Your Morning After Film Fix: Week 1 v Denver

This was a game for the history books, but in all the wrong ways.  I plan to break down some key plays in this matchup that led the Ravens to their 0-1 record.

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Julius Thomas’ First Touchdown

Video highlight of this play linked here.



As shown in the above image, the Ravens are playing Cover-2 zone against the Broncos most common personnel package, 3WRs.


As the Ravens drop into their zones, the apparent playcall is a Tunnel screen to the widest WR, Eric Decker.  TE Julius Thomas and slot receiver Wes Welker have released toward the outside to block their assigned men.  Accordingly, outside corner Lardarius Webb and slot corner Corey Graham begin to break on Decker’s route to minimize the run-after-catch.


As this last image shows, Eric Decker never receives the ball.  TE Julius Thomas and WR Wes Welker converted what appeared to be blocking assignments into vertical routes (Thomas’ route is a “Shake” or “Nod”, while Welker is effectively running a “Wheel”).  These two vertical routes put stress on deep-half safety Michael Huff.  He is now tasked with splitting the two receiving threats.  The beautiful throw by Manning could not have been defended by Huff even if he hadn’t fallen down.

This play is an example of a tendency breaker.  Up to this point in the game, Manning had audibled to a WR screen a number of times for minimal gain.  This play was a perfect counter to the Ravens success against the screen and put the Broncos on the board.

Touchdown to Andre Caldwell (via Jimmy Smith)

Video highlight of this play linked here.

This particular play is less about Xs and Os and more about technique.


The Ravens are playing in their Cover-3 look with Jimmy Smith lining head-up on the widest WR, Andre Caldwell.  Based on Smith’s stance and hip movement (Image #2), it’s clear he wants to maintain outside leverage.  Caldwell steps inside to close Smith’s hips in an attempt to gain outside leverage for his 9-route.


By Image #1 here, Caldwell has already won the outside leverage battle.  This forces Smith to turn and run as if it was man coverage (which it now effectively is).  Caldwell lowers his head to run while Smith has yet to turn around.  At the time of Image #2, Smith is trailing Caldwell.


With an overabundance of speed in this league, cornerbacks are often in this type of trail position.  They are taught to run with the receiver until they are “in-phase” or directly next to the receiver before looking back for the ball (you can always play through the hands of the receiver).  Jimmy Smith looks to find the ball far too early (Image #1).  This motion, along with the hesitation of finding the airborne ball, will cause a pause in the stride of any defender.  Once the ball arrives (Image #2), Smith is far behind his assignment.  His position coach will not be happy with him tomorrow.

Patience for Jimmy Smith is running thin throughout the Ravens fanbase.  Smith has the physical tools to be an effective corner in the NFL.  Shoring up his technique, along with improving his tackling, can help to elevate his play.

Chris Harris’ interception of Joe Flacco

On 3rd and 8 the Broncos blitz both of their inside linebackers, leaving a void in the middle of the field to be exploited.


From the slot, Brandon Stokley runs a crossing route to get past the sticks in order to move the chains.  CB Chris Harris is man-up on him.


With the rest of the defenders vacating the short middle of the field, Stokley has an opportunity to exploit one-on-one coverage.  He first obtains inside leverage on his defender.


After Stokley breaks his route to the inside, he “staircases” his route meaning he pushes upfield with the purpose of forcing his defender to respect him vertically, but also getting better separation after leaning into Harris.  Veteran savvy is at play here.


Chris Harris is an underrated cornerback (remember the Pick-6 Flacco threw at home to Denver last year? Harris.).  Between Stokley’s aging wheels and a ball thrown slightly to the inside, Harris was able to undercut the route for an interception.  Stokley ran this route the best that he could have.  Unfortunately, the better player on this individual play is the cornerback.

Flacco’s TD pass to Marlon Brown

Video highlight of this play linked here.



Early in the 4th Quarter, the Ravens were beginning to mount a semblance of a comeback, despite being down by 25 points.  These efforts were aided by an impressive touchdown throw to Marlon Brown, his first career touchdown catch.

The Broncos have opted to play Cover-1, meaning one deep zone over the top (in yellow) and man coverage underneath.  Corners in Cover-1 are taught to filter their receiver matchup toward the safety in order to get help.  Rookie WR Marlon Brown works outside to force CB Kayvon Webster to play inside.

The concept is a familiar one to every team in this league, Smash-7.  Rice runs the smash route while Brown breaks toward the pylon of the endzone.


Brown has very good positioning considering the 7-cut he’s about to make in the above image.


Marlon Brown has a simple catch after a fairly accurate throw into the basket of Brown’s arms.  It is very difficult for a man-corner to recover in such a situation.  Assuming a corner can recover, reaching across the receiver’s body (especially one who is 6’4), can be additionally daunting.

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About the author

Dan Bryden   

Dan played high school football at Wilde Lake and graduated from McDaniel College with a degree in Psychology. Dan is currently a Maryland Terp working on his PhD degree in Neuroscience. He has experience writing published scientific material as well as blogging for SBNation via Baltimore Beatdown. Beginning in the 2012 season, Dan has been writing about the Ravens focusing on the X’s and O’s of the game of football with heavy use of overhead (All-22) film analysis. The Columbia, MD native currently lives in Silver Spring.

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