The Baltimore Ravens will be in Cincinnati this Sunday, looking to avenge their week 1 loss. The Ravens were defeated 23-17 in their frustrating season opener. The Ravens offense went away from their winning formula; Joe Flacco had 62 passing attempts while Ravens running backs got only 20 carries. Pass protection was the glaring weakness of the Ravens on that bitter day. This was on exacerbated by Flacco having nowhere to throw the football down the field. In order to avoid the mistakes from game 1, we must truly understand how they happened.
The Ravens frequently lined up in an empty set (no running back or motioned back to be a receiver). The plan was to spread out a strong front seven. In an empty set however the offensive line is on its own to protect the quarterback. If the line struggles protecting the passer in an empty set, the ball most be released quickly. The Bengals did a great job in coverage down the field, forcing coverage sacks and rushed and forced throws from Flacco. This is evident in the first picture, I have for you:
The Ravens offensive line made several errors that got Joe Flacco jacked up. Ricky Wagner, in his first start, struggled the most. Clearly however the unit had some missed assignments as a group. Here is one example of how the Bengals got pressure on Flacco:
Here the Bengals have a numbers advantage on the right side. Marshall Yanda is covered by a defensive tackle. Rick Wagner drops straight back eyeing the outside linebacker. The defensive back in the picture blitzes in between Wagner and Yanda. It was an easy sack created by simple math and Wagner’s fear of letting the outside rusher get by him. The general rule is block the inside man first, because he has the quickest path to the quarterback. Flacco would have been rushed any way, but he would have had a chance if Wagner blocked correctly.
Lets fast forward to the final possession. The Ravens saw their quest for a last minute touchdown end with a turnover on downs. Flacco was sacked twice at the end of the game. The first sack was simply a coverage sack. The Ravens lined up in an empty set- Joe had no where to throw it- he rolled out and got pummeled.
I would expect a lot less empty set offense from the Ravens. If the Ravens give Flacco some options underneath and the Ravens focus on pass protection it should be a better day for the Ravens offense. At the end of the day though, you can’t make your offense 1 dimensional against Cincinnati.