The Baltimore Ravens defense has been incredible to start out the 2017 season.
The Ravens defense already has forced 10 turnovers in two games this season. They shut out the Cincinnati Bengals and they held a young Cleveland Browns offense in check all day. Baltimore has only allowed one touchdown this season and their defense is reminding many of the team they had put together in the early 2000’s.
Their secondary has looked like the best in the NFL so far this season and they were responsible for every single turnover on Sunday. Even the strip sack of Deshone Kizer in the first quarter.
Despite the Ravens blitz the Browns offensive line did a great job giving Kizer time in the pocket. The Ravens edge rushers forced the quarterback to step up in the pocket. He steps up and pulls back to throw, but can’t find anyone open. Kizer starts a scramble drill and Terrell Suggs chases him down for a strip sack and forces the turnover.
The pass rush only had that much time to get to Kizer because how great the Ravens were in coverage. All four of the Browns receivers who ran routes on the play were blanketed in one on one man coverage. The deep safety was lurking behind the play but did not have much to do. Every single Raven that dropped into pass coverage came up huge today and created a takeaway for their front seven.
Free safety Eric Weddle was heavily involved in the second takeaway of the day for Baltimore, incepting an overthrown pass by Kizer.
The quarterback attempted to quickly get rid of the ball to his running back Duke Johnson who was open on an out route out of the backfield. He throws to far in front of him, though. Johnson reaches out a hand for it and tips it in the air. Weddle dives in from behind him and picks off the pass.
The play Weddle made was not as simple as it looked, though.
Weddle initially backpedals out of his deep spot, then spots Johnson running free into the flat. He fly’s up the field and puts himself in the right place at the right time to make an athletic play on the ball.
Kizer did not read the play correctly and threw a bad pass. Even if Johnson had managed to make a play on the ball he would have been blown up from behind by Weddle. His throw was dangerous by nature and ended up turning over the ball.
Kizer would leave the game with a head injury and was replaced by Kevin Hogan. The Ravens did not seem to mind the change though.
On this play the Ravens showed a blitz pre-snap, then had a few of their rushers drop back into coverage. Hogan seemed entirely thrown off by this. He instantly bails out of the pocket just throws to the first receiver he sees. The Ravens were in zone coverage, and their pass coverage read the young quarterback like a children’s book. He stares down his receiver and they converge on his target. Hogan throws a pass that three different defenders could have potentially intercepted.
From this angle, you can see how badly Hogan panicked. He clearly read a blitz pre-snap and already had it decided in his mind that he was going to scramble. Hogan still had time in the pocket and there was no Ravens rusher anywhere near him. There was no reason for him to try to extend this play with his feet, and he had no reason to throw that awful pass. Baltimore was all over it and intercepted their second pass of the day.
Kizer would later return to the game and made sure his interception total would not be matched by his back up.
The Ravens line up in the nickel with all three of their corners playing man coverage. They run a cover one robber scheme in the red zone, with two safeties playing in zone over the middle. Off the snap the Ravens linebackers clear the middle of the field and take zones on the peripheral. Kizer saw the two defenders clear the middle of the field, but he did not account for either safety. He saw his man over the middle in man coverage and tried to hit him in the back of the end zone. Both safeties, and the corner, were in great position to make a play on the ball. It was a clear inexperienced rookie mistake by Kizer that gave up a scoring opportunity that could have gotten the Browns back into the game.
Kizer finished the hat trick in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens only rushed four on the play but they came off of the left edge fast to pressure Kizer. Instead of stepping up into the pocket, the rookie loses his cool and darts to the right. Baltimore was in man coverage on every receiver with the linebackers and the strong safety on the opposite side of the field with the free safety hovering over the middle. Kizer sees a receiver with a step on cornerback Brandon Carr and tries to get him the ball when on the run. He underthrows the pass and does not hit him in stride, though, and Carr undercuts the pass to earn the Ravens their fifth takeaway and seal the victory for Baltimore.
Baltimore’s defense has definitely been fearsome the past few weeks, but they got a lot of help from some boneheaded quarterback play. Andy Dalton played one of the worst games of his career against the Ravens week one and Kizer and Hogan made many of the mistakes you would expect from young quarterbacks. Their offense has had trouble moving the ball themselves, and have not done a great job capitalizing on the combined 10 turnovers their defense has forced in two games.
They will not play these two awful offenses every week, but the Ravens should have another turnover happy game against the Jaguars and Blake Bortles in week 4. If their offense does not hold them back this year their defense could take them far this season.
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