Cleveland Browns Film Room: Blitzing the Ravens

Gang I wish I had more opportunities for film rooms. I really do. Part of the problem is that the all-22 and end zone views aren’t available until the middle of the week, and my schedule has gotten crazy from Wednesday on. Life just gets in the way.


I wanted to highlight something that Craig and I talked about in our podcast from this past Tuesday: The defense has been terrific over the last six quarters of football going back to the second half of the Kansas City game. They have gotten pressure on the quarterback and have recorded 11 sacks over those two games.

Early in the season, most of the sacks came when the team rushed just four and had seven in coverage. The past two weeks we have seen more of Ray Horton’s more exotic blitz schemes. Safety T.J. Ward has two sacks over those games, and cornerback Chris Owens got into the action with a sack himself against the ravens.

During Baltimore’s only real possession of the fourth quarter, the Browns pulled out all the stops to get pressure on Flacco. The Browns were up by only three points, 21-18. Two blitzes in particular I wanted to highlight, mostly because they came on third downs.

Here’s the first. The Ravens have the ball fairly deep in their own territory and are facing third and six. There is 10:33 left on the clock.

Ravens 3rd down blitz penalty presnap

Here we have two defensive linemen in Armonty Bryant #95 and I believe that’s Desmond Bryant #92 head up on the center. Paul Kruger #99 has his hand on the ground lined up way outside the left tackle. Mingo #51 also has his hand on the ground on the right side of the offense. D’Qwell Jackson #52 is standing up at the line over the right tackle. T.J. Ward is lined up directly over the tight end.

Ravens 3rd down blitz penalty snap

At the snap Jackson comes on a blitz. The Browns appear to be blitzing five, but Craig Robertson #53 is coming hard after Ray Rice. Every orange helmet has a blocker. Ward is jamming the tight end at the line.

Ravens 3rd down blitz penalty pt 3

Here’s where it gets good. Robertson has Rice’s full attention. Armonty Bryant begins his stunt to the inside. Desmond Bryant has hooked the center. D’Qwell is occupying the guard. Mingo is getting held by the right tackle.

Ravens 3rd down blitz penalty pt 4

Now,  it has to be noted that the secondary is doing it’s job here. There is no quick throw to be made by Flacco. Actually, there is a hold going on downfield that is going to nullify this blitz, but I wanted to show it to you anyway. Bryant is coming free now. Flacco knows he has to get out of there, but Kruger and Mingo have him penned in from the outside. Nowhere to go but up and try to beat Bryant.

Ravens 3rd down blitz penalty pt 5

Not happening. The pocket collapses around him. The Ravens will get five yards and an automatic first down for the hold in the secondary. Yes, holding could have been called on the tackle blocking Mingo. Desmond Bryant could just as easily been flagged for a blow to the head of the center though seen here.

Ok, here’s the other blitz to show you. Same drive, same score. It is now 3rd and 3 for the Ravens on their own 47 yard line. Crucial third down to keep them out of field goal range.

Ravens 3rd down blitz presnap

This is just a straight numbers blitz. The Browns are going to bring six defenders and ask one of them to beat a blocker.

Ravens 3rd down blitz snap

At the snap Rice steps over to pick up D’Qwell Jackson. He is going to try and cut his legs out from under him.

Ravens 3rd down blitz part 3

Rice is semi-successful. He gets D’Qwell off balance, but doesn’t stop him. Being third and three Flacco needs to get rid of the ball now. As you can see on the receiver coming across the middle, the coverage is pretty good.

Ravens 3rd down blitz part 4

Flacco is forced to step up. He is able to do so and avoid the grasp of Jackson who wasn’t able to square up because of the partial block that Rice put on him. Notice what Craig Robertson has been doing.

Ravens 3rd down blitz part 5

Robertson is blitzing, but not really. He is staying in the center of the action, keeping his eye on Flacco so that he doesn’t take off and pick up the first down himself (which he had down several times in the game), or looking for Rice as an outlet.

Ravens 3rd down blitz part 6

Robertson cuts Flacco off, and Sheard is able to get to him from around the right end. Sack and a loss of one, but more importantly the Ravens have to punt. They wouldn’t get the ball back until there was less than a minute left thanks to Cleveland’s sustained drive.

Horton has been showing more of these blitzes lately, just enough to keep the offense guessing. They really don’t know how many defenders are going to rush, or where they are going to come from. To that end, the Browns have fifteen different players with sacks this season. Fifteen. That’s an absurd number. The only regular starter without a sack is Joe Haden, and that’s because he is the primary coverage man.

Horton has been bringing the heat with run blitzes too. You would have thought T.J. Ward knew the play when Rice was getting the ball on Sunday. He was constantly meeting Rice at the line of scrimmage or even behind it.

This is the defense that we wanted to see when Horton was announced as the defensive coordinator last spring. The defense is starting to really click, and bring serious heat on the quarterback.

Thanks for reading.

  • MrCleaveland

    Once again, great stuff, Rick. We really enjoy these.

  • NorCalTransplant

    Love it. Also very pleased that you mentioned Robertson staying home in order to keep Flacco contained. I cannot stand watching opposing QB’s week after week convert on third and long! Looks like a fine adjustment by Horton’s D.

  • DontbringLBJback

    #4 ranked DEF overall 9 weeks into the season. If we keep playing like we have the last 6 quarters we’ll be flirting with #2 or even #1. This DEF is going to keep us in just about every game here on out. If Campbell keeps it up, anything is possible. The thought of going 5-2 in the last 7 seems overly optimistic, but if we can the wild card will be ours… I wonder what January football is like?!?!?

  • Ben Frambaugh

    Between you here and Rufio on Dawgsbynature, I am picking so much more up about my team! Thanx for this, boss!


    Rick, I love these pieces… especially when they’re highlighting something the Browns are doing well for a change. 🙂

  • Harv 21

    ” … the Browns have fifteen different players with sacks this season.”

    After only nine games – this is craziness. How amped must these guys be right now to get after it.

    And yet Flacco still did a great job of avoiding the pressure and in dancing and sliding enough to make a lot of his sacks 1 and 2 yard losses rather than 8-10 ones that would have given the Browns great field position. Without the muffed punt the Browns could have easily lost that game despite all the sacks and pressure.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    As always, awesome.

    I also thought it was fascinating to see the Browns’ reactions to every audible or shift the Ravens did – the communication was fantastic, and it felt like the Browns consistently knew exactly where the Ravens were going with the ball, whether a handoff to Rice or a pass. You could see Flacco clearly frustrated by it.

  • mgbode

    thanks Rick.

    the delayed stunts seem to be a recurring theme. as the season has gone on we are either running alot more of them or I am just noticing them more often. the bull-rush, side-step, middle stunt seems to be Armonty’s specialty in particular.

  • Kildawg

    On that second blitz, I liked that Robertson was the QB spy. It seems the Browns need to have more defensive schemes with the QB spy since most QBs are mobile enough to gain a few yards; and the days of the statue QB are fading.

  • deebo

    I am irrationally psyched up right now!

  • Vindictive_Pat

    There was a really sweet delayed blitz by TJ Ward in that game too… just a really smart play call. If Ward hadn’t delayed his blitz, there was a blocker there to get him. Since he waited, the blocker went and double-teamed another guy and Ward ended up with a straight shot at Flacco.