Warren Sharp: The Formula to Attack the Ravens Defense

Beating the Ravens is Not Easy

But there is a formula for how to play this defense.

Kyle Shanahan elected not to follow it.

Instead of coming out balanced against the Ravens, Shanahan came out pass-heavy.

I cautioned against this approach leading into the game.

He called four early-down runs in the first quarter and four more in the second quarter.

49ers early-down runs in the first half against the Ravens:

  • 9.9 YPC
  • +0.50 EPA/rush
  • 38% success
  • 5.6 yards before contact/rush
  • 4.3 yards after contact/rush

But he called 13 dropbacks (62% pass).

49ers early-down passes in the first half against the Ravens:

  • 6.6 YPA
  • -0.68 EPA/att
  • 46% success
  • 0 TD
  • 2 INT

Attack the Ravens Run Defense

Because the Ravens have faced so many middling rush offenses on the season, my pre-game opinion was to come out against Baltimore’s light boxes and force them to stop the run.

Since Week 10, the Ravens run defense ranks:

  • #28 in success rate allowed
  • #27 in EPA/rush allowed
  • #17 in YPC allowed
  • #23 in yards after contact per run allowed

On early downs in the first half of games, it has been even worse:

  • #32 in success rate allowed
  • #32 in EPA/rush allowed
  • #25 in YPC allowed
  • #28 in yards after contact per run allowed

This is in part because the Ravens play with light boxes at the #2 highest rate in the NFL, which substantially helps their pass defense at the same time.

But first, look at who the Ravens have gone up against in this time:

  • #31 run offense of the Chargers
  • #27 run offense of the Jaguars
  • #19 run offense of the Bengals
  • #17 run offense of the Browns
  • #7 run offense of the Rams

The Rams carved up the Ravens run defense.

So the 49ers needed to run, gain yards, avoid obvious pass situations, and force Baltimore to adjust.

But instead, Shanahan played right into the Ravens’ strength by passing a ton.

Against early down RB runs since Week 10, the Ravens are playing with light boxes at the #2 highest rate.

Their run defense ranks:

  • #28 in EPA/rush allowed
  • #27 in yards before contact per rush allowed
  • #24 in success rate allowed
  • #24 in YPC allowed

If we just isolate the snaps where they play with a light box, the numbers are even worse.

When playing with a light box in the first half of games since Week 10, the Ravens run defense ranks:

  • #31 in YPC allowed (5.6)
  • #32 in EPA/rush allowed (+0.13)
  • #29 in success rate allowed (44%)

I almost NEVER advocate for running the football like this, but teams that can run need to do it early in games against the Ravens to effectively move the ball and get them out of their light boxes.

Because when the Ravens adjust and bring in more defenders to stop the run, their pass defense plummets.

Look at their pass defense based on how many defenders are in the box:

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