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By: Jim Zipcode
Ravens Pass-Catchers Through 10 Games
When you open the game with a touchdown off a pick-6; when you take a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game; when you later recover a muffed punt at around the opponent’s 10-yard-line and convert the turnover into a touchdown; when you take a 31-17 lead in the fourth quarter: you are supposed to win the game.
I thought the Browns coaching staff coaching staff did a nice job, down 14-0, of focusing on their game plan. It would have been very easy to panic in that situation and start throwing all over the yard. Instead, they leveraged their strength on both lines, and on offense they pounded the ball inside. At the half the Browns already had 99 yards rushing on 5.5 yards-per. The Ravens actually did a slightly better job containing the Browns rushing game in the second half – 4.4 yds-per-carry – though it didn’t seem like it. But Deshaun Watson woke up. He was a cool 14-for-14 for 134 yards in the second half. Impressive. Especially considering he’s now done for the year.
The Ravens still could have pulled out this game, if they had been able to do anything on offense in the 4th quarter. Specifically they needed to execute something like a 4-minute offense. Usually we talk about a 2–minute offense. Everyone has known about the 2-min drill since Johnny Unitas in ’58. A 2–minute drill occurs when the team on offense is down and needs a quick score to win or tie. A 4–minute offense is almost exactly the opposite. The 4–minute offense is run when the team has the lead, and needs to drain the clock to keep the ball away from the other team and preserve the win. Tom Brady was the absolute master of the 4-minute offense. He seemed to take a sadistic glee in completing a 4-yd pass on 3rd-&-3 to keep the chains moving and the clock running.
The Ravens took the field with about nine minutes remaining in the game, up a touchdown. A time-consuming drive for a field goal would have iced the game. But the Ravens O-line could not control the Browns pass rushers. Look how high Ogbonnia Okoronkwo gets to fill the passing lane on the pick-6:
Usually O-linemen work to control the chest or shoulders of the pass rusher. One of the things that does is impede the defender’s ability to jump. By the way, notice how Za’Darius Smith has beaten the left tackle on the other side. If Lamar doesn’t throw this ball, the play is possibly a sack-fumble. Smith played out of his mind the last two drives of the game.
After the defensive touchdown, the Ravens take the field with a little over eight minutes remaining, and still with the lead. The situation is basically the same: a time-eating drive for a field goal wins it. They get one first down, on a sweet route run by Zay Flowers. And then on first down Lamar faces this:
On the right side, Smith has flattened Patrick Mekari and has a clean shot. In the middle, Shelby Harris has thrown Tyler Linderbaum to the ground like a rag doll and is running through John Simpson’s arm tackle straight for the quarterback. This is not how you give your QB a chance to make a play. Lamar escapes, because of course he does:
But think how many quarterbacks would get swallowed up in this situation without any chance to get a pass off. It’s a shame Lamar didn’t have a pocket, because there are receivers open:
Zay Flowers has eaten his defender’s lunch and has a clear touchdown down the left numbers. Rashod Bateman has a step on his defender down the right sideline, and a drop into the bucket can score here too (tougher throw). Nelson Agholor sees a lot of green space as he runs the crosser, and he has an easy first down if Lamar is able to throw it at the top of his drop. In the end that’s who the ball goes to. Look how perfectly placed the ball is:
That’s not a drop. The picture is blurry; the defender is stopping Agholor from getting his right arm up to help secure the ball. An outfielder could make this catch on the warning track, but they don’t make baseball gloves big enough for this.
The interior OL failed to hold up on the blocked field goal just before the 2-minute warning in the first half:
Does anyone epitomize “Big for Nuthin” like Ben Cleveland? https://t.co/miRjNvs1Fg
— Russell St. Report (@RussellStReport) November 13, 2023
Three key plays where blocking could have made the defense. The Browns front was tremendous on Sunday.
Jim, you must think Lamar is Teflon-coated! Pick-6 at the critical moment of the 4th quarter, and you’re blaming the O-line?? C’mon!
Hey, I’m just calling those two pass plays like I see ‘em. We don’t usually blame the quarterback when a pass rusher deflects a pass. What’s the rationale for starting now? If you want to see me blame Lamar for something, look at this awful horrible no-good throw toward Bateman:
One of the most bizarre throws I’ve seen Lamar. pic.twitter.com/QJQK03ZKCF
— Cole Jackson (@ColeJacksonFB) November 13, 2023
Egad. Brutal. Underthrown and inside when the defender has inside leverage.
It initially looked like a miscommunication between Lamar Jackson and Rashod Bateman on the Q2 INT, but Lamar said it was all on him. “I got to put more power and velocity on that ball. It was an under-thrown pass.”
— Sarah Ellison (@sgellison) November 12, 2023
Lamar has got to start making better throws on those sideline shots. They’re open, but the ball isn’t getting where it needs to be. It’s the missing piece of the puzzle on offense this season. (Unless depth at Offensive Tackle turns out to be the missing piece.)
It’s Officially Time to Worry About
Depth at Offensive Tackle. I’m holding my breath for Thursday.
Why do the Ravens Collapse on Cefense in the 4th Quarter So Often? Are They Sawft?
This isn’t a column about defense, thankfully. Aaron Schatz has an interesting writeup this week about this season’s Ravens in the 4th quarter, which you can read here. One interesting takeaway is that it wasn’t as bad last year and the year before as our memory paints. But the statistics are strange this year.
There’s a weird point to make about the Ravens blowing a double-digit lead in each of their last several losses with Lamar. If that is what’s happened, it means that in all of Lamar’s starts the last couple years, the Ravens have either won or taken a big lead. Teams get blown out in games sometimes, or have a game that they’re never competitive in. That’s not what we’re seeing with Lamar’s Ravens. If the Ravens had been dominated start-to-finish on Sunday, we’re not trying to point fingers for a defensive “collapse.” But would that really have been better?
I don’t know what to think about all that. I do know that in pretty much every recent game that was lost to a 4th quarter “collapse,” the offense failed to generate that one decent 4th quarter drive that would have stabilized the scoring margin and kept control of the game. (Maybe not the one in Jacksonville.) The NFL wants games to be decided in the 4th, like NBA games. Your offense has to be ready to play sharp and execute under pressure in that 4th quarter.
These stats look better than the game film, because sacks and forced-to-scramble don’t show here.
Nice bounceback game for Zay Flowers, after a couple tough outings. Bateman made a couple nice snags early. And, hello Odell!
Keaton Mitchell triggers the Successful Screen Pass alert! That one’s rarely been sounded in recent years. Man, he looks electric. Brings a whole different vibe to the offense, the lightning to Gus Edwards‘ thunder. I assume he’s only going to get ramped up as the season enters the stretch run. He could prove to be the difference-maker.
Here are the full-season stats to date:
No time for a full leaderboard this week, but the Ravens offense is 8th in points-per-drive, 10th in scoring percentage, and 5th in points-per-game. DVOA rates them the #5 offense.
Next Up: Quick turnaround! Ravens host the Bengals on Thursday Night Football in Baltimore!
Tony Kornheiser said on PTI that he thinks Thursday night is an elimination game for Cincinnati. His point is this: if Cincy loses, they will be 5-5 with three losses in the division and five losses in-conference. That would not only put them behind all the playoff leaders in the standings, but they’d also lose basically every tiebreaker. It would be crippling.
So they will come out scrapping & clawing. Think of every cliché you know about cornered & wounded animals. They’ll give Baltimore everything they have. The Ravens need to match that intensity.
The post Four-Minute Offense Could Have Saved Ravens from Latest Collapse appeared first on Russell Street Report.
Originally posted on Russell Street Report