Studying paid off
Tipoffs greatly aided Chargers’ defence in win over Ravens
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.
TheAthletic.com 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.”
Defensive end Melvin Ingram (left) and the Chargers were dominant against the Ravens in a win on Sunday.