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Some stats at the quarter pole....dissecting what they mean
First, here are some straightforward ones:
Joe Flacco: 1269 passing yards, on pace for 5076, yet still only 3rd in the league, which shows you the direction the game has gone.
Ray Rice:491 yards from scrimmage. That puts him on pace for 1964 for the year. If he can average 125.8 YFS for the remainder of the season, that will give him his 3rd 2000 YFS of his career. Assuming he does, that he will join an elite company of current and future Hall of Famers with Faulk (4 times), Payton (4), Dickerson (4), Tomlinson (3), Barber (3), Holmes (3), and James (3). That's pretty elite company.
Rice currently trails Jamaal Charles for the lead in YFS, so Sunday's matchup will be interesting in that respect. However, Jamaal Charles only gets to play that pitiful, pitiful Saints defense once this year, and most of his yards seem to come at the expense of that historically-awful defense.
Now here are some of the stats I thought were a bit bizarre.
Points allowed: ranked 10th (respectable)
Yards allowed: ranked 23rd (not good)
As bad as our offense has been at times, having this type of rank disparity is typically a sign of a good team.
Rush attempts allowed: 7th most
Rush yards allowed: 13th
Rush yards/carry allowed: 3.2 (tied for 3rd in NFL)
So, again, that is a positive stat for the defense. Teams are running the ball a bunch against us, but with minimal success.
Passing yards/game allowed: 29th in NFL
Pass attempts/game against: 4th most
Pass completes allowed per game: 24th
Pass completion % by opponent- 10th
Opposing passer rating- 10th in NFL
I think this might again mean that our defense isn't really as bad as it might have seemed. Even though we are giving up yards too easily, it seems to be a byproduct of a very high amount of attempts by opposing offenses. If we give up the 4th most amount of attempts, it's logical to think that an average defense would give up the 4th most yards, which we have. What would be alarming would be if we were middle of the pack in attempts against and in the bottom four in yards allowed. Yet, that's clearly not what has happened.
Even though we have seemingly struggled quantitatively on defense, we are still a decent/above average using every qualitative measure available, both in terms of how we are limiting the efficiency of our opposing QBs and in terms of limiting the opposing running game.
Our stats are skewed by the fact that we have allowed so many plays against us. We have allowed the 7th most rush attempts against us (despite our success stopping the run) and the 4th most pass attempts. The Ravens defense has faced 291 offensive plays this year, tied for 3rd most. By comparison, the Texans (arguably the AFC's best defense) have only had 232. Those extra 59 plays are nearly a games-worth of defensive snaps that the Ravens have faced over a team like Houston. No wonder we are towards the bottom in the league in yards/game allowed.
Now here's the strange stat:
Pass TDs allowed: 2 (Tied for 1st in NFL)
So, this team is 29th in Yards per game allowed, yet only 2nd in pass TDs allowed. Again, I think this is a good sign, that despite the lack of a pass rush, our defense has really maximized it's productivity by being the kings of the "bend but don't break" effiency mode. Yes, the Ravens have given up 6 rushing TDs, some of which were due to drives that were mostly passing plays, but this stat does show that, while the Ravens might give up a lot of yards in front of them, they've protected the goal line extremely well.
One last stat:
1st downs allowed: 30th
So, this stat kinda sums up the entire compilation of these stats. The Ravens defensive "problems" have been a byproduct of one thing, an inability to get off the football field. Everyone is talking about these high yardage totals as a sign of despair for our defense. They're not. Our defense is limiting our opposing offenses, and opposing QBs, to below-league-average levels of productivity. They aren't top 5 levels like we are accustomed to seeing, but it's still within the acceptable ranges. Our defense is also doing a great job of keeping the ball out of the end zone in relation to the amount of yards allowed.
Allowing our opponents 73 plays/game is clearly unacceptable, but I would consider this a much smaller sin than giving up oodles of points. I would also consider it a smaller sin than allowing opposing QBs to go wild against us (there are 9 teams who have allowed an opposing QB rating of 99.7 or higher so far this year, which is ridiculous). The QB rating against us this year is 78.4. That's 10 points worse than the league leading 68.8 we allowed last year, but I don't see any stat where we are in the top 10 as troubling in the least.
The encouraging part of this is would figure to be a correctable issue. Naturally, the return of an effective Suggs changes a lot. However, even without him, I don't think it's reason to panic. I would be far more concerned if the Ravens were allowing opposing offenses to pass the ball up and down the field with little resistance. When you look at all the stats and our passing TDs allowed, that's clearly not the case. One area of improvement in 3rd down stops and we are back in our normal spot in the top 8-10 defenses in the league. Even if the improvement never comes, there are bigger areas impacting other defenses around the league. I can live with the yards as long as they don't translate into points, and based on the season's first four games, our defensive efficiency is doing just fine.