The Morning After Film Fix: PreWeek #2 vs. ATL
After a particularly sloppy game, fans and pundits will talk about how the Ravens offense needs depth and that the cornerbacks need a lot of work. These will be the overarching themes when we hear the Cliffnotes version of this game. Instead of commenting about the broad scope, my goal here is to focus on a couple specific plays as a reflection on what we can expect from this team when the games matter.
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Matt Ryan’s Touchdown
Don’t get me wrong, Jimmy Smith did not have a strong showing in Baltimore on this night. I assume that many will point to the touchdown he gave up in coverage as a statistical reference to his poor performance. However, given how I saw this play, I don’t think much blame lies with Smith:
Double Hi-Lo Crossers from a Trips alignment
The Falcons are using Hi-Lo Crossers to put a strain on the back end of the Ravens defense in the Red Zone. Jimmy Smith has man coverage on Julio Jones. The two deep safeties Huff and Elam are responsible for splitting the endzone in half.
Man coverage is pretty good across the board throughout this image but Huff is “Pushing” toward the crossing TE Chase Coffman which leaves Jimmy Smith alone to defend Julio Jones (not pictured). It isn’t necessarily a poor decision by Huff to jump this route but the pre-snap matchups dictate that the more difficult assignment lies with Smith on the outside.
With two deep safeties, Smith is taught use Safety help to the inside while using the sideline as help on the outside. With no inside help, Ryan makes the easy connection with Jones before getting pushed to the turf by Haloti Ngata.
If I were to place blame for this touchdown, it is primarily on the defensive playcall, then Michael Huff, and Jimmy Smith third. Dean Pees clearly expects his Safeties to be aggressive in his schemes both in the run game and vs. the pass. This specific example shows how teams can plan for the tendencies of one skill group to increase the odds of being successful.
(Without All-22 I can’t determine whether the defense is in 2-Man or Quarters. With a Quarters call, the offensive play boils down to an “Anchor” concept.)
Daryl Smith really stood out to me in this game. He took on lead blocks in the hole, blitzed efficiently, and tackled extremely well. He showed how using smarts can catapult an undersized linebacker to ProBowl type numbers. This play was chosen mostly because there was a sufficient replay angle to break it down. But aside from that, I wanted to introduce an interesting defensive wrinkle that can be very effective against speedy backs in the backfield:
The Falcons are using a RB Screen in an attempt to minimize the pass rush. However, with Suggs and Dumervil coming off the edge, and Daryl Smith snatch blitzing, this playcall was doomed before the snap. Smith’s responsibility lies with the excellent pass catcher Jacquizz Rodgers aligned next to Matt Ryan.
Smith blitzes at the snap of the ball but his goal isn’t the quarterback. Smith intends to rush specifically toward Rodgers to force Rodgers to block him rather than release into a route. On the other hash, Elvis Dumervil has a half-a-step up the field on the struggling Right Tackle and he is beginning to knock the blocker’s hands down to avoid getting pushed too far past the QB.
Ryan is forced to throw the ball away because a) Dumervil is sprinting unabated toward him and b) Daryl Smith has taken out Ryan’s only passing option, Rodgers. Importantly, Terrell Suggs has pushed back the starting Left Tackle Sam Baker ~3 yards on his way to the QB. The play has collapsed on Ryan from all sides so he is forced to live to fight another day.
Snatch blitzing is a tactic implemented to limit the releasing of running backs into routes, usually the flat. This technique is far from infallible as the correct Screen play can produce huge chunks of yards but used unpredictably in important situations, snatch blitzing can render a pass catching back ineffective.
The anatomy of an inside run
The only Ravens offensive play that struck my interest was this inside run that was captured beautifully by the replay:
As far as I can tell, this play is an isolation Power run. Covered offensive lineman (defender aligned directly across the LOS) will block the defender in front of them while the uncovered O-Lineman (LG Osemele and RG Jah Reid) will work in combination with covered lineman until they can work up to the second level. Ray Rice has his choice of holes and the main determining factor will be the flow of the linebackers post-snap.
Osemele helps neighboring McKinnie before working up the SAM linebacker while Reid simply shoves A.Q. Shipley’s assignment before getting upfield.
In this image, McKinnie has man-handled Jonathon Babineaux and every other man is accounted for via the blocking scheme. The only poor block in this image is from Visanthe Shiancoe. I defended Shiancoe’s blocking ability in a prior piece but on this play he is leaning too far forward to keep his balance and is forced to wrap his left arm around Osi Umenyiora.
Shiancoe (blocking #90 Umenyiora) has blocked poorly but has successfully walled off his assignment from the tackle with no harm to his running back. The hole for Rice is massive and even Brandon Stokley (#80) works his way in front of Rice to block a Safety. Stokley is underrated in his blocking savvy in my opinion.
At the end of this play, Rice takes a hit from a Safety never accounted for by this running scheme. This was a very successful play and would have little chance of working without good communication between the O-Lineman and patience by Ray Rice.
Continuity and communication are key elements for any offensive line. Limited personnel shuffling works wonders for communication on the field. It is critical, for example, for the guards on this play to understand at which point their adjacent teammate can handle their assignment alone before disengaging with the goal of blocking a linebacker.
Dan played high school football at Wilde Lake and graduated from McDaniel College with a degree in Psychology. Dan is currently a Maryland Terp working on his PhD degree in Neuroscience. He has experience writing published scientific material as well as blogging for SBNation via Baltimore Beatdown. Beginning in the 2012 season, Dan has been writing about the Ravens focusing on the X’s and O’s of the game of football with heavy use of overhead (All-22) film analysis. The Columbia, MD native currently lives in Silver Spring.