John Harbaugh explains protection issues against Texans, J.J. Watt

John Harbaugh credited Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel for staying one step ahead of the Ravens' pass protections Sunday, specifically when it came to preventing the Ravens from giving extra attention to game-wrecking defensive end J.J. Watt.

"They know what they're doing when they line up on defense," the Ravens coach said. "We do the same thing with our guys. … You wonder why [outside linebackers Elvis] Dumervil and [Terrell] Suggs don't get chipped as much as they do, it's because we're not allowing them to do it. It's a chess game, and they did a good job. They always do. Romeo Crennel is a great defensive coordinator."


The Texans' dominant pass rush, and its impact on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, was a chief storyline coming out of Sunday's 25-13 loss at NRG Stadium in Houston, with Watt's ability to disrupt the Ravens' attack a big reason the offense racked up just 211 yards.

Harbaugh was asked why he didn't give reserve rookie tackle James Hurst more help in dealing with Watt after starting right tackle Rick Wagner exited in the third quarter with a lower leg injury. It was suggested the Ravens could have chipped Watt with a tight end or running back coming out of the backfield to slow his momentum.


"You can't chip when they have two guys in the A gap [between the guards and center]," Harbaugh said. "It makes it impossible to chip. … They did a good job protecting J.J. and making sure he got single blocks. There weren't opportunities, really, to chip away at him. When we did have an opportunity to do it, we did. We put a tight end over him a couple times as well."

Harbaugh said the only other option would have been to go into maximum protection, which would have left just two receivers running routes but facing double coverage. The San Diego Chargers, however, went the other way against a Ravens pass rush that proved too difficult to handle. Instead of leaving extra blockers at the line of scrimmage, San Diego spread the Ravens out with four wide receivers and gave quarterback Philip Rivers more opportunities to get the ball out before the pass rush arrived.

Neither that, nor maximum protection or sliding protection Watt's way, seemed appetizing for the Ravens, who allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked twice, hit 10 times, and hurried 16 times, according to Pro Football Focus. Flacco was just four of 21 when under pressure, for 25 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions, according to PFF.

"We did everything we could to protect James [Hurst], but the fact of the matter is, in most situations, short of going complete max-protection — and then we'd have both the receivers covered — we didn't have the opportunity to do that because they had both backers in the A-gaps, and that uses up a [running] back," Harbaugh said.

"It's either that, or you slide the whole protection the other way, maybe to J.J., which still singles him out, or you put a back on J.J. Watt or [defensive end Jared Crick], who's a great pass rusher on the other side. It's not just as simple as some would claim to just chip out, because they don't always allow you to do that."