“Sometimes it’s just not your day.” That phrase can be applied to days in life when nothing, not even the smallest of things, seem to go the way they are supposed to. The Detroit Lions had one of those days in Week 7, losing to the Baltimore Ravens 38-6.
Playing in front of a home crowd in Baltimore, the Ravens jumped all over the Lions from the jump. In the NFL, rarely are games essentially decided after the first quarter, but after 15 minutes—this one was pretty much cooked. 22-6 in plays ran, 104-6 in total yards, and a 12-minute to three-minute difference in time of possession—all in favor of the Ravens.
Contributing to these lopsided figures were 3 three-and-outs for the Lions’ offense, and because they couldn’t stay on the field for any amount of time early in the game—they made life even more difficult for their defense. For the majority of the first half of the season, the Lions have done a good job of playing complementary football. Against the Ravens? Not so much.
Ravens’ offensive coordinator Todd Monken and quarterback Lamar Jackson appeared to be in perfect sync against the Lions, with their first four drives ending in touchdowns. And going down 28-0 that early against a Baltimore defense that prides itself on getting after opposing quarterbacks was a recipe for disaster.
With the defense on its heels and the offense forced to abandon the running game prior to the first half being over, Baltimore was able to put this one in cruise-control early on, and coast their way to a big win at home.
Let’s get into the All-22 film of the Ravens’ offensive clinic against the Lions. For the purpose of this study, we will be focusing on some of the play-action and run-pass-options the Ravens utilized to break down the Lions’ defense.
First-and-10 on the Baltimore 38. 13:46 left in the first quarter
Under Monken, Jackson has seen less designed quarterback runs in 2023, which is something the Ravens’ brass wanted in order to keep their quarterback healthy in the long term. Don’t get it twisted, they will still fit some quarterback power concepts in there, and their RPO-game was something of a clinic in Week 7 (more on that later).
Through the first six games, Jackson had been operating more in the pocket, and despite some of the silly narratives out there—he has been excelling at it. His pocket presence and ability to stay calm with his eyes downfield were on full display against the Lions.
Out of the shotgun, Jackson takes the snap and fakes a handoff to running back Gus Edwards, who releases into the flat to Jackson’s right. Outside of left tackle Ronnie Stanley is fullback Pat Ricard, tight end Mark Andrews, and wide receiver Zay Flowers.
Ricard stays in-line to assist Stanley on the edge with Lions’ EDGE Aidan Hutchinson and defensive tackle Alim McNeill, while Andrews runs an in-breaker just behind linebackers Alex Anzalone and Derrick Barnes. Seeing Andrews run across his face, Lions’ safety Kerby Joseph breaks towards Andrews, and in doing so—leaves a void in the middle of the field.
Flowers does an excellent job of understanding his leverage against defensive back Will Harris, and gives Jackson plenty of room to layer in the pass over the head of Barnes and Anzalone. 46-yards and what would be the first of many chunk plays for the Baltimore offense.
Fourth-and-1 on the Detroit 7. 10:37 left in the first quarter
Later on in the opening series, the Lions defense gets Baltimore to a fourth-and-1. The Ravens are in 13 personnel, with Ricard in pre-snap motion towards the wide side of the field. The Lions counter the heavy look with nine player in the box, and a five-man defensive front.
At the top of your screen, you will see rookie linebacker Jack Campbell and defensive lineman John Cominsky circled on the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately for those two, this is where Monken starts to get in his play-calling duffel.
The Ravens run a fake-power look to the right, pulling left guard John Simpson. Along with Simpson, Ricard acts as if he is also lead blocking for the play fake to Edwards. At the same time, left tackle Ronnie Stanley has shuffled his way outside, serving as a lead blocker for Jackson who would walk into the endzone for the first score of the afternoon.
Cominsky attempts to shoot the gap left by Stanley shuffling to his left and attempts to tackle Edwards, while Campbell bites on the fake so hard that Lions’ safety Kerby Joseph gets escorted by Stanley all the way to the back of the endzone.
Just a really cool design by Monken executed to perfection by his offense.
Third-and-3 on the Detroit 12. 3:11 left in the first quarter
While the first score for Baltimore was an easy one due to undisciplined eyes on the part of the Lions’ defense, the Ravens’ second score was the equivalent of Dallas Mavericks’ star Luka Doncic hitting a three in the face of a defender that is draped all over him. Sometimes a superstar just makes a play.
Once again the Lions’ defense has an opportunity to get off the field for a much needed rest, but instead the secondary had to run around and cover for nearly ten seconds. The Lions’ pass rush does a decent job of keeping containment on Jackson. Defensively, this has been the preference of defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn when it comes to mobile quarterbacks—keep them from breaking the pocket, and slowly collapse it around them.
And at first, the defense does such a good job of this that Jackson actually runs into the back of his left guard, before spinning around and regaining his composure. Hutchinson, working against right tackle Morgan Moses, spins and reaches for Jackson. Because he is off-balance for a moment, Moses latches on to Hutchinson’s chest and drives him about five yards down the field. Tough to blame Hutchinson who was just trying to make a play, but Jackson ends up escaping to his right where Hutchinson was supposed to keep containment, and finds Flowers who eventually uncovers from Lions’ defensive back Brian Branch.
Again, the Lions played this fairly well for well over eight seconds, but because of who was playing quarterback for the Ravens—it still resulted in a score.
First-and-10 on the Baltimore 39. 15:00 left in the second quarter
Since his team was so soundly beaten in Week 7, Lions’ coach Dan Campbell has said several times that the defense just needed to do their job. Against a former MVP like Jackson, doing something outside of your assigned responsibility can get you burned. And as you likely already know, the Lions were burned several times.
On the first play of the second quarter, Jackson was in shotgun with running back Justice Hill to his right, and Mark Andrews and Pat Ricard outside of both Ronnie Stanley and Morgan Moses. The Lions are in man coverage (notice Barnes traveling with Ricard as he motions to the right of Moses), with only Kerby Joseph as the deep safety over the top.
The other three receivers all run routes well past the first down marker, with Ricard staying in for a moment to block before releasing and making himself available to Jackson. Initially, the Lions only rush five, but after Barnes doesn’t see Ricard immediately release as a receiver, he commits to rushing the passer.
The result is a 300-pound fullback barreling through the open field with only Kerby Joseph around to make the play. Somebody order Joseph a Jets eight-corner pizza with pepperoni and extra cheese, well done. Poor guy had a week.
First-and-10 on the Baltimore 49. 9:20 left in the second quarter
At this point, the score is already 21-0 Ravens, and the Lions defense is reeling. Baltimore has them completely shell-shocked in terms of what the defense is keying on, and begins breaking off chunk(s) on the ground.
Lamar Jackson around the right end for 9 yards. Gus Edwards to the right for 20 more. First-and-10 and the Ravens are once again in business. They come out in 11 personnel (one tight end, one running back), with wide receiver Nelson Agholor in motion towards the bottom of your screen.
Pre-snap, Lions’ defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs is lined up at the zero-technique (over the center), with John Cominsky at the five-technique (lined up directly over the tackle). Because of the motion from Agholor, both players bump down the line of scrimmage, with Anzalone and Barnes also sliding behind them.
Nothing fancy from the offense here. Just the Ravens’ offensive line winning at the point of attack, resetting the line of scrimmage, and creating an alley for their running back.
Thanks to the shift, the Ravens’ offense has numbers on the weakside. Left guard John Simpson relocates Buggs, McNeill gets walled off, and Baltimore center Tyler Linderbaum is able to climb and get a block on safety Tracy Walker.
Hill squeezes through a gap and is off to the races.
First-and-10 on the Detroit 24. 8:39 left in the second quarter
The very next play from Justice Hill illustrates how Monken began stacking concepts on top of each other, much like Lions’ offensive coordinator Ben Johnson does. Similar concept, similar formation—different play.
This time the Ravens are back in 13 personnel, utilizing three tight ends in a bunch formation to the right. Once he receives the snap, Jackson sprints to his right, while Moses, Ricard, and Hill pull to block in front of him—making it appear like the Ravens are running some variation of quarterback power.
Andrews, who was split out wide in the bunch formation, didn’t even attempt to sell that he was blocking. He actually ran into both Jack Campbell and Derrick Barnes before getting behind the muck in his route, breaking off another 22-yard chunk for the Ravens’ offense.
I don’t think anything drastic needs to be done to the Lions’ scheme, personnel, or anything of that nature. Were there lapses and missed assignments? Absolutely. But Lamar Jackson could end up being a front runner for the MVP award this season, and before it’s all said-and-done, I would bet that the Ravens are major players in the AFC.
On top of that, this is the NFL, and there are some weeks where you simply don’t have the juice. Learn from it, move on, and get back in the win column against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 8.
Ford Field should be rocking.