Reviewing The Ravens Designed Passing Plays Vs. Pittsburgh
There has been some extensive conversations about Roman play design vs Jackson’s decision making the past few weeks. So I took a look at the design of all the designed passing plays (including sacks and rushes from Lamar) during the 1st half against Pittsburgh this past week.
The first snap used RB motion to put the LB in check, I liked that but if we’re criticizing Roman that’s 4 guys bunched up on the right side (in red). There aren’t a lot of windows for an easy throw. Boyle and Brown are on top of each other. It’s worth noting that Snead has a LB on him and is about to break away from him on this screen shot at the 50.
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You’ve got a Cover-2 coverage of some kind here and there are no windows for Lamar to throw into. I’d put this play as unsuccessful due to play design more than Lamar.
Let me tell you how much I hated the 1st down play here…everyone is between the numbers. There is a trend that starts on this play where you start to see Pitt lean heavy (6 defenders) on the weakside of the formation. This comes up later. This ultimately is a run but yeah, you’re running into 10 in the box, stunning that doesn’t work.
The next on is on Lamar. Lamar needs to key on 26 and know he’s got an open man underneath by play design. I also noted over the middle Snead is on a LB again. Seems as though the Steelers are content in that play design. This should be something the Ravens specifically attack when they need a big conversion later, let’s see if they do. It’s also worth nothing, again Pitt is in Cover 2 over the top.
Paging Cam Cameron. This was basically two curl routes both right next to each other. I think Snead is also most supposed to be in a curl but he never wins inside leverage. I also have no idea what Fitzpatrick is doing here. He runs back to that spot where he turns around right from the snap. He was supposed to be the robber. Because the Steelers go into single high here and he’s got another S right behind him. The play works but I hate that design. Up to this point, that’s 3 plays I don’t like from Roman, which is not great when you’re supposed to be relatively scripted.
The next play is the pass to Brown that got tipped. He had a step and Lamar needs to lead him. That’s a good play design and bad execution. BUT this is also a play where you need to be able to audible. There are 5 defenders to the left of RG. There are 6 blockers if you include the C. If you pull the RG, there are 7. Oh and you’ve got Lamar. So what do we do? We pass…I’m not going to put a lack of audibles on either Roman or Lamar because maybe they can’t handle it but these are obvious running advantages.
Ok this was also a classic Cam Cameron call. The red is what happened. You’ve got three verticals on the right. Andrews in the left slot is trying to go deep and then come back under the middle. What I really don’t like about this play is Andrews. He starts to run that seam deep the outside. Look at that green circle. Every single player on the inside should be pressing for inside leverage (or one guy should be). No one is in the middle of the field. Now Andrews tries to work his way back and he beats Barron for the hold. But that’s a lot of work and only one route basically coming open here against the exact same coverage from Pitt.
In yellow is what I would have done. Pitt, again, in Cover 2 shell and a match up zone or man. You’re putting 5 guys in routes. Open up two reads here! Put Andrews into the deep post (attacking the safeties if he can beat his man. Run a drag or an in underneath that. Then you’ve got a high low play. It can also be a slat and stop, so you’ve got two levels. It’s 1st and 20, you don’t need 12 yards on this play. This one is on Roman.
We’ve been saying that Seth Roberts is here to block…he misses the call and is running a route where he’s trying to flash as a receiver. Snead is already blocking his guy. What makes me think he’s not RPO option is that he never looks at Lamar. So he knows he’s ultimately going to block. This is the dumbest RPO play design if that’s what this I supposed to be. But Roberts lets his defender get on his outside hip, stops and then tries to block him to the inside. Guess what…that CB runs Lamar out of bounds. If he properly blocks his guy, that’s a TD. They ultimately score, but that’s a huge blown play for Roberts, IMO. And a negative if we’re labeling him as a run blocker. This is isn’t on Roman or Lamar, IMO.
If you’re playing Madden you drool about plays like this. You line up and there are 5 defense men on one side matched up against 2 eligible receivers. And the RB likely is going to go to the play action side of the formation or run to the left side of this formation. This should be a quick snap, off tackle run with a QB keeper option. Period. That’s a touch down 10 times out of 10. Count the hats, run the snap.
Now the Ravens motion Brown on this play which is marked but you’ve still got a man to man blocking formation across the board with the red matchup of Edwards holding the ILB on play action. Lamar will easily have 3 alleys to choose from here. RPO, run, TD. What do they do? Play action pass, that’s obvious from the start, look at the blockers feet below in red. Fire out the OL into the DL, don’t go three yards. That will suck the LB and safety in most likely and Andrews is wide open. Pass block when you want to run it and run block when you want to pass it if you’re going to use these formations. The reason that no one is following Brown or bites on Edwards is the OL. This play was wrong on so many levels. If the audibles are built in that’s on Lamar, if they aren’t that’s on Roman.
I actually like the next play call. It’s a little play action release to the RB. The Ravens get three guys on the left side of the field not covering anyone. If Ingram can beat 92 he’s got a lot of space. But Ingram kind of dodges him, you can see the side step being set up right there. Realistically, you want him to engage and chip and then release. Ingram has to know there is no one else there, with Boyle inside of him. Again, this is hard to judge, the play design seems there. The execution is not.
This is on Roman again. The Steelers show Cover 2 (in green), again(!) and play it. Why are you running double ins on the left side? I don’t mind the outside drag, I think that’s Brown, he’s running open. But he’s running right into another route! Run a deep post! Also, first awful call of the game by the refs. That black line, that’s 3 yards down field. This play had an illegal man downfield call. That’s egregiously bad by the refs Brown is clearly not illegally down field, it’s incomplete because of the bad design though.
Finally! A little high-low! Cover 2 again. And they still aren’t attacking the safeties deep on that in the middle of the field. This is a great play call and they should have done something like this on the 1st and 20 earlier. Good execution.
The next one is another great call. Wheel route to Brown in motion. Deep Post from the outside WR. Crosser underneath for high low. Now it’s 2nd and 7 here, so Jackson makes the right read, Hurst is open. BUT. They’ve got the combo they want deep. Brown is going to blow by that LB deep and that S is probably going to come up to get Hurst no matter what (he makes the tackle). And Lamar is going to have a deep ball available to him to either Brown or Boykin who is going to get behind the other deep safety if he runs to the post. This is a first down but this is a great play design and Lamar botches the rad by rushing the throw.
I hate this call on so many levels. Presnap. What do you see? 5 guys all to one side. This was a theme, Harbaugh says, oh they showed a lot of looks but I’m seeing a lot of the same presnap reads You’ve got 4 blockers on the 4 guys less than 13 yards from the line of scrimmage and a safety dropped all the way back. There’s has be an audible there for a show deep Cover 2 to run off tackle wide of the hash, we saw this earlier in the red zone, it’s the exact same call. Make it an play action/keeper option and that’s got 10+ yards written all over it.
What do we get instead, two routes run right on top of each other again on the out and the comeback.
Next play, what defense are the Steelers in? Cover 2! Shocker! Now we get the high how attacking deep middle. Andrews is open but Hollywood is open deep. But why is Roberts stopping on this route at the bottom of the screen? That should be a go route! Pull the safety to the deep side, and bam, that’s a TD to Brown or a TD to Roberts if he cheats to Hollywood. Good play call that could be better. Particularly this deep in the half.
You want to know why pass blocking matters? Look at Edwards in no mans land. Dupree blows this play up. I think Lamar has a legit shot to make this throw better if he’s free or choose to run but he has no chance to set up the play or set his feet. But I like this high low play design.
Lamar final makes a snap read, gets the WR as soon as he passes the underneath man to get open. Nice play. Snead is also running open. So that’s a nice play call to attack the zone there. After seeing zone all day in the red zone so far, that’s a smart play call.
Can you guess what defense the Steelers showed next? If you guessed Cover 2, you were right. I hate the stacked in there. At least let Brown or Boykin go up field and see if Fitzpatrick chases. They actually run the deep post but Fitzpatrick doesn’t have to worry and frankly isn’t even looking that way. The key here can be the MLB and the second read is the deep shot over the Cover 2. If they were varying the coverage fine, but with the deep Cover 2, that’s just so attackable. That’s on Roman.
So the Andrews interception was actually more annoying than it seemed. Look at these routes. Both outside guys stop BEFORE the sticks. You’ve got a half high low with Andrews but Jackson pulls the string too fast but you have no chance of getting the first down here. Why throw this ball? But more importantly, what is the point of this play at all whatsoever? No one BUT Andrews is in position to covert. If you’re the Steelers and you’ve watched tape on Lamar which guy are you eying the closest?
This one is on Lamar, he needs to be looking to where he’s got a pressure point or a guy who can win. Snead is open and Brown is about to win on the curl route. He’s got a totally clean pocket here and this is an available play. This play would have worked against the Cover 2 most likely as well. But note, Steelers are in single high man here. So they finally changed it up.
Lamar is looking for the deep post, that’s probably the right read since you need the first. But two questions, why is Gus Edwards in on this play? And why doesn’t he at least run a route? You let the safety leak into the post route here if you don’t run Edwards. Even if you’re not going to throw it to Edwards, at least make the safety honor it if you can. Snead is the guy running the seam here, but he slips and that’s where Lamar is looking so I like the play design and read, just unlucky.
Lamar gets hit fast on this play. But Moore is open at the sticks here. That’s a nice two way call against a zone when he’s going to go deep. But you’ve got two receivers and one defender there.
We all remember the INT. I think Snead ran the wrong route here though. He doesn’t run it with any conviction but also there is no need to rush this snap. Too far to go, just got sacked. Doesn’t make any sense. But Jackson seems to want Brown there. But that’s just a bad throw.
By my assessment, I’m thinking that there are a mix of issues here. The first piece of advice I’d give the Ravens is stay in the passing formations that are wide and if teams stay in two deep coverage, allow for Lamar to audible those. Get the calls in fast. Stay wide and spread out.
I’d say Roman is about 50% of the culprit beyond that. The route designs at times are very sharp but at times are quite bland and we see plenty of guys running routes right into each other. There isn’t adequate spacing. Not great recognition by the Ravens staff as a whole here, either. You’ve got to be able to pinpoint the weaknesses of teams in real time and take advantage.
Lamar is an issue too, he’s not hitting throws at the top of his drops. He’s not throwing in rhythm, he seemed spooked. Some of that can be fixed by play calls and isolating receivers underneath. If teams are putting two over the top isolate the guys and let Lamar key a guy in a one on one that wins.
But build some run audibles into this offense. Use the threat of the multi-TE to get slower personnel on the field, spread them out and let Lamar, Ingram, Edwards, Hill do their thing. I’m going to watch the second half of the Pitt tape next week to see what kind of adjustments we thought we saw from Roman and Lamar and maybe I’ll be more encouraged by what I’m looking at.
Jordan Kough, and is a graduate of University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He's a long standing Ravens and Orioles fan of many years. He grew up just north of Baltimore and likes the statistical analysis of games as much as watching games themselves.