There are always story-lines that emerge immediately following a game each week, particularly after a tough loss. Due to the heat of the moment, and lack of angles on the broadcast version of the game, I find it helpful to review the film and see which of the story-lines hold true and if new ones emerge upon further review.
So with that, let’s talk about some of the story-lines from the Ravens game. The biggest one that I have seen, and also been part of is the Broncos defense and the demise of the vaunted No Fly Zone. I even mentioned immediately after the game that the No Fly Zone is no more.
While I still believe it’s true that this secondary has massive room for improvement and they aren’t scaring any opposing quarterbacks, it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought once I dug in.
After re-watching, the defense actually played better than I gave them credit for after watching live. Sure there were some blunders, but Flacco was on point with some difficult throws and the coverage was pretty good.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) September 26, 2018
In the end, the defense gave the offense 3 chances.
Statistically, Joe Flacco didn’t have that great of a day against the Denver D. His completion % was below league average at 62.5% and his yards per pass were 6.6, which is also around league average and average for Flacco throughout his career.
Additionally, while the big plays, and constant first downs seemed reminiscent of the Raiders game, there were actually some big differences that I saw. The majority of the big plays from the Ravens happened as a result of pinpoint throws from Flacco against pretty good man coverage by Denver, whereas the previous week many of the big plays were a result of the defense playing too soft and blowing coverages.
Now, there were some blown coverages for sure, and I’ll dive into that in-depth in my Tale of the Tape this week, but the defense was in a position to make plays, Flacco and the Ravens just made better ones. I came away encouraged by the defense for the most part; much more encouraged than I felt directly after Sunday’s game.
Which leads me to what I think the biggest story was coming out of the Ravens game, that I didn’t fully notice until I re-watched it.
Just re-watched the film from the Ravens game. Let's recap, shall we.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) September 26, 2018
Baltimore's last score came at 7:32 in the 3rd, and the Raven's offense would gain only 2 more 1st downs the rest of the game.
Here's what Den offense proceeded to do:
The defense allowed a long touchdown drive to start the 3rd quarter, which was kept alive by a Derek Wolfe offsides on 3rd and 4, but after that drive at 7:32 left in the 3rd, Denver didn’t allow another score, and held the Ravens offense to two first downs the rest of the game.
After that drive, down 13 points, here was the offenses response.
Drive 1: the Denver offense began their drive at 7:26 in the 3rd quarter, and proceeded to take six minutes off the clock on a 12-play drive that stalled on a 3rd and 2 at the 27 yard line after Ronald Leary was called for unnecessary roughness, which backed the offense up to the 47. At this point, going for it was out of the question, so they punted the ball away.
Now, we’ll talk about that penalties overall in a minute, but that call on Leary was absolute garbage. He exchanged words with a Raven player who shoved Leary in the head after the play, with no call from the official until Leary got up in his face. No forceful contact, mind you or any retaliation to the blow, but Leary is the one flagged. Mind boggling.
Even so, six minutes and 12 plays on a drive that ends in a punt is brutal for a team trying to mount a comeback. That drive was prolonged, in part, because of two holding penalties on the drive. Again, we’ll get the penalties in a second.
The Denver defense held the Ravens to one first down on the next drive, which took about 2:15 off the clock. So the offense is back on the field.
Drive 2: Denver begins the drive at their own 45 yard line with 14:06 left in the game. They proceeded to run the ball four times in an 11-play drive that took 5+ minutes and ended with a Keenum interception at the 15, after they were backed up from the five yard line from another holding call.
Again, long, plodding drive that ate clock and failed to produce points. Defense needed a stop to give the offense another chance. The defense did just that as they held the Ravens to a three and out, taking just 1:39 off the clock.
Drive 3: Denver begins their now 3rd “comeback” drive, with 7:22 to go. After marching down the field, overcoming yet another holding call, the drive stalled after Denver failed to pick up one yard on a 2nd and 3rd and 1 opportunity. On 4th and 1, they receive a 12-men on the field penalty, and fail to convert the 4th down. Effectively sealing the game.
So while the narrative coming out of the game centered around the defense’s inability to stop Flacco and the Ravens, the game came down to three straight costly drives by the offense, in between the defense doing their part for the comeback.
I said in my recap after the game that I am not one to blame losses on officials, and I maintain that. I already demonstrated above that I believe the offense, who failed to score in three straight quarters, ultimately should get the bulk of the blame for the result of this game.
However, I also am not opposed to calling out horrendous officiating when it happens, especially when many of the calls have significant impact on that game.
Let’s start with the calls that were made.
The now infamous “block in the back” by Peko which called back a touchdown was the most egregious flop job I have seen since the NBA Finals. Granted, the ball is long past this point, so Peko shouldn’t even have his hands on the guy, but my gosh. The official didn’t even see the foul happen, he just jumped over the flopping player and noticed it.
The next worst call was the fumble pile that got Lindsay ejected. The officials ignored a spearing and jumping on the pile foul on the Ravens right in front of them, and once again made an iffy judgement call on ejecting Lindsay for “punches” when he was clearly fighting for the ball at the bottom of a pile.
Lindsay’s ejection drew the headlines but I have a few questions:— Zack Kelberman (@Kelberman247) September 26, 2018
1) Why this cutesy playcall?
2) What in the world is Bolles doing? He got beat beat.
3) How did the line judge miss Humphrey violently spearing Veldheer? He was standing RIGHT THERE.
Just ♂️all around. pic.twitter.com/5cFr8FG0DK
I’m also not sure in what universe this is holding (clearly no illegal hands to the face from the defender).
And this isn’t.
Josey Jewell was grabbed and held on Alex Collins' opening TD in the first quarter. Jewell yanked out of the path of the ball by TE86. An extremely undemocratic and one-sided game called by Ron Torbert and his crew. #DENvsBAL pic.twitter.com/rr6HBEOjeT— Chad Jensen (@ChadNJensen) September 24, 2018
Speaking of calls that weren’t made. I mentioned how the Broncos secondary were pretty close in man coverage for most of the big plays. One of the big reasons the receivers were able to make the plays is they spent most of the day pushing off of Denver’s corners.
Several big plays in tight coverage happened as a result of offensive pass interference.
The “letting them play” in the secondary didn’t stop with the Ravens receivers. Apparently this is totally legal as well on a crucial 4th down play that effectively ended the game.
So what did I learn from reliving this nightmare of a game?
- It’s not as bad as it looked. I came away encouraged that the defense made improvements from the Oakland game, even though they were shorthanded at corner and still need to drastically improve on giving up big plays over the middle, they looked much better than I originally thought, under the circumstances.
- Denver was in this ball game. The offense stalled out due to mistakes and poor execution, but they had every opportunity to climb back in this game. They have to eliminate those mental errors and finish in the red zone.
- Sometimes the calls just aren’t going to go your way and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it, except be smart and don’t make it worse. Denver wasn’t smart on some of those penalties, and it ended up costing them.
Hope you enjoyed the breakdown. I’ll be trying to do something like this after every game moving forward if you folks find it helpful.