ReFo: Ravens @ Redskins, Week 14
The ‘Battle of the Beltway’ turned out to be one of the most entertaining games of the year, as the Washington Redskins, despite losing Robert Griffin III late in the game, came from behind to beat the Baltimore Ravens in OT.
Both defenses got pushed around for most of the first half while running backs Alfred Morris and Ray Rice ran wild. Two Joe Flacco turnovers swung momentum in the second half (and helped give Washington a pair of field goals), but the Redskins still needed fellow rookie (backup) QB Kirk Cousins to throw a TD under pressure, and convert a two-point conversion, to tie the game. Here’s a look at some performances that shaped this exciting AFC/NFC battle.
Ravens – Three Performances of Note
Offensive Linemen Do Their Job (Mostly)
The Ravens’ offensive line helped Rice and Bernard Pierce pick up chunks of yards throughout the day and kept Flacco clean, for the most part. Only RT Kelechi Osemele graded negative in run blocking (-0.4) with C Matt Birk shining the brightest (+1.1) by continually getting the better of NT Barry Cofield and providing some second-level blocks.
In terms of pass protection, four of the starters conceded only a combined two hurries. That does not include LT Michael Oher, however. The former first-round pick was responsible for two sacks — one where Rob Jackson beat him around the outside for a strip-sack and another where he inexplicably helped Jah Reid double Ryan Kerrigan. This allowed safety Jordan Pugh a free shot at Flacco on third down. Oher was also beat by Kerrigan to the outside for a knockdown of his signal-caller earlier in the game and led one of the commentators to note that he probably feels more “comfortable” on the other side of the line.
The Ravens’ defense struggled against Washington’s running attack, but, even without Terrell Suggs, they were able to generate a significant amount of pressure on Griffin. Paul Kruger (+4.2 pass rush) was the most destructive with nine total pressures (two of which were sacks). Haloti Ngata was the next most productive Raven in this area with two QB hits (not including one penalized as roughing the passer) and six further hurries. Pernell McPhee (a hit and three hurries) and Arthur Jones (four pressures, three of which led to Griffin being taken to the ground) were also active. Even maligned ex-Redskin Ma’ake Kemoeatu got in on the action, bull rushing C Will Montgomery back into Griffin, buying Jones enough time to loop around for a sack (13:52 4th Quarter). Overall, this unit registered a combined 32 pressures, with Courtney Upshaw’s three hurries producing the lowest pass-rushing grade (-0.3).
Ed Reed’s Bad Day
One of the biggest disappointments in this game was Ed Reed (-5.1), who had by far his worst performance of this year. It started on the first play of the game as Reed not only couldn’t bring down Alfred Morris at the second level, but tripped up a pursuing Bernard Pollard in the process. The veteran also whiffed on Josh Morgan and later missed Griffin behind the line, giving up three missed tackles on the day. He also struggled in coverage, allowing a 22-yard catch to Pierre Garcon as the Redskins were driving to tie the game, and he played a role in both TD passes — on the first he couldn’t keep up with Morgan on a crossing route as Griffin extended the play, and on the second he was distracted by Cousins’ pump-fake (though Chris Johnson was the primary culprit). He also jumped offsides on the Redskins’ first play in OT.
Redskins – Three Performances of Note
Failing To Protect the Franchise’s Savior
Unlike the Ravens’ offensive line, the Redskins failed to protect their prized rookie QB. Not surprisingly, LT Trent Williams was the best of the bunch and was culpable for only three hurries. There was one play (11:27 3rd Quarter) where he failed to keep Ngata from knocking Griffin down, but the signal-caller held onto the ball for over four seconds at that point so we didn’t deem Williams responsible. However, on a play where Kruger and Jones got sacks, he was beaten by Upshaw, who was seconds away from a sack himself had his teammates not beat him to the QB. Also not shocking was that RT Tyler Polumbus had the most trouble, coughing up a sack (the above-mentioned play with Kruger quickly beating him to the outside) and five more hurries. Guards Kory Lichtensteiger and ex-Raven Chris Chester were responsible for a combined two hits, three hurries and a sack. Montgomery wasn’t directly culpable for Griffin ending up on the ground, but still got beat for four hurries, one of which was disruptive enough to lead to a sack (the above-mentioned Kemoeatu play). It’s a good thing this unit was so dominant in run blocking (+8.5 run blocking).
Ryan Kerrigan Stepping Up
The sophomore outside linebacker has not been consistent this season, but made an impact in this game. Kerrigan influenced two plays with hits on Flacco as he beat Oher in the red zone which resulted in an underthrown pass to the end zone for an open Jacoby Jones. Later, he was unblocked in the red zone and forced an errant pass that was intercepted by London Fletcher. In the running game he lost two battles with Vonta Leach, but would beat the star fullback for a hurry later, along with registering two other hurries. He would torment TE Dennis Pita to the tune of three stops in run defense, while also forcing Billy Bajema to hold him once. Kerrigan’s most impressive play occurred when he didn’t even make the tackle. At 2:39 in the second quarter he stood up an Osemele/Bajema double team at the point of attack, forcing Rice backwards and allowing Cofield enough time to make the stop for no gain. More efforts from the former first-round pick will increase the Redskins’ chances of making the postseason.
The Usual Suspects
CB DeAngelo Hall and FS Madieu Williams have had good days this season, but more often than not they’re the weakest links on this struggling defense. That was the case Sunday as they combined for a -7.3 overall grade. Hall was dealing with an injury, but he was on the field and did help out with two stops (one was a solid tackle on a Pierce screen for no gain). Still, he hurt the Redskins more than he helped with a missed tackle in run defense, a senseless unnecessary roughness penalty and allowing all five passes in his coverage to be completed for 87 yards and two TDs. Williams was also to blame for the two TD passes to Anquan Boldin, failing to provide his hindered teammate with timely support over the top. The journeyman’s biggest contribution was an unblocked QB hit on two blitzes, but his five missed tackles were a problem — both Baltimore running backs embarrassed him in the open field.
– The two defenses combined for 26 missed tackles with nine by the Redskins, and 17 by the Ravens
– Alfred Morris outgained Ray Rice by 1 yard (122) on three more carries (23)
– Robert Griffin III had a higher NFL QB rating under pressure (105.8) than he did when he was not bothered (100.6). Flacco’s rating was significantly worse under duress (32.6) than it was without the heat on him (145.4).
Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins. Griffin did not turn the ball over in a close contest and nearly led a gritty comeback to tie the game despite being injured. Though he only had to throw two passes, Cousins came in and completed that comeback.
Follow Trey on Twitter: @PFF_TreyC