19 degrees / gusty winds to 12mph
Key Decision #1: (BAL trails 24-10 / 3rd & 2 CIN 42 / 8:55 Q3)
- On a critical down in the game, the Ravens converted a key down here with some imaginative personnel usage of RB Buck Allen. On this particular play, they lined him up as a FB and a bit tighter to QB Joe Flacco. They handed the ball of the Allen who exploded for an 18-yard run.
- The Ravens would go on to score a TD on this possession – on a 4th down play, and close to 24-17.
Key Decision #2: (BAL leads 27-24 / 4th & 12 BAL 49 / 0:53 Q4)
- The Bengals were out of timeouts, and out of downs; if the Ravens could make this 4th down stop, they would win the game and be in the playoffs.
- Up until this point, Baltimore had played mostly man coverage, and in the 2nd half, largely was successful as their offense mounted their comeback.
- But on this final play, the Ravens chose to play a 2 deep zone, and Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton threaded a pass to WR Tyler Boyd who then ran in for a winning TD.
- The judgment to go zone on this final play will surely be at the forefront of Head Coach John Harbaugh’s mind the entire offseason. We know that typically, teams will weigh the risk-reward of going man on such a clutch down, and they will usually conclude that man is too risky. But is it? And was it under these circumstances when that defense was working? This is an excellent example of how the judgments of head coaches strongly influence game outcomes. In a man defense, there isn’t too much thinking on the part of the defensive player: you pick your man and you stay with that man. But in a zone, you must be responsible for your zone and stay disciplined in your zone; this requires communication between players as well as discipline.
- The Ravens clearly, in our view, play better offensive football as an I-formation team. They have the personnel, and they have the identity. We understand that OC Marty Mohrninweg has coached mobile QBs in his past, but we simply don’t feel that is a staple of Joe Flacco’s game; rather, we feel he is an elite passer with superior arm strength…but from the pocket. It’ll be interesting to watch the Baltimore offense next year and see whether they go with power, play action football, as opposed to trying to get Flacco to move around.
- Cincinnati, on the other hand, have enough talent to be in the playoffs every year. They’ll have to upgrade the OL, but they have players. Cincinnati’s issue seems to be playing with consistent discipline and passion. In this game, they played with passion and energy. If we see this from them consistently in 2018, we see Head Coach Marvin Lewis winning his first playoff game.