ReFo: Giants @ Ravens, Week 16
This was a game that the New York Giants had to have to keep their hopes of winning the NFC East alive. Unfortunately after being blown out on the road for the second straight week, their playoff chances are on life support. Now they need to beat the Eagles and get a huge amount of help in order to make it in as a wild card team.
Conversely, the Baltimore Ravens, after three straight losses, came up with a much needed win as they prepare to head into the playoffs. While they’re likely locked into the fourth seed, this win should go a long way in terms of momentum and confidence.
What happened? Let’s take a look at a few key performances that helped decide the game.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Beyond the Box Score
While the numbers and scoring output would suggest a poor performance from Eli Manning (+2.5), the Giant QB actually played a decent game. He only completed 14-of-28 passing for 150 yards and a TD, but was hurt by a pair of dropped passes. What he did well, though, was avoid the costly mistakes that have plagued him in previous losses. In fact, his only negatively graded throw on the day came early in the third quarter, when in the face of pressure, he air mailed an open Martellus Bennett on a third-and-8. Speaking of pressure, Manning faced it on a ridiculous 15 of his 32 drop backs on the game, often by unblocked defenders. Though he only completed 4-of-12 passes when pressured, he did well against the Baltimore blitz, throwing for 104 yards and his lone touchdown when the Ravens sent extra rushers. That being said, the Giant offense and their quarterback still didn’t do enough to stay in the game, particularly on throws down the field; Manning was 4-of-14 passes over ten yards in the air.
Diehl in Old Form
You can attribute a lot of the Giants offensive struggles to pass protection, as Baltimore generated pressure on more than 46% of passing plays – quite the drop off from an offensive line that has allowed pressure on 29.7% of Eli’s drop backs on the season. No lineman had a worse day than David Diehl (-1.9), who had been playing surprisingly well this season after being our worst rated tackle by a mile in 2011. Playing every offensive snap at RT for the second straight week, Diehl was back in 2011 form, as he allowed three hits and four hurries. A perfect example was his play at 3:38 in the 2nd quarter, when he got a good jump off the ball, but was beaten far too easily by Paul Kruger’s outside move en route to a QB hit, which luckily did not result in a turnover. While his play has been encouraging in recent weeks, this was not what you want to see with the Giants fighting for a playoff berth.
Strength up the Middle
Had Chris Canty (+3.4) not left the game due to an injury, the Giants might have fared better in slowing down the Baltimore offense. He played just 24 snaps in his customary DRT position, but recorded a QB hurry in eight pass rushes and managed five stops in run defense – tied for the team-high. He had a particularly impressive stretch early in the second quarter, when at 11:40, he stoned Ravens guard Jah Reid at the point of attack and disengaged to assist on a tackle for short gain. A few plays later, he knifed into the backfield for consecutive tackles for losses on Bernard Pierce, the second one for a seven yard loss. This was a nice change of pace for a player who’s generally done better as a pass rusher in his career; it’s just unfortunate that he couldn’t make it through the game.
Baltimore – Three Performances of Note
After a hot start to the season, Joe Flacco has cooled off over the second half and really underwhelmed at times. In this game, however, he attained his highest grade of the season – and his highest grade since 2009 – at +6.8 and was in command from the start, leading the Raven offense to touchdowns on each of their first two drives. It was a needed performance against a Giant team that, though inconsistent, is one of the league’s most dangerous teams at their best. Flacco particularly excelled under pressure, where he completed 11 of 14 passes for an 8.3 YPA and two touchdowns – a massive improvement over his Week 15 figures. Even more impressive is that he was pressured at a higher rate than normal – 38.9% compared to his season average of 32.6% – yet still managed to complete a higher percentage of his passes than when he didn’t face heat. It’s still too early to determine whether the move to Jim Caldwell will provide any significant long-term improvement, but if he can replicate this performance from Flacco, one in which the QB had just two negatively graded throws, the Ravens should be a tough playoff out.
Perhaps under the radar this season has been the play of Paul Kruger (+1.5), who after his five-pressure performance on 21 rushes against the Giants now leads all 3-4 outside linebackers in our Pass Rushing Productivity rating, besting the likes of Aldon Smith, Clay Matthews, and Justin Houston. On Sunday, Kruger’s full arsenal of skills was on display, as he beat Diehl with a variety of moves, both to the inside and outside and from a two- and three-point stance. As the Ravens prepare to make a playoff run, it might be wise to increase his time rushing the passer; on the season, the linebacker has played 73.5% of the teams’ defensive snaps and dropped into coverage on 20% of passing plays.
On the opposite side of the line, Terrell Suggs (-2.8) provided yet another underwhelming performance following his return from injury in Week 7; in 25 snaps rushing the passer, Suggs failed to produce any pressure. He’s clearly not 100%.
Substance Over Style
In a well-rounded offensive performance for Baltimore, no one stood out more at the skill positions than the duo of Vonta Leach and Anquan Boldin. Often discounted due to his position, Leach (+3.5) again showed why we’ve been high on him all season – and picked him at fullback on our AFC Pro Bowl team. Evidenced by the team rushing average of 5 YPC, his lead blocking was integral in paving the way for the Baltimore backs; he fairly easily controlled the Giant linebackers, whether it was Mark Herzlich, Chase Blackburn, or Jacquian Williams. His lone fault on the day came late in the first quarter when he wasn’t quite quick enough to the line, letting the aforementioned Herzlich gain outside position in the hole, forcing Bernard Pierce to bounce a run outside.
Likewise in the passing game, Boldin (+2.9 receiving) doesn’t necessarily provide the flashy, highlight reel plays, but has an almost Tim Duncan-esque consistency. Against the Giants, he caught all seven targets for 93 yards, with six of them going for a first down and four of those coming on third down. None was better than at 6:21 of the third quarter when he made a diving catch on third down, despite being pretty well covered by Antrel Rolle on the play.
-Despite his success in recent weeks, David Wilson played just 4 snaps against the Ravens, including just two after his first quarter touchdown run.
–The Giants employed four or more linebackers on roughly 33% of their defensive snaps.
–Chykie Brown defensed three passes while allowing just 2 of 6 passes thrown in his direction to be completed for 27 yards.
PFF Game Ball
If Joe Flacco can replicate this kind of performance in the playoffs, watch out.