I miss Earl Thomas and don’t hold any ill-will towards him even after all of the drama at the end of his tenure with the Seattle Seahawks. With that said, he’s not with the Seahawks anymore and he’s going to be on the opposing sideline at CenturyLink Field very soon, so I also am more than entitled to take a jab at the former franchise free safety.
The Baltimore Ravens raced out to a 2-0 record, looking like a potential AFC contender with their wins over the (still winless) Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals. They came back down to earth with a close, competitive loss at the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, then got a harsh reality check when they were crushed 40-25 at home by a desperate Cleveland Browns team. It is not often you see a Ravens defense give up 73 points over a two-game span, but they have been gashed.
Where does ETIII fit in this story? Well we know he’s always one to be outspoken, but sometimes soundbites can comeback to bite you.
Prior to the Chiefs game, Thomas made the bold promise that he was going to put an end to those explosive plays that Kansas City gets seemingly every week.
“Luckily the Ravens have me playing free safety, controlling the deep end,” Thomas said. “I plan on eliminating all the big plays.”
The Chiefs racked up a season-high 503 yards of offense, including an 83-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes to Mecole Hardman that appeared to be a coverage mix-up involving Thomas and Tony Jefferson.
(Gif via Kansas City Star)
We are used to seeing Thomas defending the deep middle, but he attacked the underneath route while Jefferson backpedaled to defend absolutely no one, and their battleship was sunk.
Was Thomas actually at fault? Not necessarily.
Before the snap, Jefferson and Thomas were almost parallel in their depth, 11 to 13 yards off the line of scrimmage, with Thomas on the half of the field facing three Kansas City wide receivers. As Mahomes dropped back, Thomas did not drop deep; he looked for shorter crossing routes and hook routes over the middle of the field.
It was Jefferson who headed to the middle deep third of the field. His problem was that as he backpedaled, he moved no closer laterally to the lightning-fast Mecole Hardman, who was running a simple go route from one slot alignment in the Chiefs’ trips formation. Jefferson was on the opposite hash mark, on the side of the field with just one Kansas City receiver.
Had Thomas and Jefferson flipped their presnap responsibilities, the secondary would’ve been in better shape. But the Ravens never put themselves in a position to prove it.
No big deal. The Chiefs are a force and this was a road game. They had the opportunity to bounce back at home against the Cleveland Browns, whose offense had been thoroughly underwhelming through three weeks.
Cleveland has been heavily hyped as a Super Bowl contender, and all of the talk without actual results irked Thomas and the rest of the Ravens.
“The media was talking about OBJ and that tandem and Baker Mayfield, the next savior,” Thomas said Wednesday to ESPN. “Then, to add on to that, Coach [John Harbaugh] talked about it a couple of times in meetings. So guys kind of got tired about it.”
Cleveland gashed Baltimore for 530 yards (with only 20 of those coming from Odell Beckham Jr) and forced Lamar Jackson into four sacks and two turnovers. Nick Chubb rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, including an 88-yard dash that killed Baltimore’s comeback.
Of note is Thomas not really bothering to keep chasing Nick, giving up the rundown at midfield.
Thomas obviously has had injury problems in each of the last three seasons, including two instances of missing time with a pulled hamstring. Rather sadly, this appears to be why he made that business decision that we know he would not have made even five years ago.
Earl Thomas on why he pulled up on Nick Chubb's 88-yard TD run: "I tried to get there, couldn’t get there. It wasn’t worth pulling a hamstring. I’ve been there before trying to chase DeAndre Hopkins down on a screen. I pulled a hamstring, and I was out. I wasn’t doing that today"— Jamison Hensley (@jamisonhensley) September 29, 2019
He also was one of three Ravens to miss an open-field tackle on Chubb’s first score.
If Thomas and company got tired of the hype, they personally got the train back on track.
Post-game, it was reported that Thomas had a heated confrontation with defensive lineman Brandon Williams, who was questionable with a knee injury and ended up not playing.
I don’t really have any evidence that Thomas has played poorly thus far. Pro-Football-Reference says that QBs are 1-3 for -3 yards and an interception thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who loves throwing interceptions specifically to Earl. What I do know is that the Ravens defense as a whole has been mediocre at best. They ranked 19th in DVOA entering the Browns game, and are likely to drop further thanks to that clunker. Quietly, they are 24th in Explosive Pass Rate (according to Sharp Football Stats), and 17th in Explosive Run Rate.
The Seahawks defense has fared better than the Ravens in pass and run DVOA, as well as Explosive Pass Rate and Explosive Run Rate. When you factor in schedule, Baltimore has had it tougher based on Kansas City alone, but I’ve already brought up their Dolphins-Cardinals stretch that got them to 2-0 in the first place.
Baltimore has a divisional showdown at the Pittsburgh Steelers next week, and two weeks later Earl comes back to Seattle for a game that is highly likely to be important for both teams.