Study­ing paid off

Tipoffs greatly aided Charg­ers’ de­fence in win over Ravens

The Province - - FOOTBALL - JOHN KRYK [email protected]­ @JohnKryk

On many de­fen­sive plays in Sun­day’s con­vinc­ing vic­tory over the Ravens in Bal­ti­more, Los An­ge­les Charg­ers de­fend­ers said after­ward they knew what was com­ing.

Thanks to tipoffs they dis­cov­ered on game tape. Right down to how Ravens left tackle Ron­nie Stan­ley po­si­tioned his feet be­fore the snap.

That’s how thor­oughly the Charg­ers stud­ied Bal­ti­more’s of­fen­sive ten­den­cies. Their plan­ning was so ef­fec­tive that un­til the Ravens’ last three drives of Sun­day’s game, af­ter they fell be­hind Los An­ge­les 23-3 with 9:09 re­main­ing, QB Lamar Jack­son and com­pany could muster only 76 yards rush­ing and mi­nus-11 — yes, mi­nus-11 — net pass­ing yards, in­clud­ing sacks. It was to­tal L.A. de­fen­sive dom­i­na­tion.

The Charg­ers (13-4) hung on for a 23-17 vic­tory to ad­vance to the sec­ond of two AFC di­vi­sional play­off games this week­end, Sun­day at the 11-5 New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots (1:05 p.m. EST, CTV via CBS).

The vic­tory over Bal­ti­more avenged the Charg­ers’ lop­sided loss to the Ravens just 15 days ear­lier. The

dif­fer­ence this time was in the de­fen­sive de­tails.

Thor­ough tape study re­vealed numer­ous Bal­ti­more of­fen­sive ten­den­cies, ac­cord­ing to post-game re­ports off in­ter­views.

TheAth­ re­ported that Charg­ers play­ers and coaches “solved” el­e­ments of the Bal­ti­more rush­ing at­tack that had vexed them on Dec. 22.

For in­stance, the Charg­ers picked up “tells,” or clues — such as when Ravens left tackle Stan­ley lined up his feet evenly, it tipped a run­ning play, whereas when he dropped his left foot back a bit it in his stance, it’d be a pass “al­most 100%” of the time.

An­other Bal­ti­more tipoff, ac­cord­ing to TheAth­letic. com, was when it lined up in the pis­tol for­ma­tion with one tight end repo­si­tioned into

the back­field, stag­gered to the side of the for­ma­tion where the up-front tight end lined up. That nearly al­ways meant one of two spe­cific run­ning plays were com­ing.

Ap­par­ently, the Ravens didn’t change any­thing up for the re­match, and the bet­ter­pre­pared Charg­ers de­fend­ers this time were ready for al­most ev­ery­thing.

Now, do you think the Charg­ers are go­ing to be able to find so many glar­ing “tells” this week when they pore over Pa­tri­ots game tape? You’d think not, but on Tuesday New Eng­land head coach Bill Belichick suggested no team can com­pletely mask ev­ery play.

Nor does it al­ways even want to.

“Look, there’s a cer­tain el­e­ment of that ev­ery week when you study your op­po­nent as much as play­ers and coaches do in this

league,” Belichick said. “You see a lot of that. A lot of film study and try­ing to find ten­den­cies about for­ma­tions, plays, in­di­vid­ual tips and so forth and so on. Each game has its own; each game, each player, each unit has their own char­ac­ter­is­tics of keys and so forth. I think that’s part of foot­ball.

“I’ve never coached against a good team that didn’t have ten­den­cies; I’d say pretty strong ten­den­cies. Usu­ally, that’s what makes teams good teams is they do some­thing and they do it well, and they can con­tinue to do it even though you have some an­tic­i­pa­tion of what they’re go­ing to do. But that’s what makes good foot­ball teams good.”

Belichick added he’s sure teams that study Pa­tri­ots game tape dis­cover “keys and tips, just like we study them.”

One way to limit the

ef­fec­tive­ness of such ten­dency give­aways is to bal­ance them out, Belichick said. Pre­sum­ably, he meant by run­ning out of an ob­vi­ous pass for­ma­tion, and vice versa. Or by run­ning a play to the left some­times and not al­ways to the right, for ex­am­ple.

“Ul­ti­mately, there are a lot of vari­ables in that too. I think some of those things are a lit­tle bit over­rated,” Belichick said.

“(Some­times) we know what our ten­den­cies are, but we do them that way for a rea­son, and we’re go­ing to con­tinue to do them that way. I would imag­ine that’s prob­a­bly the way it is with most ev­ery other team in the league, or any other team at a high level of foot­ball.”

— AP

De­fen­sive end Melvin In­gram (left) and the Charg­ers were dom­i­nant against the Ravens in a win on Sun­day.

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