One of the more exciting matchups for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs is the Baltimore Ravens going against the Buffalo Bills. The quarterback matchup takes center stage, with Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen going head to head. Given how both of them played in their wild-card games, it will be an electrifying affair when these two take the field.
Both defenses will have their work cut out for them going against these talented quarterbacks. The Ravens defense will be dealing with one of the hottest in the league in Allen. Baltimore’s defense loves to bring the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but they should think twice about doing that against Allen. It looks like the Ravens did think about, and won’t back down from doing something they’ve done all season.
Josh Allen excels at beating the blitz
When it comes to defeating the blitz, no quarterback was better than Josh Allen this season. Standing at 6’5’’ and weighing 237 pounds, Allen is a big body. His size allows him to shake off defenders, one of the reasons he is so good at beating the blitz. Combine his size with his improved play this season, Allen is a certified blitz buster.
Against the blitz this season, Allen has thrown 19 touchdown passes, the most in the NFL per ESPN. According to Buffalo News, he has a 113.2 passer rating and completes 67.5% of his passes against pressure. His 8.2 yards per attempt against blitzes show that he is looking to burn defenses when they bring extra players.
Josh Allen’s 2020 season was off the charts. He made jumps in almost every statistical category, the biggest being his completion percentage. Allen jumped up nearly 11 percentage points from 58.8% to 69.2%. He finished the season as the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,500 yards, 35 passing touchdowns, and five rushing touchdowns in a single season. His increased success at defeating the blitz this year allowed him to take his game to the next level.
The Buffalo Bills offense is a high-octane machine, led by Josh Allen. The Ravens defense is one of the better units in the NFL, so things won’t come easy for Allen and company. Despite his excellence at blitz busting, the Ravens are going to bring the pressure against Allen. That is something they’ve done all season, so why change now?
The Ravens won’t be scared to blitz the Bills
The Baltimore Ravens defense is one of the better units in football, allowing the seventh-fewest yards in the league this season. One thing about their defense is they love to bring pressure. Baltimore blitzed on 41% of their defensive plays this season, the highest amount in the league. They aren’t going to change their gameplan for Josh Allen and will bring the blitz against the league’s best blitz buster.
“He knows that there is going to be pressure, that’s for sure. That’s who we are. That’s what we’ve done,” said Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale. Bringing the heat is nothing new in Baltimore. They have led the NFL in blitz rate the past three seasons.
Martindale can afford to send extra people because their secondary is so good. Marlon Humphry and Marcus Peters are the notable corners who anchor the Ravens secondary. The secondary also brings the pressure, as the Ravens use defensive back blitzes 25% of the time.
“Our secondary is really good…Our goal as a defense is to try to put as much stress on protection rules that teams have. The end-all goal is to have a free runner to the quarterback,” said Martindale per Buffalo News. The Ravens love the blitz and are willing to die on that hill against Buffalo.
How will Josh Allen fair against the Ravens blitz?
This Saturday playoff matchup won’t be the first time Josh Allen faced the blitz-happy Ravens defense. The two met in Week 13 of the 2019 season. The Ravens brought the blitz in that game, sending pressure on 62.5 percent of the time. Blitzing Allen worked because he had the worst game of his career.
Allen completed 7 of 23 passes for 64 yards and was sacked five times against the blitz in that game. He threw for 146 yards and one touchdown in the 24-17 loss against Baltimore. That was a challenging game for Allen, and he wants to make up for it in this divisional playoff contest. It is a new year, and the Bills offense is vastly different from 2019.
The Bills knows the blitz is coming; now it is up to Allen to find the matchup and exploit it. The Ravens’ blitzing habits mean their secondary is in man coverage. With Stefon Diggs at receiver, Allen should get some favorable matchups with him against Baltimore’s secondary. Buffalo can also leave a running or tight end to block, giving Allen extra time to throw.
The Ravens don’t fear Josh Allen and are going to bring the pressure against him. It worked in their last matchup, but Allen is a different quarterback now. He has sharpened his skills and could burn Baltimore’s defense. If the Bills beat the Ravens’ blitz, they will be in the AFC Championship for the first time since 1993.
All stats courtesy of ESPN