Ravens likely face run-on sentence Inability to stop run hasn't gone unnoticed

October 21, 1997|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,SUN STAFF

Right about now, Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner and his staff are watching the tapes of the Ravens' past two games and noticing a serious problem.

They are watching Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis run a play the Redskins made famous years ago, the counter trey or ace counter, many times to the tight-end side at either defensive end Rob Burnett or Michael McCrary and always at strong-side linebacker Peter Boulware.

And then they are watching Miami Dolphins running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar cut back countless times against an over-pursuing Ravens defense, one that failed to stay in its gaps to close down those lanes.

Bettis finished with 137 yards on 28 carries. Abdul-Jabbar totaled 108 yards on 22 carries. The Ravens lost both of those games and are re-examining the strength of their team, the defensive line, heading into Sunday's game against the Redskins (4-3) at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

Thank goodness for the Ravens there is a chance Washington running back Terry Allen might not play because of a sprained knee.

"I don't know if we'll see Terry Allen, but we'll prepare for him," Marchibroda said of the Redskins' top running back. "They ran the ball well with Stephen Davis, which shows how deep they are and good the offensive line is."

To correct their problem, though, the Ravens have to look at themselves on film and in the mirror.

"The word is out," said Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa. "Teams are going to watch film and think they can slap us around. Everybody is going to run on us. I've played against Washington before, and they're going to run at us until we stop it. They brought me in here to stop the run, and every time a team gets more than 150 yards rushing, I take it personally. I think we're all taking it that way now. We have a sense of urgency."

There was no such immediacy early in the season. The Ravens held Jacksonville Jaguars running back Natrone Means to 67 yards on 25 carries in the opener and the Cincinnati Bengals' Ki-Jana Carter to 22 yards on 10 attempts a game later. They also held the Tennessee Oilers' Eddie George to 40 yards on 10 carries in Week 4.

So what has transpired in the past three weeks?

"It's just us being out of place," said Boulware. "We have a fast-flow defense, and teams are getting on to it. Miami took advantage of it with the cutbacks. What it requires is for us to be more disciplined."

Translation: The Ravens play a gap defense in which all of the front seven players, and even the safeties, basically have an area of responsibility. Earlier in the season, some of the Ravens, like Siragusa and middle linebacker Ray Lewis, took free-lancing liberties and started journeying out of their lanes.

Now that teams have caught on to the Ravens' style, the free-lancing has been put on hold.

"Early in the season, teams didn't know what to expect from us," said Siragusa. "For instance, if I had Gap B but there was nothing going on there, then I would jump in Gap A to help out my teammate. But now teams are jumping back or cutting back to Gap B, and I'm out of position. We're aggressive and we want to make plays, but from now on, we have to do our jobs individually and the rest will take care of itself."

Miami did a great job of sealing off the backside pursuit on running plays, especially offensive tackle Richmond Webb on McCrary, whose forte is running down plays from behind.

Siragusa also points out that the Ravens have two new defensive linemen and two rookie outside linebackers starting in their front seven.

Boulware, the team's No. 1 draft pick out of Florida State, agrees. On the counter plays, his job is to take on the fullback and guard while either Lewis or weak-side linebackers Jamie Sharper or Cornell Brown make the tackle.

At Florida State, Boulware tried to make the play.

"I'm still getting adjusted to this gap-control defense," said Boulware. "Even if you make the play, they tell you, 'Great play, but your job is to contain.' At Florida State, you were taught to just blow up the play. For four years, they drilled us to get to the ball, and they punished us if we didn't."

The defense is tailored for Lewis and the weak-side linebacker, who is uncovered, to make most of the tackles. But Lewis didn't have a great tackling day against the Steelers or Dolphins, and Sharper, a rookie, was benched for Brown last week.

Brown will make his second start against the Redskins.

Most of the players feel the adjustments are minor and were corrected against Miami in the second half, when the Dolphins scored three points, compared with 21 in the first.

Siragusa defended coordinator Marvin Lewis, whose defense is ranked No. 29 in the NFL.

"Marvin prepares us as well as any coach I've ever been around," said Siragusa. "We know everything the other team is going to run, but he can't go out and make a tackle for us on Sunday."

Next for Ravens

Opponent: Washington Redskins

Site: Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, Landover

When: Sunday, 1 p.m. TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WJFK (1300 AM), WLIF (101.9 FM)

Line: Redskins by 6

Series: First meeting

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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