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Opponent Breakdown: Baltimore Ravens

Posted Dec 23, 2016

Defense statistically dominant but not impenetrable.

A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon against the Baltimore Ravens:

SOMEBODY’S MOVING THE BALL ON THEM: The Ravens will arrive at Heinz Field ranked No. 5 in the NFL in total defense (No. 2 rushing, No. 10 passing). But in their last two games they’ve allowed a season-high 401 passing yards on Dec. 12 at New England and a season-high 169 rushing yards last Sunday against Philadelphia. The Eagles knocked the Ravens from No. 1 to No. 2 in rushing defense during last Sunday’s 27-26 loss in Baltimore.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Baltimore has allowed averages of 18.8 points and 347.1 yards per game this season, but the numbers jump to 27.0 points and 423.0 yards over the Ravens’ last four road games (at the New York Football Giants, at the New York Jets, at Dallas and at New England).

THE EAGLE HAD LANDED: Philadelphia ran the ball out of multi-tight ends sets and out of three-wide receivers, one-tight end, one-running back packages. For the most part, the Eagles relied on outside-zone runs when they were loaded up with tight ends (the Steelers haven’t featured much outside-zone running this season, but it’s in their playbook). From spread formations, the Eagles typically pulled a guard and ran power plays.

Two drives stood out.

In the second quarter, the Eagles went 59 yards in 17 plays and held the ball for 7:42. They ran 11 times for 46 yards on the march but settled for a 34-yard field goal.

And in the third quarter, Philadelphia put together a 13-play, 79-yard drive in 6:59 but again settled for a field goal (27 yards). This time the Eagles gained 48 of those yards on eight rushing attempts.

Philadelphia’s ground game consistently produced against Baltimore.

RUN, RUN RAVENS: Baltimore is No. 28 in the NFL in rushing but produced a season-high 151 yards on the ground against Philadelphia and averaged 6.3 yards on 24 attempts.

FOX analyst Daryl Johnston had this to say about the Ravens’ ground game during the first quarter of the Eagles game: “When you watch the Ravens on film, I really think that their run game is under-rated, under-utilized. I’d like to see them lean on it a little more.”

Baltimore’s rushing output included a 41-yard burst by running back Terrance West and a 39-yard sweep by wide receiver Michael Campanaro. The Ravens’ other 22 rushing attempts netted 71 yards (3.2 per attempt).

And when the Ravens took over at their 12-yard line with 2:18 left in the fourth quarter and nursing a 27-20 lead, their three attempted runs netted 0 yards.

HERE THEY COME: The Ravens sent a five-man pressure at quarterback Carson Wentz on the Eagles’ first third-down attempt of the game (third-and-8 from the Philadelphia 27). Linebacker Terrell Suggs stunted up the middle and prevented Wentz from stepping into his throw and the pass was intercepted.

The Ravens sent six on Philadelphia’s second third down (third-and-6 from the Eagles’ 41) and Suggs was unblocked but the Eagles countered with a screen that gained 15 yards.

And the Ravens sent five on Philadelphia’s third third-down attempt of the afternoon (third-and-10 from the Ravens’ 44). Strong safety Eric Weddle came in clean, Wentz was flushed from the pocket and eventually chased down by linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who forced a fumble that ultimately bounced out of bounds.

The Ravens didn’t blitz every passing down, but they did so early (perhaps to get Wentz thinking about pressure) and they came more often than not on critical downs.

The Eagles’ two-point conversion attempt with four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Ravens ahead, 27-26, was such a down. Philadelphia deployed three wide receivers, a tight end and a running back and sent five players out into patterns. Baltimore countered with man-to-man coverage and a six-man pressure.

Linebacker C.J. Mosley got a hand on Wentz’s pass and it wobbled to the ground incomplete.

NEXT MEN UP: With cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) out of action against Philadelphia, Shareece Wright started at cornerback opposite rookie Tavon Young and Jerraud Powers was the third cornerback in nickel packages.

The Eagles targeted the receiver Powers was covering repeatedly, including on their two-point attempt late.

LONG-DISTANCE DELIVERIES: Ravens K Justin Tucker tied an NFL record in the Eagles game with a 53-yard field goal, his 10th successful kick from 50 yards or longer in 10 attempts this season (Blair Walsh, Minnesota, 2012). Tucker is 33-for-34 overall on field goals this season (he had a 34-yard attempt blocked at New England) and is 164-for-164 in his career on extra points.

THEY SAID IT: “I like the call.” _ Johnston after the Eagles’ failed to convert a two-point attempt when an extra point would have tied the game with four seconds left in the fourth quarter.

“I do, too … not sure the Pittsburgh Steelers like it.” _ FOX play-by-play man Kenny Albert on whether he liked the decision to go for two.

“All-time worst call ever. It’s my fault. I’ll take responsibility for it. I should have vetoed it.” _ Ravens head coach John Harbaugh on the Ravens throwing a pass that was intercepted on first-and-10 from the Eagles’ 11 with 6:21 left in the fourth and Baltimore ahead, 27-17.