CFLs' defense gets rest, but needs to rush more

August 12, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Sports Writer

Baltimore's defense rested Wednesday night.

Not all night, of course. Just when the CFLs' offense was pushing the Hamilton Tiger-Cats all over the Memorial Stadium field for 589 yards and 30 points. It was rest in the right places.

"The defense wasn't on the field that long," cornerback Karl Anthony said yesterday about the CFLs' 30-15 victory. "There were a lot of two-and-outs. That's one of the reasons we played well."

After three weeks of relentless retreat, the Baltimore defense went on the attack. It held former NFL quarterback Timm Rosenbach without a first down in the opening 15 minutes, without a touchdown in the first half.

It was in contrast to the previous three games, when the CFLs surrendered an average of 410 passing yards and 32 points against Shreveport, Winnipeg and Las Vegas.

"Defensively," coach Don Matthews said, "we needed a big game."

This was big. The CFLs (4-2) gave up season lows of 203 yards passing and 306 in total offense. It was a welcome reprieve to a secondary that had been in constant backpedal.

"The first couple of games, the [opposing] quarterback was scrambling around a lot," free safety Michael Brooks said. "It's hard to stay on your guy that way. Last night, we played more zone coverage, and that kept them off balance We started mixing it up a little more and [Rosenbach] was rattled a couple of times. What we're trying to do is eliminate the big plays."

In a league where the big play is king and the pass is everything, Matthews said the CFLs' problem is the pass rush, not the secondary.

"The rush is not where we want it to be," he said. "Our coverage is excellent. We've got to get a better, more consistent pass rush. And when we get the quarterback, we've got to get him on the ground."

Baltimore's pass rush produced one sack against Hamilton -- on a linebacker blitz by Matt Goodwin -- and only four in the last three games. The CFLs' two big pass rushers, end O. J. Brigance and tackle Jearld Baylis, have yet to break loose -- literally in Brigance's case.

It is not uncommon to see an offensive lineman drag down Brigance by the shoulder pads from behind, without a flag. And even though Baylis once chased Rosenbach 25 yards -- from the Baltimore 30 to the 55 -- his mobility is limited by a tender knee that he estimates is only 70 percent well.

When defensive tackle Robert Presbury suffered a strained groin -- as he was pulled down just short of a sack Wednesday -- the CFLs were looking to shore up the line. Matthews said he'll bring in another lineman -- an NFL cut -- this week.

NOTES: After rushing for 172 yards and a clinching touchdown Wednesday night, Mike Pringle had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee yesterday. Team doctor Ken Gertsen removed a piece of cartilage at St. Joseph's Hospital, and Pringle was out rehabbing the knee by the afternoon. "There's a 90 percent chance he'll come back against Toronto," Matthews said . . . . Presbury had three screws inserted in his broken right thumb yesterday, as well. Dr. Bruce Wolock corrected a break from the Las Vegas game. Presbury expects to play against Toronto, too . . . . Slotback B.K. Williams, out for the year with a ruptured right Achilles' tendon, had surgery on his left knee Monday and remains hopeful of returning to football next season.

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