Last week we kicked off a new sponsorship deal in which we take a look at the top five defensive plays from the previous week's game and have you guys vote on the top play. While I could probably find five solid defensive plays every single week, that could get a little bit dry. Instead, each week we'll try something a little bit different. Some weeks we might take a look at five plays from a single player. Other weeks we might look at the five biggest mistakes of the week if they are particularly pertinent.
For this week, I looked up the plays that resulted in a stop on third down. The Ravens failed to convert on eight of their 15 third downs with the eighth coming in the victory formation. Those plays resulted in three field goals, including the one that just about iced the game at 16-6.
Here are the third down plays in order from the start of the game. These are just my quick notes from re-watching the game:
1. 3rd and 10 at SF 20 (10:33, 1st): Ahmad Brooks forces Flacco to his right, grabs him from beyond as Flacco throws short and incomplete in throwing it away
2. 3rd and 2 at Bal 18 (6:54, 1st): Over thrown pass - receiver ran into Ahmad Brooks and couldn't get turned in time
3. 3rd and 6 at SF 41 (15:00, 2nd): Aldon Smith gets ahold of Flacco as he is about to throw - Aldon shoves down Michael Oher - Flacco gets pass off
4. 3rd and 7 at Bal 38 (10:44, 2nd): Flacco drops back, scrambles pretty quickly, Donte Whitner gets up to stop him one short on a six-yard gain
5. 3rd and 5 at SF 5 (3:30, 2nd): Flacco appears to run a QB draw but runs into own defender and can't get around - results in field goal - Aldon Smith got around Bryant McKinnie and climbed back into the play to get the tackle with Justin Smith
6. 3rd and 1 at SF 46 (9:52, 4th): NaVorro Bowman, Donte Whitner converge on the stop to force punt - Ricky Williams was trying to go right off tackle
7. 3rd and 5 at SF 20 (3:14, 4th): Aldon Smith stops Ray Rice behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of one - easily gets around Bryant McKinnie
In looking through those plays, one name stands out: Aldon Smith. The 49ers rookie defensive end/outside linebacker got himself some snaps on third down and made an impact on the game. He had three tackles in the game and also sufficiently pressured Joe Flacco on one play to force an incomplete pass.
In the three third down plays where he had a fairly prominent part in the stop, Smith made absolute mincemeat of Michael Oher once and Bryant McKinnie twice. He basically shoved down Oher and ran over him on one play and worked his way around McKinnie on the other two plays. Smith didn't run over McKinnie, but in the first McKinnie play he fought off some good work by McKinnie to work his way back to Flacco. In the second play, Smith really just ran right around McKinnie with little concern. It was an impressive bit of work.
If I had to rank the above plays in a top five format, I'd probably go:
1. NaVorro Bowman/Donte Whitner stop of Ricky Williams on 3rd and 1
2. Aldon Smith stops Ray Rice for loss of 1
3. Aldon Smith runs over Michael Oher and forces incomplete pass by Flacco
4. Aldon Smith battles around Bryant McKinnie and back into the play to tackle Flacco from behind
5. Ahmad Brooks forces Flacco to scramble right and throw incomplete pass as Brooks gets a hand on him