The Denver Broncos‘ season started this week. After going undefeated against three teams they were expected to beat, Denver got to face a legitimate side in the form of the Baltimore Ravens, ranked No. 5 in the PFF Power Rankings heading into the week.
Denver’s defense held up well, but the offense couldn’t maintain the efficiency it had enjoyed against weaker competition and the Broncos fell to their first defeat, losing 23-7 at home.
Click here for more PFF tools:
Lamar Jackson had to carry the offense once again this week, but it was far more as a passer than on the ground. Baltimore needed to run one final play rather than take a knee to keep their streak of 100-yard rushing performances as a team alive, so Jackson attempted 37 passes, completing 22 for 316 yards. The Ravens averaged a massive 0.300 EPA per passing play, and Jackson maintained his incredibly high average depth of target at 12.7 yards in this game.
For some reason, Ty’Son Williams was a healthy scratch for the game, with the Ravens electing to give opportunities to a trio of veterans in Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman and Le’Veon Bell. Murray led the team with 18 attempts, gaining 58 yards with 50 coming after first contact. Neither Bell nor Freeman managed a first down on the ground.
|Touches||1st Downs||Broken Tackles|
Marquise Brown went some way toward atoning for last week’s horror show by making a spectacular diving catch in the end zone for the go-ahead score. Brown split the Broncos safeties and sent Justin Simmons in the wrong direction before laying out for a tough catch. He gained 91 yards on five targets, the average of which was more than 20 yards down field.
Baltimore’s offensive line has already been dealing with problems, and that didn’t get any easier when Alejandro Villanueva went down late in the game. Villanueva has been pass-blocking well, allowing no pressure from 22 pass-blocking snaps pending grade review. He didn’t miss much time, with Andre Smith replacing him for eight snaps. But if the Ravens have to dive much deeper into the offensive line bench, they may be in trouble.
Calais Campbell was the best player on the Ravens defensive line, returning home to Denver where he was born and raised. Campbell was solid against the run but generated some real pressure with a pass-rush win rate of 18.8% from his 32 pass-rushing snaps. Justin Madubuike was the only pass-rusher on the Ravens with a better win rate, hitting 23.5% on his 17 rushes.
|Pass Rushes||Pass Rush Win Rate||Total Snaps|
Second-year linebacker Patrick Queen struggled again and at least briefly was replaced by Josh Bynes before coming back into the game. Queen had one defensive stop, but that’s one fewer than the number of tackles he missed, and he was still erased from the play almost any time an offensive lineman got his hands on him in the run game. Queen started the season well but has since reverted to his rookie issues.
Anthony Averett is the player who has been tasked with the most different set of responsibilities from what he would have been expecting coming into the season. The loss of Marcus Peters has propelled Averett into a starting role, and he was the most targeted Ravens corner in this game, seeing seven passes come his way. Of those seven, only two were caught, while he grabbed an interception late in the game to prevent a Broncos touchdown and seal the win. He also had a nice forced incompletion earlier.
Teddy Bridgewater was struggling far more against the Ravens defense than he had over the first three games of the season against far inferior opposition. Bridgewater completed just seven of his 16 attempts before being knocked from the game with a concussion. Drew Lock had a chance to show that he was a viable option for the starting job and execute a comeback, but he had little more success than Bridgewater.
|Dropbacks||EPA per pass||YPA||Adjusted Comp Rate|
Lock completed just 57.1% of his attempts with a lower adjusted completion rate than Bridgewater. His interception came late in the game with a badly located pass into the end zone when the game was already effectively over.
Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams continued to effectively split the workload in the Denver backfield. Gordon played 30 snaps and Williams was right behind him with 29. In terms of carries, Gordon had nine with Williams eight, and both players made the most of them, averaging more than 6.0 yards per attempt. Williams had the best run of the day, busting through several tackles and rumbling for far more yards than was available on the play. He finished with five broken tackles on seven carries.
Noah Fant scored Denver’s only touchdown, and he led the team in targets with 10, catching six for 46 yards. Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton were the other two receivers to see at least six targets, and both players moved the chains two times on three catches. Sutton’s average depth of target was 20.0 yards down field, but he and his quarterbacks couldn’t connect on enough of those plays to change the game.
All five members of the line played every snap of the game, but none were dominant against an impressive Ravens defensive front. Rookie Quinn Meinerz and center Lloyd Cushenberry III earned the best pass-blocking grades of the group, while the other guard, Netane Muti, was the chief victim of Calais Campbell and Justin Madubuike when it came to pressure inside. Overall, the unit allowed pressure on 32.6% of offensive snaps, which didn’t help the passing game thrive.
Depth was one of the features of Denver’s defensive front containing Lamar Jackson, with seven different players playing at least 15 snaps and nine earning playing time over the course of the game. The group didn’t get a lot of pressure, with a pressure rate of just 27.3% as a unit, but they timed it well and chipped in with a couple of batted passes on plays where they weren’t able to get home.
|Tackles vs. Run||Stops vs. Run||Missed Tackles|
Alexander Johnson and Justin Strnad were the only linebackers to play any snaps, with Strnad stepping into the role created by Josey Jewell’s injury. His performance didn’t stand out, but in coverage he didn’t allow a catch and was only targeted twice all game.
Denver’s secondary has been a strength so far this season, but they found things much tougher against Baltimore’s offense. Patrick Surtain consistently played just a little too soft, allowing five catches on seven targets that went for 55 yards. Justin Simmons — typically their best player on the back end — was spun around and got absolutely lost on the deep touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.