by Ben Muth
It took overtime against a third-string quarterback, but the Ravens defeated the Steelers this past Sunday to take control of the AFC North. It wasn't a very pretty game for Baltimore -- they turned it over too much and couldn't run the ball -- but in the end it was a road win within the division. You can't have too many of those.
From an offensive standpoint, there weren't a lot of bright spots for Baltimore. Lamar Jackson played what was probably his worst game of the year. They couldn't generate explosive plays in the run or pass game. And the offensive line didn't seem to be on the same page in the run game, particularly on the second level. The only real bright spot for Baltimore in my opinion was the play of their left tackle.
I was really impressed with Ronnie Stanley (79) throughout the game. He played well, but the thing I really took away was how smooth and quick his feet were in the pass game. Look at how smooth he is getting out to a wide standup rusher. He can't even see the rusher at first because he has to look for the ball to be snapped, but it doesn't matter because his pass set is perfect. He gets great width without turning his shoulders. It's a really flat set for how wide the rusher is, but Stanley can do it because it's so quick. I don't love his punch -- too much helmet -- but his feet are good enough that it doesn't really matter what his upper body looks like. Plus, he does extend after contact.
Stanley was so good in pass pro that even the one sack Bud Dupree got was just another play where Stanley stoned him.
Man that's pretty. It's like he's gliding out to Dupree, but still has enough power to hold his ground when they do engage. Stanley's feet are moving so quickly, but he never brings his feet together. I could watch this guy pass-set all day. His hands are better here too. He gets taken out by a defensive end coming from the other side, but before that this a textbook rep.
As good as Stanley was on the edge, the Ravens' overall pass protection was just OK. That's because their interior offensive line struggled quite a bit up front with the Steelers defensive line.
That's Marshal Yanda at right guard getting beat quick. Yanda wasn't terrible on Sunday but he has fallen off a good deal from his prime. When I wrote about the Ravens a few years back, Yanda was probably the best offensive lineman in the sport and as good of a player as I've ever covered in this column. Now he looks like just a guy out there. His footwork here is fine, he just can't change direction. He looks really unathletic. This was probably his worst play of the game, but it's clear he just can't move laterally like he used to.
The bigger problem than getting beat clean, though, was Baltimore's inability to really hold a firm depth of the pocket. Cameron Heyward in particular consistently pushed the Ravens offensive line back into Lamar Jackson's lap to make him uncomfortable and the offensive tackles' jobs harder.
This is a grown man play by Heyward (97). He walks center Matt Skura (68) right back into Jackson and brings the quarterback down while still being "blocked." Skura isn't necessarily doing anything wrong technically. He has a good base, he tries to reset his hands and drop his hips when he feels himself giving ground, but he just can't stop Heyward's charge. The only coaching point that's applicable might be "weight room."
Now, it's possible that left guard Bradley Bozeman (77) could've offered some help here, but I think it would've been tough. In general, guards are taught to look outside on plays like this since edge guys are far more likely to get to the quarterback than a nose tackle. In this case, particularly with how well Stanley controlled Dupree, it's easy to say Bozeman needs to help out inside, but it's hard to break years of coaching.
Before we go, I want to point out a play that really made me smile. There were just so many perfect things about it, that I had to break it down.
Tight end Nick Boyle (86) is putting on a holding master class here. I think his plan was to matador Stephon Tuitt (91) here off the snap, and that would be enough for Jackson to get outside on the boot. But Tuitt slants out right into the tight end and rocks him a bit. Boyle was already in matador mode, so he just kind of wrangles Tuitt down with obvious hold/tackle. But just in case the ref missed it, Boyle made sure to stare right at the ref and hold his hands up in the air, which is the universal sign for "I just held the crap out of this guy, please tell me you didn't see it." And then he stands up and holds his arms out in the universal signal of "you're not going to call that are you?!" Just a hilarious play.
Like I said in the open, the Ravens are in first place in their division, but an offense that got out of the gates strong in Weeks 1 and 2 has certainly slowed recently. They're going to have to get it back on track if they want to make any kind of run in the playoffs.