While waiting for SteelyKid to stop bouncing off the walls long enough to be put to bed last night, I watched a bit of the Jets losing to the Ravens on Monday Night Football. I saw most of the first half, and the end of the fourth quarter, and I noticed the announcers talking a lot about two things:
- Rex Ryan’s Jets blitzing all the time, especially on third-and-long, and
- The Ravens converting an incredible number of third downs (11 of 19), especially long third downs
It was actually kind of amazing to me that none of them thought to connect the two. Because here’s what I saw: the Jets played pretty good defense on first and second down, stuffing Baltimore’s attempts to run the ball and holding their short passing to short gains. Then, on third down, they ran some wacky blitz scheme sending seven defenders and a couple of equipment managers after the quarterback, and Baltimore picked up the blitz that they knew was coming, and either completed a pass for the first down, or got the first down on a knucklehead penalty by one of the Jets DB’s who was forced into man-to-man coverage of the very good Ravens receivers.
It wasn’t an accident that they were talking about both of those things– the Ravens were completing third downs at a phenomenal rate because the Jets were blitzing like idiots in every passing situation. If Baltimore hadn’t turned the ball over a bunch of times on dumb plays, the game wouldn’t've been close. This is one of the very few areas where Gregg Easterbrook seems to know what he’s talking about.
I dunno. Maybe there was something in the third quarter, while I was putting SteelyKid to bed, that invalidates this hypothesis. But for the first half, at least, it seemed pretty obvious that there was a direct causal link between these two facts, and not just a correlation.