The matchup with the New England Patriots Monday Night certainly didn't go the way the Ravens had planned. Baltimore's offense sputtered for much of the game and the Patriots put up 496 yards of total offense.
To get a better understanding of what happened in the 30-23 loss, here's a look at the game film to see what you might have missed. (All of these plays were viewed using NFL Game Pass, which is available for fans to purchase.)
Why So Many Checkdowns?
A common question after the game was why quarterback Joe Flacco checked down so many passes to his running backs. Flacco threw a total of 18 passes to running backs Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West and Kyle Juszczyk as the Patriots consistently took away his options down the field. Flacco explained the strategy as a result of New England regularly dropping most of the defense back in coverage and bringing only three or four players on the pass rush. "It seemed like most of the game they had a lot of guys in the middle of the field and weren't rushing a bunch of guys," Flacco said.
The still frames below illustrate Flacco's point. To make his job even more difficult, the Patriots disguised their coverages by bringing several players up to the line of scrimmage and then had three or four of them drop back right as the ball gets snapped. That made Flacco and the offensive line have to quickly diagnose the pass rushers, while also picking out tight throwing windows.
These still frames are all from the same play. The Patriots brought seven defenders up to the line of scrimmage before the snap, and then had four of them drop back into coverage. The image below shows which players rushed and which fell back.
As Flacco took a look at his options, he really had nowhere to go with the football. The Patriots had eight defenders in zone coverage, and the Ravens initially had just three players running routes. Running back Terrance West eventually came out of the backfield, and that's where Flacco went with the checkdown.
Yanda Gets Helmet Ripped Off, No Flag
NFL officials naturally end up missing some calls every single week given the difficulty of the job. But this missed penalty on Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower seems fairly obvious. Hightower grabbed the facemask of left guard Marshal Yanda and ripped off his helmet, which should have been penalized for illegal hands to the face. The fact that Yanda's helmet came off should have been a hint to the officials that a penalty was involved. To make the miss even worse, Hightower also shoved Yanda after the whistle and the two exchanged some not-so-friendly words before teammates intervened. Just to be clear, this missed flag had little bearing on the game as the Ravens came up with a big completion a few plays later to get down into Patriots' territory.
*Yanda Never Quits *
The play above showed Yanda continuing to play even after his helmet got ripped off, and the play below illustrates how he's always looking for an opportunity to deliver an extra block. Wide receiver Mike Wallace attempted to cut back a pass that he caught on the right side of the field, and Yanda did all he could by decking a defender over the middle of the field. Wallace fought for some extra yards, but the Ravens still ended up having to punt on the play.
Stanley Not Letting Anyone Past Him
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley had one of his stronger games, and he was actually the second-highest graded player on the team according to Pro Football Focus. The rookie left tackle didn't give up any sacks or quarterback hits on the night. With the Patriots showing so many different blitz disguises at the line of scrimmage, Stanley had to keep a close eye on where the pass rushers were at all times. He did a perfect job on the play below where he spotted a blitzing defensive back and came off his block to toss him to the ground.