Suggs, rest of defense more than hold the line

Strategy to control play up front works well with six sacks, five turnovers

Ravens 31, Bengals 13

Nfl Week 14

December 08, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

After wrapping a car around a pole Friday morning and escaping without a scratch, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs had a feeling his good fortune -- good, considering what happened to the car, he said --would continue in yesterday's AFC North showdown.

As it turned out, Suggs did have good luck against the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive line and then spread some to his line mates as the Ravens recorded six sacks, forced three fumbles and harassed quarterback Jon Kitna throughout a 31-13 win at M&T Bank Stadium.

The six sacks tie the Ravens' season high set against the Seattle Seahawks.

"I knew I was going to have a good game because that just shows you how blessed you are," said Suggs, who borrowed his cousin's car to go to work and hit a pole after skidding off I-695 because of the snow. "It was a tragic accident that could have ended up really bad."

While Suggs, Peter Boulware and Adalius Thomas each had two sacks, it was Suggs who made the earliest, then biggest, impact.

Suggs' first-quarter sack for 5 yards forced a punt on the Bengals' third possession and set the tone for the afternoon.

After coming close another time, Suggs finally blindsided Kitna on third-and-six from the Bengals' 24 midway through the third quarter, forcing a fumble that he recovered. The Ravens scored on Jamal Lewis' 3-yard run three plays later to take a 24-13 lead with 5:31 left in the quarter.

The pass rush was reminiscent of the tenacity shown by retired Ravens defensive end Michael McCrary -- and for good reason. McCrary tutors the defensive linemen on Thursdays and Fridays.

"Those aren't really my moves," Suggs said. "I'm stealing them from Michael McCrary. If you look closely, those are a lot of his moves because he's been helping me a lot.

"I'm just borrowing them until I can perfect my own. I'm grateful because I need all the help I can get."

As for Boulware, he has his own moves down pat. Boulware forced and recovered a Kitna fumble on an 8-yard sack with two minutes to play by bull-rushing a backup left tackle.

The Ravens were able to run out the clock after Lewis' 18-yard run on the next play. In all, the Ravens forced five turnovers that led to three of their four touchdowns (Kitna was intercepted twice in the fourth quarter).

Thomas, who fractured his elbow and is likely out for the season, sacked Kitna and caused a fumble in the second quarter, but running back Brandon Bennett recovered the ball for a 10-yard loss.

"It's one thing to get a sack, but it's another thing to get a sack and a fumble," Boulware said. "That's a huge play. Rex [Ryan] and Coach [Mike] Nolan really harped on that, and the second half we did that and were successful.

"I think that was the best we pass-rushed all year. We got to the quarterback, and we knew with a quarterback like him, we had to get to him to disrupt the routes."

Defensive end Marques Douglas said the strategy did not end with just getting to the quarterback.

"We knew we had to take over that line of scrimmage," said Douglas, who had a hit on Kitna in the fourth quarter that forced a bad pass into the arms of Ray Lewis. "I felt like coming into the game we had to knock him out of the game. We just had to come in and play hard."

Asked to expound on knocking Kitna out, Douglas said: "We wanted to physically take him out of the game. We didn't knock him out of the game. You never want to injure anybody, but we want to win."

Rushing the passer the way they did against the Bengals, the Ravens will win more times than not.

"Me, Pete, A.D. before he got hurt and [Tony] Weaver, we really got after him," Suggs said. "We really didn't give them a clear lane to throw in, and he wasn't really comfortable. When a quarterback is hot, you've got to rattle him."

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