Ravens Can Win a 60-Minute Battle
There is a lot more that I’ll get into but let me start by saying this.
The Patriots haven’t had to play four quarters of football in 2019. There was one game that they were taken to the brink and it was against Buffalo in week 4. Seems like ages ago. Mind you, New England never once trailed in the game, but took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter when Bills QB Josh Allen had to leave due to injury. Enter Matt Barkley. He did exactly what you think Matt Barkley would do and that is turn the ball over on downs with a near interception on 4th down. Then actually throw an interception to seal the loss for the Bills.
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Number 12, in that Bills matchup, on three, fourth quarter drives holding a six-point lead and looking to extend it, or eat up the clock:
Three and out.
Three and out.
Five and out with a first down carry by Sony Michel.
Not exactly the stuff of legends, eh?
If the Ravens make the Patriots play 60 minutes of football, or more, they can win this game. Lamar Jackson isn’t Matt Barkley and the Patriots have cruise control set.
Almost every game the Patriots have played has been decided before four fingers go up. They have been able to check out after 45 minutes. Time to change that. Make them feel like they want to check out before it’s over like they are used to, but they can’t. Make them fatigued past the points the are used to being fatigued, and then finish them off. Make this a sprint where you keep pace with them for 45 minutes, then blow by them at the end when they have nothing left.
If the Ravens come out flat, slow, and the Pats sprint out to their usual leads, the Ravens may not have time to catch up. The Ravens need to be able to go hard for 60 minutes because the Patriots can only go hard for 45. That last 15 is where you beat them.
That brings me to my first point of emphasis in exposing the Patriots. Being able to hit #12 with a four-man rush.
If you don’t pressure 12, his adjusted completion % (Accounting for drops and spikes) is 82.9% and racks up 8.4 yard per attempt. He owns you. If you blitz 12, he finds an outlet somewhere with an adj% of 75.6%, and 8.5 Y/A. His field scanning ability is elite. He’ll find the guy with a short quick pass in the spot vacated by a blitzing LB or DB.
The key is a four-man rush that hits 12 in the mouth over and over again. It would be in the 4th quarter when the lackluster O-line the Pats are sporting isn’t ready to go for a full 60, and the Ravens can take advantage. This could be vital to swinging the pendulum back into the Ravens favor.
On a four-man or less rush when 12 feels pressure… adj% 53.6%, 4.1 Y/A. Makes sense considering on a four-man rush, all receivers should be accounted for. The gap is not nearly as wide for Lamar Jackson whose adj% is 75% and drops only to 67.4% when pressured by a four-man or less rush. Patrick Mahomes, Russ Wilson, Aaron Rodgers don’t have as big a gap either when facing pressure from a base rush package. This is clearly a Pats QB 12 issue and an area the Ravens should look to exploit.
Can they exploit it though? Elite pass rushers will pressure the quarterback on 10% or more of the passing rush assignments they have. For example, Nick Bosa is killing it with a league best 13.2 pass rush productivity from defensive line and edge rushers. Anything over 9.0 is still good. Puts you in the top 25. Unfortunately, the Ravens have no one in the front seven that has posted close to that. Matt Judon leads the team with a 7.5 mark. Tyus Bowser – 6.0. Jaylon Ferguson – 6.5. Chris Wormley – 3.4. Michael Pierce – 2.9, Brandon Williams – 1.8. The eye test has told us the pass rush hasn’t been great this year. This just reinforces it.
Second point of emphasis. Watch out for the tricky stuff. The Patriots have a deep bag of tricks and aren’t afraid to dig into them. They have run 14 jet sweeps, reverses, or end arounds this year. This is by far the most any team has run as a couple teams are in the 6-7 range, some in the 2-5 range. A good handful don’t even bother. Math would suggest the Pats would go to this well twice a game. Considering they only play 45 minutes; they might resort to some trickery late in the game if necessary. Do not let Julian Edleman throw a complete pass. I’d say there is a 50/50 chance we see that on Sunday night. Flea flicker as well. We see it often with them.
It’s going to be hard to not be over-anxious as a defense wanting to make a statement at home. It’s going to be hard to just contain instead of going for the throat when you want to punch the 8-0 bully in your house. But you have to keep your assignments. DBs have to be disciplined enough to remain in coverage when they see the end around coming and not cheat down. Teams resort to some of this stuff when the traditional game plan isn’t working, or they want to show you something you don’t have on tape. Ravens, the Patriots have this on tape and it’s safe to say their game plan goes quite well for them quite often. Do not get fooled by the foolery.
Third point of emphasis. Jamie Collins has the seven sacks for the Patriots. But it’s Kyle Van Noy who has the 31 pressures, nearly four per game. That can’t happen. As mentioned before with PRP, Van Noy sports a nice 9.5.
The pass blocking grades of the teams the Patriots have faced are:
PIT: 4th, MIA (twice): 32nd, NYJ: 27th, BUF: 15th, WAS: 25th, NYG: 15th, CLE: 21st.
Run blocking grades of those teams:
PIT: 10th, MIA (twice): 32nd, NYJ: 30th, BUF: 8th, WAS: 13th, NYG: 19th, CLE: 21st.
The Ravens grade out 1st in pass blocking and 7th in run blocking. It will be head and shoulders the toughest test the New England edge rushers and front seven have faced this year. Buffalo, who compares to the Ravens in run blocking grades, rushed for 6.1 YPC on 22 totes in their meeting. The best pass blocking unit they faced, Pittsburgh, allowed three hits and one sack of Ben Roethlisberger. Tolerable, to say the least.
Of course, in the Ravens case, the x-factor in all this is Lamar Jackson. Van Noy could hurry him 10 times, and each time, Jackson could escape and pick up positive yardage. Yardage in big chunks sometimes.
Next, we’ll look at two Pats corners, Jason McCourty and Stephon Gilmore. You have to throw the ball at some point. Devin McCourty is dangerous, but brother Jason can be had.
Jason grades out higher than Gilmore on PFF. The weak QBs the Patriots have faced to this point have limited the yardage allowed numbers from these guys. But here are a few numbers:
Jason McCourty. PFF Coverage Grade of 82.6. Hasn’t had a pass break up since week 1, where he had three. He saw an outlier 11 targets his way in week 1 as well where he allowed four receptions. Otherwise teams avoid him as he’s targeted only six time in his next most attentive outing. He’s allowed 24 catches on 42 targets (57.1%) Take that 11 targets game away and teams have thrown his way 31 times, completing 20 of them (64.5%) Again, with no pass breakups. 20 catches on 31 targets. Two out of three balls thrown his way and you are having positive results.
Stephon Gilmore: PFF Coverage Grade of 73.1. Has seven pass break ups spread out over three games of the eight so far. Teams target Gilmore 52 times to the tune of 24 catches (46.2%) and 3 interceptions. Even if you take away an outlier game for him, where he had four pass breakups on eight targets with two catches, still a 44 target, 22 catches allowed mark (50%). Less than half the time you throw at the lower rated Gilmore, you have positive results, and sometimes he will make you pay.
Finally, it’s been pointed out how the Patriots haven’t played anyone of note this season. They haven’t faced Lamar Jackson yet, and world will want to see if defensive wiz, Bill Belichick, can slow the young man down. How has he done against similar style QBs?
2018: Deshaun Watson – 16.4 QBR, 8 carries/40 yards
2017: Deshaun Watson – 53.4 QBR, 8/41. Cam Newton – 88.9 QBR, 8/44/1 TD. Tyrod Taylor – 34.7 QBR, 3/32. Tyrod Taylor – 32.5 QBR, 3/16
2016: Tyrod Taylor – 65.7 QBR, 5/28. Tyrod Taylor – 55.4 QBR, 5/48/1 TD. Russell Wilson – 87.3 QBR, 3/6. Colin Kaepernick – 27.3 QBR, 4/32
2015: Tyrod Taylor – 40.6 QBR, 5/43/1 TD. Tyrod Taylor – 35.8 QBR, 3/1
2014: Russell Wilson – 93 QBR, 3/39
2013: Cam Newton – 93 QBR, 7/62
2012: Colin Kaepernick – 52.2 QBR, 7/28. Russell Wilson – 94.2 QBR, 5/17
This list tells me one thing. There really isn’t anyone like Lamar Jackson. All these dual threat quarterbacks that faced the Patriots. Their mobility really wasn’t utilized as much as Jackson likes to use his. This year he is averaging 12 rushes for over 82 yards, and a QBR of 70.9.
Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton with an eight spot in rushing attempts in recent years against the Patriots was the high for QBs against them. Will eight be all Jackson gets this week? Will he get his 12 that he’s averaging? Will he go over 80 yards and be the game changer that comes with a line like that, or will the carries result in minimal gains because Belichick figured something out? It does look like if you go back a few years that when a QB has a great year, they weren’t slowed by the Patriots in their matchup. That bodes well for Jackson who is the lifeblood of this offense and the apple of everyone’s eye right now.
To wrap this up, the 8-0 Patriots aren’t flawless. It is very hard to go undefeated in the NFL. The Ravens have the advantage of not facing them in Gillette Stadium where they have to have three coaches giving signals because the communications are tapped into. The don’t have microphones hidden in offices making you speak in code in team meetings. You don’t have to watch what you say around the janitor. I feel like you know what to expect from the Patriots. A heavy dose of running, and short passes from 12. I feel like you know what to expect from the Ravens, except for one guy. If the Patriots contain Lamar Jackson, might be a long night.
If Jackson is able to be “Action Jackson”, this will be a 60-minute game. I don’t think the Pats are ready to go the distance. Muscle memory might click New England into cruise control come the fourth quarter, while the Ravens are ready to hit the nitrous boost.
Mike was born on the Eastern Shore, raised in Finksburg, and currently resides in Parkville. In 2009, Mike graduated from the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland. Mike became a Baltimore City Fire Fighter in late 2010. Mike has appeared as a guest on Q1370, and FOX45. Now a Sr. Ravens Analyst for BSL, he can be reached at [email protected]