Offense Leads Ravens To Loss

Baltimore Ravens Observations
Torrey Smith

Well that was tough to watch. The Baltimore Ravens traveled to Buffalo to take on the Bills and the Bills outplayed them in all phases of the game, winning 23-20. With this loss, the Ravens are now 2-2 and the win from the Bills pushes them to 2-2 as well.

Despite some awful play, the Ravens were still in this game at the very end. However, they weren’t able to pull out the victory and they got the result that they deserved.

After only three turnovers through the first three games of the season, the Ravens turned the ball over five times yesterday. All five of these turnovers were interceptions thrown by quarterback Joe Flacco — a career high.

Down 20-7 at halftime, the Ravens clawed their way back into the game but in the end, the turnovers were too much to overcome as Flacco threw his last interception with one minute left in the game, sealing the victory for the Bills.

Usually I just look at individual players, but on certain occasions I’ll look at the offense or defense as a whole, and this seems like a good week to do that.

Looking at the offensive stats from Sunday’s game, it is easy to see how the Ravens lost. They had 345 total yards, with 321 coming in the air and only 24 on the ground. On third downs, the Ravens were a meager 3-of-16 (18.75 percent). In the turnover department, the Ravens had five and also gave up four sacks.

Starting with the lack of a running game, teams are a combined 1-56 since 2008 when they don’t rush on at least 20 percent of their plays. That is a winning percentage of .018. For the entire game, the Ravens ran the ball nine times, with only two of these coming in the second half. To put this in perspective, Flacco threw as many interceptions as running back Ray Rice had carries (5).

Torrey Smith

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Entering the game, the Bills’ run defense was tied for second worse in the league, giving up 155 yards per game. And the Ravens ran the ball nine times for 24 yards. The Ravens tried to run the ball but they had no success so they completely abandoned it.

The Bills defense was also weak in the secondary for this game as they were missing four players, three of whom are starters. This makes Flacco’s five interceptions even more ridiculous.

Things were bad from the start for the Ravens as the offense committed three penalties on its opening drive. Pre-game, they found out that wide receiver Brandon Stokley wasn’t going to be able to play due to a groin injury.

Overall, the showing from the offense was subpar as all around, nobody did their job (except for Torrey Smith). The offensive line couldn’t block, Flacco made bad decisions, and the receivers couldn’t catch.

Now, on to the defense, where the play was better (though that isn’t exactly saying much).

The main problem that the defense suffered was in run defense. Totaling 203 rushing yards on 55 attempts, the Bills ran all over the Ravens. While the yards per carry average is just 3.7, he Bills still had over 200 yards rushing, something the Ravens defense shouldn’t be giving up, especially with all of the upgrades that were made on this side of the ball in the offseason.

The Bills were able to have success running the ball against the Ravens because they were able to get offensive linemen to the next level. Their offensive linemen won one-on-one blocks with the Ravens defensive linemen, allowing the rest of the line to get to the linebackers, taking them out of the play.

For example, the Bills would double team nose tackle Haloti Ngata with the center and backside guard and single block the backside defensive end with their tackle leaving the outside linebacker unblocked. On the side they would run to, the guard would head for the middle linebacker and the tackle took on the Ravens’ end one-on-one. A tight end would take care of the other outside linebacker and he fullback would lead the running back through an open hole, hitting the first defender to show themselves.

Because the Bills offensive line was able to win blocks one-on-one, they were able to run the ball on the Ravens.

Throughout the game, Ngata and outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil were nonexistent. The box score gives Ngata four tackles and Dumervil three but I honestly can’t remember any of those plays. These two had a game to forget against the Bills.

Joe Flacco
I’ve already stated the obvious — that Flacco threw five interceptions — so, lets look at the obvious then.

The first of the five interceptions came on a third and seven. Flacco tried to throw an out route to receiver Tandon Doss but Flacco misread the zone that the Bills were playing. He never saw cornerback Aaron Williams who made the interception.

Moving to the second interception, this one came on a first and 20. Flacco threw a good pass to tight end Ed Dickson and it bounced right off of his hands to Jim Leonhard who intercepted it. This interception isn’t Flacco’s fault as he threw it perfectly to Dickson. This drop marks the sixth drop for Dickson in four games this season.

On the third interception, Flacco threw it to Williams again. On a third and 11 from the Buffalo 19-yard line, Flacco tried to hit Smith on a corner route in the end zone but he under-threw the pass. Flacco took a big hit right after he threw the ball, forcing the short pass. What Flacco should have done is either taken the sack or thrown the ball away. He took three points off the board for the Ravens in a game that was lost by three.

The fourth interception came on a first and 10 from the Buffalo 46-yard line. This one falls on Flacco as he again misread the Bills zone. The Ravens ran short crossing routes that met in the middle of the field and Flacco expected linebacker Kiko Alonso — playing zone — to follow Doss on his route but instead, he followed Marlon Brown. Flacco threw the ball the Brown, not expecting Alonso to be there. The pass went right to Alonso and the Bills had their fourth interception.

For Flacco’s last interception, Alonso made a great diving catch. It was third and eight from the Buffalo 48-yard line with just over one minute left in the game. Flacco tried to hit tight end Dallas Clark on a pass in the middle of the field, but safety Da’Norris Searcy deflected the pass and Alonso dove to make the interception. While Flacco probably shouldn’t have thrown the pass, it took an outstanding play from Alonso to intercept it.

On another occasion, Flacco had an interception dropped. On this play, Flacco threw behind his receiver and the Bills defender dropped the pass.

Despite how Flacco played, the performance of the offense can’t be fully placed on Flacco. The offensive line (see below) allowed constant pressure on Flacco all game long, there was no run game to speak of, and the only weapon that Flacco had to throw to was Smith.

Torrey Smith
There was one lone bright spot for the Ravens on offense this week, and that was Smith, who had a career day.

With 166 yards on five catches with one touchdown, Smith had a career high in receiving yards and his 166 yards are the third most receiving yards in a single game in Ravens’ history.

The four catches that Smith didn’t get touchdowns on all went for first downs. First off, was a gain of 23 on a first and 10 play with about 18 of these yards coming after the catch as he caught a short crossing route and showed off his speed. On a second and six, Smith ran another short crossing route and gained 22 yards. He was brought down via a horse-collar tackle, adding 15 yards to the end of the play. The ensuing play, Smith scored his touchdown. On the first play after an interception by Corey Graham, Smith beat Williams deep on a post and gained 74 yards, putting the ball at the Buffalo 17, setting up a Ravens’ field goal. The last of his first down catches came on a third and 18 on the Ravens’ final drive. Smith ran another post route and was able to gain 21 yards.

On his touchdown catch, Smith ran a post route. The Bills sent a blitz which left the cornerback in man coverage on Smith. Smith beat this cornerback to the inside and scored easily from 26 yards out.

Overall, Smith was the only Ravens’ offensive player who played well. WIth this performance he has officially become a legitimate number one receiving target.

Offensive Line
Allowing four sacks, 12 quarterback hits, and zero run lanes, the Ravens’ offensive line had a dreadful outing.

Throughout the game, there were too many Bills players getting into the backfield unblocked. This can happen for a variety of reason: there aren’t enough blockers in to protect, a lineman can miss his block, there could be a miscommunication between linemen, or the linemen didn’t expect the player to blitz.

In the end, this usually comes down to the quarterback and the center (Gino Gradkowksi). These two need to communicate and point out blitzers and blocking assignments. When Gradkowski doesn’t do this job correctly, blitzers can easily run through the line unblocked.

An example of a play like comes on a second and three. Bills’ linebacker Manny Lawson came off the edge untouched and sacked Flacco for a loss of eight. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie blocked the guy that was in front of him so he couldn’t get to Lawson. Running back Bernard Pierce was in the backfield on this side but he stepped up to block the middle of the line — where he wasn’t needed. Now I don’t know who is at fault for this play (I expect multiple players are) but things like this need to be corrected now if the Ravens want to have an effective offense.

Moving to specifics for players, right tackle Michael Oher gave up a sack when Marcell Dareus powered past him on a third and 10 for a loss of eight. This forced the Ravens to punt from their own two-yard line.

Right guard Marshal Yanda had a rare off day. He was called for two penalties, a false start and a holding. You know the Ravens’ offensive line is having a bad game when Yanda gets called for one penalty, let alone two.

I’ve already touched on the communication element for Gradkowski but he also gave up a bad pressure and a sack. His pressure forced Flacco to throw before he wanted to on third down causing an incompletion which made the Ravens settle for a field goal. The sack that Gradkowski gave up came on a first and 10 where he got bull-rushed by Dareus for a loss of eight. This was the first play of the Ravens’ last drive and set them off on the wrong foot. Gradkowski’s lack of size really has hurt him so far this season as he is getting pushed off of the line by more powerful defensive linemen.

Left guard Kelechi Osemele was called for two penalties as well. The first of which came on the first play of the game. He was called for a facemask penalty. His other penalty was actually declined but is so bad that it deserves mention. Osemele was called for an illegal formation penalty. He wasn’t on the line-of-scrimmage like the other linemen. He was off the line a little bit. How do you even do that as a guard? Wouldn’t you notice that you were behind the tackle?

McKinnie wasn’t flagged for any penalties or give up a sack, but that doesn’t mean he had a good day as he gave up some pressures as well.

Arthur Jones
Jones seemed to be the only defensive linemen making any plays against the run this week. Playing defensive end, he recorded eight tackles with one for a loss. I have him down for five run stops (though this includes shared ones). His run stops include gains of -2, 0, 1, 1, and 2. Even with these plays, Jones got pushed around a bit in the run.

In the pass rushing department, he offered little but then again, the Bills only dropped back to pass 24 times.

Chris Canty
Speaking of pass rushing, Canty had the biggest play by a Ravens’ defensive player rushing the passer yesterday.

On a second and 14, Canty beat left tackle Cordy Glenn to the outside and chased down quarterback E.J. Manuel who was starting to scramble. Canty’s sack was able to knock the ball loose and rookie Brandon Williams recovered, giving the Ravens the ball at the Buffalo 27-yard line. A few plays later, Flacco hit Brown for a 10-yard touchdown pass.

This play seemed to be a big momentum changer at the time as it gave the Ravens’ a 7-6 lead (with the following plays) and the momentum switched to the Ravens. It looked like for the second straight week, the defense would spark the offense but Manuel was able to lead a touchdown drive soon after and the Bills defense stopped the Ravens from doing much with the ball.

Canty also was able to record one run stop which went for no gain. He finished the day with five tackles.

Terrell Suggs
The one Ravens’ defensive player who was all over the field on Sunday was Suggs

By all over the field, I mean all over the field as Suggs had 17 tackles, one sack, and three quarterback hits. Five of these tackles were run stops for short gains of 1, 2, 2, 2, and 3. For the most part, his backside pursuit was good when the Bills ran away from him (probably a good idea) but the Bills were able to catch him over-pusuing with an end-around.

Terrell Suggs

Courtesy of ICON SMI

For only the second time in his career, Suggs has recorded a full sack in four straight games. The last time he did this was his first four games of his career back in 2003 when he was a rookie. On his sack, Suggs’ spun away from the right tackle and was able to catch Manuel just as he started to scramble for a loss of two. This forced the Bills to kick a field goal as it was third and three from the Ravens’ 10-yard line.

On a second a 12 play, Suggs had pressure which forced Manuel to miss a wide-open Stevie Johnson. Johnson had an easy touchdown but Manuel threw the ball out-of-bounds due to Suggs’ pressure and right after Manuel released the ball, Suggs hit him hard. Suggs actually injured himself on the play but came back quickly.

Suggs was able to draw a holding penalty on Glenn as Suggs beat him with a bull rush right off the snap. Glenn Suggs and took him to the ground to try and avoid giving up the sack.

On the negative side, Suggs was whistled for two penalties. The first was an offsides which was declined due to the Bills gaining 28 yards on the play. The other penalty was for unnecessary roughness where Suggs tackled Manuel on a kneel down play. Manuel wasn’t kneeing the ball right away — trying to run extra time off the clock — so Suggs tried to hit him and force a fumble it didn’t work out like that. Suggs hit Manuel as he was going down and knocked Manuel’s helmet off. This penalty didn’t kill the Ravens chances of winning the game as they would have gotten the ball back with about five second left (and that isn’t even counting a possible return on the punt).

As you can see, Suggs was all over the place for the Ravens’ in their loss. He was stout in the run game and forced pressure in the passing game.

Daryl Smith
For the second straight week, Smith recorded an interception. This time though, he wasn’t able to bring it back for a touchdown.

On the play — a third and eight — Johnson had the pass go right off his hands and Smith happened to be there to capitalize on the mistake.

In other coverage, he allowed one catch for one first down. It was a third and two and Smith let a tight end, who ran a short crossing route, gain 14 yards.

In run defense, the Bills were able to get linemen on him often, taking him out of the play. A perfect example of this comes on Fred Jackson’s touchdown run as Smith was taken completely out of the play by a lineman.

For the day, Smith was second on the Ravens with 12 tackles and had one pass deflection to go along with his interception.

This was a solid day for the Ravens’ cornerbacks as the Bills were content to run the ball for most of the game.

Number one cornerback Lardarius Webb left the game after the first quarter with a thigh injury and never returned. He is expected to be good for next week though we will have to wait and see. Before he left, he allowed two catches, both going for first downs, and made one tackle.

With Webb out, Jimmy Smith became the number one cornerback and he did a good job of shutting down Johnson who only had one catch for negative one yard (and that was against Graham). Smith gave up one catch for a gain of 11 yards and was called for pass interference giving the Bills about eight yards there. He recorded five tackles.

A Buffalo native, Graham had a good day on his homecoming of sorts. He allowed two catches for 41 yards. The first was a 42-yard touchdown pass to rookie Robert Woods where Graham received no safety help over the top as Matt Elam followed a crossing route. The other pass was the aforementioned one to Johnson for negative one yard, which came on a screen.

Graham was able to record an interception on a deep pass that Manuel under-threw in the fourth quarter. This gave the Ravens the ball at their own 9-yard line and led to a field goal.

Due to Webb’s injury Chykie Brown saw his first extended defensive action as he came in with the nickel package once Webb left. In coverage Brown allowed one catch for a gain of nine and a first down. He also dropped an interception on another under-thrown deep pass by Manuel. On special teams, Brown missed two tackles on punts. Both of these occurred when he was the first player down the field in coverage, coming from his gunner spot.

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