Word of Muth: Ravens Rolling
The Ravens continued to roll through the second half of their season with a 24-17 win over Buffalo last Sunday. As I'm typing this the beat goes on for the Ravens as they just went up on the Jets on Thursday Night Football as well. The Ravens have looked as good as anyone in the NFL lately, and even though they didn't play their best last Sunday, there were plenty of positives to look at.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is as good as there is at putting interesting tweaks on basic concepts. This is just Power from Baltimore, a play that just about every team in the NFL runs. But they run it from the pistol, and more importantly they go tackle over. That means left tackle Ronnie Stanley (79) is lined up at tight end to the right-hand side, and the tight end is lined up at left tackle. This just gets a better blocker at the point of attack.
Everyone executes here, and this play is perfectly blocked. And I mean everyone. Stanley seals his linebacker inside. The double-team between the right tackle and right guard takes care of the 3-technique (Star Lotulelei, 98) and backside linebacker (Matt Milano, 58). Fullback Patrick Ricard widens the defensive end (Shaq Lawson, 90). Pulling guard Bradley Bozeman pulls around and folds the playside linebacker (Lorenzo Alexander, 57) up. Just a textbook example of getting a hat on a hat.
This is another base NFL play in Duo. Once again the Ravens get their running back up on the safety here, and frankly you'd like to see the back make this guy miss and gain a lot more yards. But the blocking is great. Notice the communication between the right guard (Marshal Yanda, 73) and center (Patrick Mekari, 65) before the snap. Yanda lets his center know that their linebacker (Milano, 58) has walked up on the line of scrimmage, so the Ravens offensive line just fans out to the three Buffalo defenders man to man.
I love center Mekari here. That defensive tackle (Ed Oliver, 91) is slanting to him, and Mekari sends him right back where he came from to widen the hole. Look at him shoot his hands right under the defender's pads. Great placement and power to create the movement.
Bozeman is also good here again. It's really easy to overstep and whiff on a slanting defensive tackle (Lotulelei, 98) on a play like this. When that happens, you leave your tackle out to dry. But Bozeman is in control and is able to track Lotulelei back across his face. That allows Stanley to swallow the linebacker (Tremaine Edmunds, 49). Just another well-blocked play.
The Ravens didn't execute as well on the ground in the second half as they did in the first, but they still had their moments. And I thought the pass protection was solid all day except for a missed block by the running back on the long touchdown pass to open up the second half. In fact, the only real pressure Buffalo got was because of math.
If you go empty and they bring six, someone is going to come free. I know, that's the kind of numbers-based analysis for which you come to Football Outsiders. Stanley is actually great here. He kicks outside initially just in case that walked-up linebacker (Milano, 58) is bluffing and dropping into coverage at the snap. But Stanley keeps his eyes inside and collapses in to take away the guy with the shortest distance to the quarterback. Lamar Jackson has to get rid of the ball here.
Or maybe just take the sack. This is the exact same blitz. You can see Stanley again kick out to hedge against both guys before taking the nearest rusher. Jackson gets it off this time but is inaccurate and throws a pick. It will be interesting to see if other teams check to zero-blitz schemes against empty vs. Baltimore since it certainly caused some problems for them last week.
That will do it for this week. Next week there will be a new team in this space. The Jets and Cardinals are eliminated from the playoffs at this point and I can't write about Baltimore every week. So tune in for a new unit.