CHALKBOARD: Ravens vs Brady/Pats’ 5-wide

CHALKBOARD

Hey, it’s a 19th-century graphic (ie, hand-drawn), sure, but you get the picture.
This is what
I gave our graphics guy for this week’s Chalkboard Session.

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In this week’s chalkboard session, we break down the critical play late in Sunday’s Patriots-Ravens game — when Baltimore fooled New England QB Tom Brady and his OL with a tricky blitz.

Here’s the situation.

New England leads 30-28 with 2:12 remaining, and has a 2nd-and-9 on the Baltimore 44-yard line. Pats coach Bill Belichick obviously has no desire to run again into a stacked pile. He calls for a pass. A first down gets New England into field-goal range, and might even seal the deal.

The Pats line up in a 5-wide — with two wideouts, two slot receivers and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The Ravens counter with a nickel set (5 DBs), not a dime (6 DBs), and jam eight men along the line of scrimmage. It looks like a blitz.

What must appear unclear to Brady, though, is what the hell the three tightly bunched Ravens linebackers opposite Gronkowski (87-TE) are up to.

The orange arrows show what each winds up doing.

On the snap, Brady looks left toward Gronk. Inside linebacker Ray Lewis (52-ILB) picks up Gronk in coverage. It is in that first second that Brady realizes the LB lined up widest to that side, Dannell Ellerbe (59-ILB), is charging fast around the edge, unblocked, right at him.

Before Brady can think about Plan B, he looks to the right and sees that huge Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (92-DT) has evaded right guard Dan Connolly with a brilliant outside spin move,  and is about to eat him. And hard-crashing Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger (99-OLB) is collapsing the right side of the pocket.

Trapped, Brady has no choice but to turtle and take the sack. Ellerbe and Ngata gobble him up.

From snap to sack, the whole play lasts but two seconds. Insta-blitz.

For the Pats, this is the danger of going 5-wide. Nobody is left home in pass-pro to help pick up blitzes.

The Ravens rushed only five, so it was 5-against-5, but their alignment and paths clearly confused the Pats OL. For instance, New England’s left tackle and left guard double-teamed the Baltimore defensive end lining up inside (90-Courtney Upshaw), but let Ellerbe go.

Kudos to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees for trumping Belichick’s aggressive play with an even more aggressive, tricky defensive call.

On the next play, 3rd-and-16, the Ravens blitzed Brady again, pressuring him to throw prematurely and off-balance to Gronk at the right sideline, incomplete.

Baltimore thus regained possession, and marched for a game-winning field goal.

Who else thinks that if the Ravens had rushed only four and dropped six or seven DBs into coverage on that second down, the Pats would have picked up a first down and ran out the clock?

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