• The Ravens run a really impressive no-huddle offense. On the very first play from scrimmage of the season, Joe Flacco hit Torrey Smith for a 52 yard completion. You’d think that on such a big play in which they had to run all the way down the field, especially considering it was the first play of the season, they might huddle up. Nope. The entire offense hustled down the field and immediately got right back into the no-huddle. This is where the Eagles need to make use of their depth along the defensive line. They might consider rotating their lines much more frequently early in the game, so that if they get into the 4th quarter and one of their units is stuck on the field for an extended period of time while the Ravens are running their no-huddle, they won’t be as affected by fatigue.
• On the first drive, the Bengals ran a stunt, and Geno Atkins got matched up on C Matt Birk. Atkins basically turned Birk into his own personal tackling sled, and pushed Birk back into Flacco with ease for the sack. Here’s the Bengals’ alignment. The player circled is Atkins:
Here they are, running their stunt, as I promised a second ago:
Birk engages Atkins at the 25 yard line:
And Atkins bulls him back to the 29, when he deposits Birk on his backside, and Flacco is meat:
Birk has been a quality starter for the better part of the last 15 years, but he is the second oldest starting offensive lineman in the NFL, and it is beginning to show. He’ll have his hands full all day with Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, and Cedric Thornton.
• The Ravens ran 3 reverses on the first two drives. Jon Gruden noted that the Bengals had trouble with reverses last year, so that may have just been a one-week thing, but worth noting.
• The Ravens also like to run a lot of hard counts and quick counts. Late in the first quarter, they ran a quick count on 1st and G from the 7. Ray Rice walked into the end zone untouched. Look at the Bengals DL, still in their stance, as the Ravens get a huge jump on the play:
I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but it seems to me like the Eagles tend to jump offsides more than the average team. If the Ravens are able to use a quick count to success early, they can get that into the Eagles’ heads, then burn them on the hard count.
• I think a lot of people think of the Ravens as a smashmouth offense. Not so. As mentioned above, they have their no-huddle offense. But even in their play-calling, they ran a lot of plays out of the shotgun, and healthy dose of play-action, reverses (again, as mentioned above), draws, screens, etc. A lot of deception. Here’s one play design that I really liked. Here’s their pre-snap formation.
It’s going to be play action right to the HB, with a little misdirection screen back the other way to the FB. Here Flacco sells the fake:
The defense as a whole gravitates to the play action side, while the FB, Vonta Leach slips out into the flat on the left side:
Flacco makes the easy pass, and Leach has a ton of room to run with blockers out in front:
The Eagles need to play disciplined football. Don’t over-commit. Again, this offense is built on deception, not on ramming it down your throat. The Patriots burned the hell out of the Eagles in the preseason on screens. That may have been in part because the Eagles were simply practicing their blitzes, and not worrying so much about the opposing play calls, but you can bet the Ravens will test it.
• One thing that surprised me in the Ravens-Bengals game is that the Bengals were able to run the ball very successfully before the game got out of hand. The player that the Bengals decided to attack was DE Pernell McPhee, who appears to not hold up so well against double-teams. Here’s the Bengals doubling McPhee:
…and opening up a monster hole when McPhee can’t anchor:
Here’s McPhee again (circled), later in the game:
He’s blown off the ball in comical fashion, opening up another wide lane for the RB:
• The Eagles, in my opinion, have to run the ball in this game. I don’t believe this Ravens D is the run-stopping unit it once was. You can run on them. BenJarvus Green-Ellis did it last Monday. There’s no reason LeSean McCoy can’t exploit them as well. The Eagles just have to let him.
• Jason Babin will be facing the second rookie RT in as many weeks. Last week he got Mitchell Schwartz. This week he gets Kelechi Osemele from Iowa St. Next week he’ll get another rookie RT in the Cardinals’ Bobbie Massey. And then in Week 4, he gets David Diehl. It is set up perfectly for Jason to get off to a monster start.
Game prediction: I think the Eagles will struggle on defense with the Ravens’ deception, and it’ll take them out of their pass rush. I also don’t think they have any plans to run the ball more on offense, even though it’s there. Michael Vick has a nice day… a bounce-back of sorts, but it’s not enough. Ravens 27-24.