Defense Leads Ravens To Victory

Baltimore Ravens Observations
Daryl Smith

What a difference a week makes. Last week, the Denver Broncos torched the Baltimore Ravens’ defense for 49 points on the way to a 49-27 victory over the Ravens. This week, the Ravens’ defense rose to the occasion, allowing just 259 totals yards and held the Cleveland Browns to just 6 points in the Ravens 14-6 victory.

Constant pressure disrupted the Browns’ offense and an improved secondary had tight coverage throughout the game.

For the first half of the game, the Ravens’ offense couldn’t get much going and had to settle for two field goal attempts–50 yards and 44 yards. However, the usually reliable Justin Tucker missed both of these attempts wide right, giving the Browns a 6-0 lead heading into half time.

In the second half, the offense was able to finish off drives, scoring two touchdowns after an added emphasis on the run game.

Joe Flacco
Less than one hour before game time, Flacco’s wife, Dana, gave birth to their second child, who was named Daniel. Despite this, Flacco played for the Ravens and was able to lead them to victory in their home opener.

For the game, Flacco went 22-of-33 for 211 yards and one touchdown pass with a QBR of 57 and a QB rating of 94.4. He started off strong, going 6-of-11 but soon cooled down throughout the rest of the first half. In the second half, the Ravens came out in a hurry-up offense, something Flacco has had success in before and marched right down the field for a touchdown

His main target was wide receiver Torrey Smith but on key third downs, he looked for, and found, wide receiver Brandon Stokley. Stokley caught three of his four passes for first downs, and all three of them came on third down. Two of these were first downs that kept touchdown drives alive, instead of having to settle for a field goal.

When Flacco was off-target, his throws ended up being high, as usual.

Running Backs
Running the ball 36 times, both of the Ravens running back got in their work on Sunday. Starter Ray Rice ran 13 times for 36 times and backup Bernard Pierce rushed 19 times for 57 yards and one touchdown.

Rice also added three catches for nine yards and seven of these yards came on one screen pass. Rushing the ball, he ran for two first downs and had one fumble. His fumble came on a second and eight and a Browns defender was just able to get a hand on the ball and knock it out. The Browns recovered the ball on the Baltimore 45-yardline but, the defense stopped the Browns from getting any points.

On the second play of the game Rice got into a confrontation with Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor who was flagged for unnecessary roughness for hitting Rice on the helmet. Taylor claims that Rice spat on him but  you can’t tell based off of the video replay whether Rice did or not.

In the fourth quarter, Rice left the game after going down untouched, holding his left hip. After the game it was determined that he strained his left hip flexor and had been ruled as day-to-day.

Pierce was able to find more success than Rice when running the ball. However, he still only averaged three yards per carry compared to Rice’s 2.8. Like Rice, Pierce ran for two first downs. Receiving—not one of Pierce’s strong points—he had caught one pass for minus two yards.

Rarely did Pierce go down after first contact. Two prime examples of this come on back-to-back plays. On first and ten from the Cleveland 13-yardline, Pierce took a handoff and ran eight yards, breaking multiple tackles. The following play, Pierce scored a five-yard touchdown. On this touchdown, he seemed to be stopped one yard short of the endzone but was able to power through two Cleveland defenders to reach the endzone.

Due to Rice’s injury, Pierce played more snaps than expected and he impressed in these snaps rushing and in pass protection. In pass protection, he had multiple good blitz pickups, allowing Flacco to get a pass off.

Torrey Smith
Targeted early and often, Smith was clearly Flacco’s favorite target on Sunday. Leading the Ravens with 13 targets, Smith caught seven passes for 85 yards, all while going up against Joe Haden, a top cover cornerback. Of his seven catches, four of them went for first downs.

Torrey Smith

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Used a mainly a deep threat last season, Smith has become the Ravens’ number one receiver and with that comes more variety in pass routes. Against the Browns, Smith ran lots of underneath routes with many crossing routes and curls.

His day could have been better though as he caught a touchdown pass out-of-bounds. The throw from Flacco was right on his hands but Smith bobbled the pass and by the time he recovered possession of the ball, he was out-of-bounds. Another pass that Smith missed was a little harder. Early in the game, he tried to make a leaping, twisting catch, going across his body but the ball went just by his hands. This shouldn’t be counted against Smith though as it was a bad pass by Flacco and Smith was open so Flacco needs to get a better pass there.

Marlon Brown
Two games into his NFL career, Brown is already setting records for the Ravens. With his touchdown catch yesterday, Brown became the first Ravens’ rookie to catch a touchdown pass in his first two games. Making this even more impressive is that Brown was an undrafted free agent.

For the day, Brown caught four passes for 45 yards and one touchdown on six targets, with two of these catches going for first downs. Mid-fourth quarter, Brown had an impressive three play sequence. On a third and seven, Brown caught a 18-yard pass, bringing the ball to the Browns 6-yardline. After a one-yard run by Pierce, Brown caught a five yard touchdown pass.

On this touchdown, Brown lined up an outside receiver and ran a simple slant route. Open by a couple of step, Flacco threw it to Brown who dove into the endzone for a touchdown.

Offensive Line
As an overall summary of the offensive line, they weren’t able to get much push in the run game, hence the 2.8 yards per carry on rushing attempts. Combined, they gave up two sacks and were called for zero penalties, which is something to be proud of as a unit.

Moving on to individuals, right tackle Michael Oher had a good day. Oher kept Paul Kruger from getting a quarterback hit, a big accomplishment considering that Oher was coming off a sprained ankle. He did give up a pressure on third and seven though, along with two other linemen, in what is best described as a combined failure. Lastly, he allowed Jabaal Sheard to hit Flacco as he threw, forcing an incompletion.

Right guard Marshal Yanda and center Gino Gradkowski both had quite days, a good thing for offensive linemen. They were the only two linemen not involved in the combined failure on the one play.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele allowed a sack along with left tackle Bryant McKinnie, so both get credited with half of a sack there. McKinnie was beaten on a speed rush by Browns rookie Barkevious Mingo for a sack early in the game.

Terrell Suggs
Of all the Ravens’ defenders, Suggs was the one getting the most pressure on Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. Despite going up against All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, Suggs was getting into the backfield all day long, recording six tackles, one sack, and three quarterbacks hits. The box score doesn’t tell the whole story though.

Starting with run defense, Suggs have a run stop after a gain of three yards when the Browns where inside the Ravens’ 10-yardline on their first drive. On a second and two, Suggs got into the backfield right away and blew up a run play. While he didn’t make the tackle, Josh Bynes did, Suggs did most of the work as he slowed Richardson down and effectively stopped the run in its tracks.

Moving on to pass rushing, as stated, Suggs had success against Thomas. On Suggs’ sack, he beat Thomas with a speed rush to the outside and forced Weeden to move up in the pocket. Arthur Jones then missed the sack and Suggs was able to make his way back around to take Weeden down for a loss of two. One the sack that Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown shared, Suggs also had pressure and ended up on top of Weeden with Smith and Brown. On a second and seven with seven seconds left in the first half, Suggs, along with Terrence Cody got instant pressure and forced Weeden to throw the ball away. With three minutes left in the game, the Browns had a forth and ten and Suggs was able to flush Jason Campbell (in for the injured Weeden) out of the pocket.

Elvis Dumervil
On the outside with Suggs is Dumervil and like Suggs, he also had a big game, recording four tackles, one sack, and three quarterback hits.

Not known for his run defense, Dumervil had a run stop, along with an assist from Daryl Smith, after a gain of two yards. Dumervil also assisted Haloti Ngata on a run stop for a short gain.

Dumervil gave Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz problems all game long with his speed rush. Unsurprisingly then, Dumervil’s sack came on a speed rush where Schwartz never got his hands on Dumervil until it was way to late. This sack occurred on third and ten from the Ravens’ 41-yardline and resulted in a loss of nine yards. Two plays earlier, on first down, Suggs recorded his sack, so Suggs and Dumervil stopped a Browns drive single-handed.

Daryl Smith
In a box score stuffing effort, Smith had a game-high 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two pass deflections, and two quarterback hits. His 1.5 sacks are a career high.

Daryl Smith

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Starting with pass coverage, Smith allowed four catches with two of them going for first downs. The two first downs came and a third and four (gain of 12) and a first and ten (gain of 12). The two other catches were when he was in coverage with James Ihedigbo where they stopped the receiver one yard short of the first down on third down and a first and ten where he gave up four yards. On a  second and 18, Smith deflected a pass. Later on in the game, he dropped an interception after Jimmy Smith tipped a pass right to him.

Smith was able to make up for this dropped interception by recording a sack two plays later on a third and ten for a loss of ten yards. Early in the game, Smith had a pressure on a blitz but overran Weeden and missed the sack. Another pressure came on a third and ten much later in the game where his pressure forced an incompletion. His half sack came on a third and four play on the first snap after the two minute warning in the first half. Along with Arthur Brown, Smith got to Weeden bringing him down for a loss of nine.

Moving to run defense, Smith assisted Dumervil on a run stop after a gain of two yards. On a toss play, Smith missed a tackle on Browns running back Trent Richardson. Smith had Richardson wrapped up for a gain of three yards but Richardson was able to escape, gaining four more yards.

After a poor outing against the Broncos, veteran Michael Huff was benched in favor of rookie Matt Elam at free safety and James Ihedigbo stayed put at strong safety. Elam ended the game with five tackles and Ihedigbo had two.

Starting off with Elam, he allowed two catches both going for first downs. The first of these catches came on the first defensive play of the game for the Ravens. Tight end Jordan Cameron ran deep and caught a 53-yard pass. Elam was playing a deep-middle zone and wasn’t able to get over in time to stop the pass. The other pass came on a second and six, giving up 21 yards to Cameron again. This pass was lofted between Elam and Daryl Smith who were both in zone coverage. On a third and seven, Elam was finally able to get the better of Cameron as Elam’s tight coverage forced an incompletion. Late in the game, Elam was called for one of the Ravens’ three penalties, a 21-yard pass interference call. For the most part this was a good first start for the rookie out of Florida.

Huff didn’t get much playing time due to Elam taking his starting spot, and most of this time came on special teams. The one time I did notice Huff on defense was the play were Elam was flagged for pass interference. On this play Huff dropped an interception, though it would have been called back due to the penally.

The first noteworthy play that Ihedigbo made was a pressure on a blitz coming around the right tackle. In coverage, Ihedigbo only allowed one reception and wasn’t really tested by the Browns during the game. In the second half, the Browns opened up with a couple of toss plays but Ihedigbo completely blew one of them up by blitzing to this side and getting deep into the backfield. He didn’t make the tackle but his penetration set the edge and forced Richardson back inside where a gang of Ravens were waiting to tackle him. This play ended up going for a three yard loss. On special teams he was flagged for a holding penalty while blocking for a punt. Not a punt return, a punt. Ihedigbo was beaten by the man he had to block so instead of risking having the punt blocked, he held him. This wasn’t that bad of a penalty as it saved a possible blocked punt.

Up last are the cornerbacks: Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, and Corey Graham. Webb paced the group with nine tackles followed by Graham with four tackles and Smith with three tackles and three pass deflections.

While a high tackle total from a cornerback usually means that they gave up many receptions, however, with Webb this is almost never the case. Webb is a rare cornerback who excels in both pass coverage and run defense. In this game, he only gave up three catches with two them going for first downs. The one that didn’t going for a first down was a gain of three on first and ten. The two that did go for first downs were a gain of 22 on second and nine (aided by a missed tackle by Webb) and an eight yard gain on second and seven. In the run game, Webb had a run stop for a gain of four yards and was involved in a couple of other tackles.

The most impressive game from a cornerback yesterday was by Smith. Against the Broncos, Smith gave up over 100 yards in coverage and one touchdown. This week saw Smith give up three catches with two of them for first downs. The two that went for first downs were a gain of 18 on a first and ten and he allowed a three yard gain on third and three, injuring himself in the process, missing only a few plays. The one completion that wasn’t a first down was a quick screen, not something that a cornerback can breakup when they are playing of the line-of-scrimmage. Smith did a great job on this play though as he came right up and slowed the receiver down enough for the rest of the defense to come over and stop the screen after a gain of three. One of his pass breakups went right to Daryl Smith but he dropped it. Another was on a corner route where Smith was able to jump up and bat the pass away before the receiver could catch it. The up-and-down play from Smith continues as he follows up a bad game with a great game. If he can cut down on the bad games, then him and Webb will form top cornerback tandem.

While Smith had a bad game against the Broncos, Graham had an awful game, causing Smith to actually get the start against the Browns. This game was pretty uneventful for Graham as he had one special teams tackle and allowed two passes to be completed against him. The first of which came on a third an eight and Graham was able to push the receiver out-of-bounds three yards short of the first down. The other reception went for a first down on a third and four where he allowed an eight yard catch. Both of these catches were on short crossing routes.

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