Headed into their Week 6 matchup with the Giants, the Ravens ranked as the fifth best defense by DVOA. They were rated as the best run defense and the 12th best pass defense.
While their performance against the Giants running game on Sunday lived up to it’s billing (38 yards on 17 carries), the pass defense was unable to contain Odell Beckham Jr. on three big plays that resulted in a combined 17 points (two touchdowns by Beckham himself and another play that led to a field goal later in the drive).
Think of the Ravens defense as a panacea for the Giants offense with the exception of Beckham.
The Ravens defense had the answer to all the problems the Giants offense posed, except all of those solutions left one big problem unanswered: the one that killed them.
Let’s get to the breakdown.
Week 6 NFL Breakdown
Odell Beckham Jr.
Ravens: 0 Giants: 0 (1st 10:10)
- Beckham motions out of a 3×1 set into a 2×2 set.
- The purpose of this route concept from the perspective of the Giants is to put the flat defender in horizontal conflict. Rashad Jennings runs to the flat and Beckham runs a curl route. For the flat defender—Eric Weddle—this is difficult to defend.
- Weddle makes a good play on the ball to cause the fumble.
Ravens: 10 Giants: 0 (2nd 6:49)
- Jimmy Smith is the defender on Beckham in man coverage to the boundary side of the formation.
- From the look of the coverage, it seems like Smith doesn’t have help over the top, which would help explain his pre- snap alignment and his movement from the time the ball is snapped until the ball is released.
Ravens: 10 Giants: 7 (3rd 14:11)
- I think there is a possibility that this play is an RPO or was originally a run and Eli Manning gave Beckham a signal to run a hitch.
- The case to be made for the play being the former or the latter (but most likely the latter) is the fact that everyone on the Giants, beside Beckham, carries out the play as if it’s a run play—iso run with the tight end to the boundary as the lead blocker.
Ravens: 10 Giants: 7 (3rd 13:54)
- The Ravens are lined up with two high safeties pre-snap and motion into a single high safety alignment once the play starts; Eric Weddle motions from the field side of the play to the middle of the formation.
- This is another situation where the coverage by the defensive back on Beckham makes sense in the context of the coverage as a whole; Will Davis plays off because he knows that he doesn’t have any help over the top.
Ravens: 13 Giants: 10 (3rd 2:22) 75 YARD TOUCHDOWN
- The Giants motion Beckham out of his #3 spot on the field side to the #1 spot on the boundary. Davis follows Beckham across the formation and signals that the Ravens are most likely in man coverage. The Ravens are again lined up pre-snap with two high safeties but rotate post snap into a single high safety look.
- This is a great play by Eli Manning to read the coverage, pump fake to the field side (i.e. pull the only help Davis has on Beckham away from where the pass will ultimately land), and deliver a pass right where it needs to be.
Ravens: 16 Giants: 17 (4th 9:14) 43 YARD CATCH
- The Ravens use man coverage against Beckham again with help from Lardarius Webb over the top. However, Webb is the single high safety and has to remain disciplined in his read.
- The initial coverage by Shareece Wright isn’t bad; he stays in phase with Beckham until he turns his head to make a play on the ball; once he looks back, he slows down and isn’t able to keep up with the perfectly thrown ball delivered by Eli.
Ravens: 16 Giants: 17 (4th 6:42)
- The Ravens fall back into a classic Tampa-2 zone: notice the middle linebacker fall back into deep coverage and the cornerback to the boundary let Beckham go after he heads to the middle of the field.
- This play happens on 3rd and 16, which is why the Ravens are content to give up the underneath yards to Beckham. Webb makes a good read on the ball and is able to tackle Beckham right when he catches it.
Ravens: 23 Giants: 20 (1:36) 66 YARD TOUCHDOWN
- 4th and 1, the game winding down, the Giants are down by three: the Ravens are in Cover-1 man-to-man coverage. Teams like to run Cover-1 on short yardage downs.
- The Giants run a pick play to the boundary with Larry Donnell and Beckham. Watch Beckham’s technique on this play. He heads up field briefly and fakes an outside stem. This causes Jerraud Powers to punch with his right hand and be off balance when Beckham heads underneath for a slant.
- Eric Weddle really blows this play up when he runs into Powers. Then Webb isn’t able to make a play in the open field to bring Beckham down. Don’t think anyone can blame him.
The choice that the Ravens made to line up with single high safeties and little help over the top for the defender tasked with guarding Odell Beckham Jr. may have ultimately cost them the game. The Ravens’ preference was clearly to stop the run with an extra defender in the box. Which led then to successfully silence the Giants ground attack. This may have come at the expense of yards in the air relinquished to Beckham that may not have otherwise happened with an extra defender in deep coverage.
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