ReFo: Ravens @ Bears, Week 11
It would have been easy for the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens to let their play match the conditions. Some, to put it mildly, adverse weather conditions caused a two-hour delay and left the field cutting up all over the place and it added an extra layer of difficulty to a sport that is already hard enough.
But with passing something to be avoided (especially in the second half) we found ourselves in the middle of an old school war of attrition. Each team desperate to impose themselves with running games that would enjoy their own share of success. At the end you couldn’t help but applaud the efforts that resulted in an enjoyable encounter, one which the Bears just squeezed out a win from as they turned the Joe Flacco interceptions into the crucial points.
Baltimore Ravens – Three Performances of Note
There have been some fine performances from offensive linemen this year, but of all the football I’ve watched none stood out as much for the sheer ferocity of his blocking as that of Marshal Yanda (+7.7). In 81 snaps he wasn’t quite perfect with two penalties (one of which was very questionable) but what he did was bring a dose of aggression to the run game that had him intent on putting Bears defenders on their backside.
The Ravens’ line used a varied attack, switching between zone concepts with designed cutbacks and a power running game that had them pulling backside defenders to the front side and to the second level. In both regards, Yanda excelled with a grade (if it holds after All-22 review) that would be the highest of any linemen this year. There really wasn’t one play that summed up his dominance (he graded positively 17 times in all against three negatives), but his assist for a double team seal at 6:24 in Q2 followed up by quickly knocking James Anderson out of the running lane was impressive. For those of you more interested in him just manhandling someone, I’d suggest looking at the Ravens’ opening drive touchdown where Stephen Paea was moved from the point of attack quicker than a hiccup.
A fantastic performance from a player who hasn’t, before yesterday, reached the heights of years gone by.
Lack of Sizzle
Is this a trend or just a phase? Terrell Suggs (-3.2) hasn’t graded in the green in the past four games while this was the third consecutive game he earned a negative pass rushing score. Rushing the passer he picked up three hurries (two on Jermon Bushrod and one on Jordan Mills) but that has to be considered a disappointing return given he rushed the passer 30 times. What’s more he wasn’t his usual self in the run game, missing a tackle early on (Q1, 14:25) and failing to impose himself when opportunities presented themselves. Ravens fans will be hoping he can put his best foot forward next week when the team will likely find themselves on more solid ground.
It seems a long time ago that Jimmy Smith (+1.1) was a first round pick. But it was only in 2011 and it’s important to remember that he’s now in that magical third year where evaluations can really start to be made. This marked his third grade in the green as he looks to have turned a corner after an inconsistent first two-and-a-half seasons.
What made this performance so special was how he was able to go toe-to-toe with Brandon Marshall. Five times Marshall was thrown at in his coverage and the end result saw just two completions for 16 yards and two pass breakups. Of course there was a disappointing holding penalty early on and he didn’t impress missing a tackle (Q4, 15:00) but plays like his back-to-back pass break-ups early in the second quarter that forced the Bears to settle for three points are exactly what this team needs.
Chicago Bears – Three Performances of Note
A Nice Problem To Have
Before the season started, the future of Jay Cutler seemed to be in his own hands. If he played well, the team would have to renew his deal early to ward off any free agent interest. If he played poorly they would cut ties.
Only now the surprisingly consistent play of Josh McCown (+3.6) is giving the Bears’ front office some food for thought. The journeyman quarterback just seems to fit in perfectly with what they are doing and his ability to make just enough plays while avoiding costly turnovers was ultimately the difference between the two teams. So, while his numbers aren’t necessarily eye-catching, he did hold it together on the 11 plays he was pressured (0.0 grade) and with six completions 10 yards down the field or more, he is more than just a dink and dunk merchant.
It would be foolish to make decisions based on a four-game stretch of play that has resulted in a +13.3 grade, but if he can keep it up then it opens up all sorts of possibilities for the Bears heading into free agency and a draft loaded with intriguing quarterback talent.
Playing on Skates
Not everyone was going to enjoy the weather conditions and so it proved for Landon Cohen (-6.2). A soggy Solider Field had him off balance throughout and it got to a stage (he was blocked to the ground on five occasions) where you started to feel sorry for him. The Bears’ defensive scheme had him attacking a gap hard but with the Ravens using a number of zone stretch runs they could simply use his own momentum against him to create big holes and cutback lanes. Cohen had himself more than a few good plays as he was able to get some upfield penetration to slow run development down, but by and large just couldn’t get to grips with a Ravens outfit that impressed.
It might seem odd that a player with two sacks and seven defensive stops in the run game might walk away with a -0.8 grade but such was life with Julius Peppers. He didn’t play badly and but for two penalties (one pre-snap and one late hit) then you could flip that grade into a positive, yet it still doesn’t tell you the story of his day.
His two sacks are the place to start with one a fine demonstration of his explosiveness of the edge to turn the corner on Eugene Monroe. The other? Well he had Joe Flacco run into him, then the Ravens quarterback just fell over in a fashion where you really wonder whether Peppers even deserved credit. Those two sacks, one hit (where he was released up field on a screen) and another solid pressure beating Monroe were all he had to show for 39 pass rushes and is why we always warn people not to be overly reliant on the sack number. It will lie and deceive you.
So outside of a couple of penalties a good day for Peppers in the run game (+1.4) but less so rushing the passer (-0.5).
– The Ravens only ran two draw plays the entire game, picking up 11 and 13 yards.
– The +0.9 grade was the highest Jordan Mills has received since Week 1 of the season.
– The Bears missed only two tackles compared to eight from Baltimore.
In a game like this, Josh McCown deserves recognition. He avoided mistakes and made some crucial plays that led to a big victory.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled