Philip Rivers Roasts Ravens Offensive Coordinator on National TV

Ravens Philip Rivers

Getty Former Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers greets former Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs after a 2019 playoff game.

The Baltimore Ravens may be looking to move on from their crushing loss to the Miami Dolphins last Thursday, but former Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers still had a few thoughts during last night’s national broadcast of Monday Night Football between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers.

Rivers joined Peyton and Eli Manning on their hit ESPN show, ‘Manning Cast,’ in which the two brothers bring their combined 33 years of NFL experience to the broadcasting booth featuring a wide assortment of celebrity guests.

The Mannings spend the Monday night games mixing traditional commentary with interviews and stories from their careers and those of their guests. At one point during the Rams-49ers game, the conversation turned to the topic of blitzes and how to stop them, allowing Rivers to add his perspective on the Ravens’ Thursday night loss.

Rivers said that “it was good to know” that Eli Manning had blitz-counters in his playbook during his career, highlighting the “Sluggo” route as especially effective against the blitz. But the Ravens didn’t appear to run that particular concept on Thursday night, despite relentless blitzing from the Dolphins defense.

“It didn’t seem like [the Ravens] were going to do anything with it,” said Rivers, who noted that the Dolphins blitzed the Ravens “30-something times.”

What is a ‘Sluggo?’

Rivers mentioned a concept known as ‘Sluggo,’ a portmanteau of slant-and-go in which a receiver begins by running a ‘slant’ route before turning upfield on a vertical ‘go’ route.

Here is Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Amari Cooper running a Sluggo to perfection against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since slants are a common playcall against the blitz, cornerbacks will be expecting receivers to cut inside off the line of scrimmage. The Sluggo route allows speedy wideouts, like the Ravens’ Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown, to blow by their matchups and get open downfield without any safety help over the top. As a result, offenses can pick up chunks of yardage against blitzes and force defenses to back off.

The Ravens would be wise to include more slant and Sluggo concepts in future games as they attempt to combat the blitz.

Harbaugh Touts Response to Blitz

Rivers’ comments echoed widespread criticism and mockery of Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman after Thursday’s loss, with some going so far as to call for his firing.

But it’s worth noting that Roman is the architect of one of the league’s best offenses since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback in 2018. Their 1,230 points scored since the start of the 2019 season is first in the NFL in that span, per Statmuse, showing that Roman is indeed a skilled offensive coordinator.

Still, Roman and the rest of the Ravens coaching staff will need to find a way to adjust to aggressive blitzes if they want to succeed.

The NFL is a copycat league, so future opponents will certainly be using Miami’s gameplan as a blueprint for slowing down Lamar Jackson.

Head coach John Harbaugh thinks his team is going to be more than ready for blitzes in the future.

“We have great ideas against it,” he said yesterday, though he obviously refused to expand any further on his team’s future gameplans.

He admitted that he was “disappointed” in his team’s performance on Thursday, but remained positive, telling reporter, “We’re in the fight, we’re in first place.”

But the Dolphins exposed a potentially-fatal flaw in the Ravens’ offense. With a healthy offensive line, difficulty handling blitzes may have been only a small chink in the armor for the Ravens, but injuries to Ronnie Stanley and Patrick Mekari could push the unit to the brink.

“It’s going to be a dogfight throughout the course of the season,” said Harbaugh, who claimed responsibility for Thursday’s loss.

“There’s no excuses. We didn’t play well. We made so many mistakes,” he added, noting communication errors and missed assignments as part of Baltimore’s “myriad of mistakes.”

But Harbaugh isn’t expecting Baltimore to continue to struggle against the blitz.

“We’ve got great answers for it,” he repeated, even saying that the team would “welcome” similar aggressiveness from future opponents.