chris Board and had his best game to date.  Of 6 tackles to which he contributed, 3 were defensive wins.  Those 3 do not include his solo tackle credit which allowed Marcus Peters to Strip RB Jonathan Taylor as 2nd to the ball (Q1, 1:28).  He took a bad angle to WR Harris on his 2nd jet sweep (Q1, 0:25).  The Ravens use Malik as a platoon 2-down thumper as evidenced in his by-down usage (29 of 32 snaps on 1st or 2nd down) and the fact he did not play on either of the last 2 drives.

Matthew Judon (48 snaps) played well (see Star Treatment below).

Yannick Ngakoue (42 snaps) played an increased role that included 34 pass snaps.  He generated 3 pressures, which matched Derek Wolfe for the team high.  His snaps remain weighted to later downs and higher likelihood of a pass (34 pass, 8 run).  He failed to hold the left edge (without being blocked) on the pitch to Taylor (RL11) on the Colts first offensive play (Q1, 14:53).  It’s difficult to say the Colts targeted him, because they ran such a high percentage of their plays to the outside (passes and runs) but that was a scripted play where he would have been the only player able to diagnose and impact the play before it was turned upfield.  He dropped to cover, stumbled, and was pancaked (in the back) by RT Braden Smith on the WR screen to Pittman (Q1, 8:53).     


Each of the Ravens “big 4” defensive backs played every snap, but the team remains perilously thin across the secondary.

Marcus Peters (63 snaps) and Chuck Clark (63) have performances detailed below (see Star Treatment). 

Jimmy Smith (63 snaps) was again excellent as an outside CB.  He allowed a 10-yard completion (6 + 4 YAC) when soft (Q2, 3:24) in coverage of WR Marcus Johnson.  On the very next play he and Elliott took away most of the space Rivers had to hit Johnson on a 40-yard post route.  He had coverage of Zach Pachal on the last meaningful Colts play from scrimmage (4th and 5, Q4, 4:25) which fell incomplete and sent Rivers running down the field looking for a flag.

Star Treatment

Marcus Peters (63 snaps) was continuously around the football despite relatively few targets.

  • (Q1, 14:20):  He took down RB Taylor for PR2 (-4 + 6 YAC) [4] with Judon.
  • (Q1, 1:28):  He pried the ball free from RB Taylor as second man to the ball which resulted in Clark’s fumble FR/TD.
  • (Q1, 1:06):  He was blocked by WR Marcus Johnson on RB Hines’ PR17 (-3 + 20) [2].
  • (Q1, 0:25):  He was blocked by TE Jack Doyle on WR Harris’ jet sweep RR12.
  • (Q2, 4:39):  He was soft on Rivers PR12 (8 + 4) [4] to WR Pittman.
  • (Q2, 3:24):  He diagnosed a pass outside to WR Johnson and nearly undercut the route peeling off his own coverage.
  • (Q3, 11:05):  He intercepted the underthrow from Rivers, backpedaled three steps as he went down, then lost the football which was recovered by Clark. 

Marcus has been playing to pry the football free on more plays of late.  Those can look like bad tackling, but he’s trying to make more impact plays and like some of his coverage decisions, each success may be worth a few failures.

Chuck Clark (63 snaps) remains the glue of the Ravens defense.

  • (Q1, 5:41):  He was flagged for pass interference in the endzone on TE Alie-Cox.
  • (Q1, 1:28):  He recovered Peters’ strip on a clean hop, avoided lunging tackle attempts by C Ryan Kelly and TE Alie-Cox, and hurdled Rivers on his 65-yard TD return.
  • (Q1, 1:06):  He was blocked by RG Mark Glowinski on the PR17 (-3 +20) [5] screen to Hines.
  • (Q2, 0:55):  On 3rd/2, he had a drive-ending PD on a pass intended for Doyle.
  • (Q3, 11:05):  He alertly picked up the ball stripped from Peters after the whistle which was ruled a clear recovery after the interception challenge.

One standard of Ravens practice is always to pick up a loose football on the ground, regardless of how it got there.  In fact, the Ravens used to have an inscrutable method of scoring practice between the offense and defense where collecting a loose football resulted in points, even on an incomplete pass.  Clark instinctively went to pick up the football (as did Queen) and was rewarded for his diligence after the review.

That’s not the first time this particular practice methodology has paid off for the Ravens during the Harbaugh era.  In the divisional playoff game at Pittsburgh in 2010, Cory Redding recovered a loose football and ran it in for a touchdown as Pittsburgh was huddling up for the next play (Q1, 1:07). 

Matthew Judon (48 snaps) made contributions in coverage and as a pass rusher.

  • (Q1, 14:20):  He chased down RB Taylor for PR2 (-4 + 6) [4] shared with Peters.
  • (Q2, 10:12):  He had tight coverage of TE Doyle 4 yards [1] which forced Rivers overthrow.
  • (Q2, 5:23):  He came within inches of intercepting Ellis’ PD in the endzone.
  • (Q2, 4:42):  He was offsides which would have negated a 3rd/8 stop, but McPhee’s RTP was accepted.
  • (Q2, 2:37):  He was trailing in coverage of TE Alie-Cox PM17 (15 + 2) [2].
  • (Q2, 0:03):  QB Brissett intentionally grounded the ball in front of Matthew on the last play of the first half.
  • (Q3, 5:37):  He worked through traffic to tackle RB Jordan Wilkins on PR1 (-6 +7) [4] with Queen.
  • (Q4, 8:29):  He chased down Rivers for a QH after he left the pocket on PR18 (20 -2) [5] to WR Pittman.
  • (Q4, 5:34):  On 4th/1, he beat RB Taylor outside for a fast QH and PD which ended the 12-play Colts drive without a score and all but sealed the game.

The Ravens pass rush should have an opportunity to hunt versus the Patriots next Sunday, regardless of their starting QB and I expect Judon to play a central role the rest of the way.

Defensive MVPs:

  1. Marcus Peters
  2. Chuck Clark
  3. Matthew Judon