This will be our final Baltimore Ravens “Story of the Stats” weekly piece. With the game 16 / week 17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals 34-17 this past Sunday, the 2013 season is fully in the books at 8-8 with no 2014 playoff games to talk or write about. This feels weird – even for a first-year blog!
Today we will fairly quickly move past this last game and begin thinking about what needs to be done over the offseason to address the list of statistical items that have too often put the Ravens on the short end of the most important statistic of all – the final score at the end of the game.
Before getting into any details whatsoever about the Bengals game, the first statistic that jumps out of the box score is the simple scoring by quarters:
Anyone who merely glanced at this box would conclude, without any knowledge of the ebb and flow of the game, that Baltimore did well to recover from an 11-point deficit at halftime to make a new game of it, but ran out of steam in the fourth quarter. Yep.
Next … if you saw where a quarterback was 21 for 36 with four interceptions, and you knew the final score was 34-17, would you expect that guy to be on the winning team or calling signals for the losing outfit? Well, that was Andy Dalton’s final line, as he threw for 281 yards as opposed to Joe Flacco’s 192 yards on 30 of 50, with three picks.
Let me chart Joe’s 30 completions for yards, compared with three other teams and games on Sunday …
Here’s the deal from the chart above: It lists Flacco’s passing yards on completions … whereas the other three lines are the number of running plays / yards gained for those teams – similar or better than the Raven’s air game. (A look at the box scores around the league really shows the way the NFL has become a passing league.)
Before leaving this behind and looking ahead, let me just rip off some not-so-great stats for the Ravens: 4 of 15 on 3rd down efficiency and 1 of 4 in the red zone. Total yards were 222 for the Ravens, compared to 392 for the Bengals, even though both teams ran the same number of 66 plays each. The Baltimore Football Birds were only able to gain 47 yards on 14 carries, whereas Cincinnati had 111 on 30 – still not a great ground game for the Bengals, but it accounts for their time of possession advantage of 33:57 to 26:03.
The paragraphs above illustrate a problem for the Ravens … and how a problem in one area bleeds into a second area. The lack of a running game and the threat of a runner tallying a lot of yards allow a defense to especially play the pass and react to the run. This is true particularly if the battle is being won by the defense on the line of scrimmage.
The Ravens had a full 75% of their plays as passing attempts. When one considers this, it is no wonder that Flacco is running around with nobody much in the open to throw to. The defense can essentially play the pass, contributing to the pressure on the QB with varied blitzes from varied looks and sets.
To compare these thoughts to the entire NFL, the Ravens were #8 this year is passing attempts with 619. The league average was 567. They were tied for 18th in the league with rushing attempts at 423, whereas the average was 434. So, the Ravens for the season threw the ball 59.4% of the time (with much higher numbers in the second half of the season), whereas the league average was 56.6% … and again this past week the Ravens went to the pass at 75.8% of the time.
Though there is blame to cast is many directions, it is clear that the offensive line has to be at “the front of the line” in explaining these numbers – this past week, and all season long.