Ravens will be in a rush to put pressure on Bledsoe

Limiting throwing time of immobile Bills QB key to defense's success

October 22, 2004|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

In going against Drew Bledsoe on Sunday, the Ravens either will apply pressure on the Bills quarterback or they'll feel some in return.

If given time, Bledsoe is a model of consistency. If hurried, he consistently resembles a statue.

It's a hit-or-miss proposition with Bledsoe, a pure pocket passer who has the strong arm that secondaries fear and the lack of mobility that pass rushers love.

"If you let Drew sit back there and just pat that football, he picks anybody apart," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I don't care how good you are on defense. That's one of the biggest things we saw on film: Just don't let him get into his comfort zone."

Since being traded from New England in 2002, Bledsoe has been in anything but a comfort zone, managing a 15-22 record in just over two seasons in Buffalo.

His lack of success is tied to his lack of time to throw. He has been sacked an NFL-high 123 times since joining the Bills, an average of 3.3 a game.

Part of the blame can be put on Buffalo's banged-up, ragged offensive line. The rest can be put upon Bledsoe, the NFL's seventh all-time leading passer who is one of the league's most slow-footed quarterbacks.

At 6 feet 5 and 238 pounds, Bledsoe constantly waits and waits until either a receiver comes open or he's knocked to the ground.

"We don't like playing against the Michael Vick or Donovan McNabb," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "A stationary quarterback, you know where he is going to be and you know how you can get there."

The Ravens are among the NFL's best at "getting there."

In addition to recording 14 sacks this season, their defense has hit the quarterback 49 times on 169 dropbacks. That means the Ravens have reached the quarterback once every four pass attempts.

What makes the Ravens so effective is they don't have to risk much to produce pressure. They will bring five players about half the time but rarely send more than that, which allows them to keep at least six defenders in coverage.

The Ravens don't have to rely on a heavy blitz because they rely on unpredictability. Besides the Ravens' front three, offenses have to locate where the other two players are coming from, whether it's a linebacker, cornerback or safety. The Ravens have shown they are willing to blitz Ed Reed and Gary Baxter as quickly as they would Adalius Thomas.

As a result, nine Ravens have at least one sack this year.

"If you do one thing all the time, they can hone in and get you," defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said. "I think it's important to change it up. They try to make you work with different formations, so you have to make them work."

Buffalo's offensive line has been a question mark most of the season.

Starting center Trey Teague is expected to miss his third straight game with a knee injury, but much of the pass-rush problems have come off the edge. Right offensive tackle Mike Williams, who has yet to live up to the expectations of a high first-round pick, and left tackle Jonas Jennings have given up a total of 6 1/2 sacks.

But the Bills supplied sound protection Sunday, when they surrendered just one sack to Miami because they double-teamed Dolphins end Jason Taylor.

"Late in downs when guys maybe get a little winded, teams have been successful pushing the pocket [against the Bills]," defensive end Marques Douglas said. "It's staying true to form. We're going to have some success if we stay consistent. We can't let him [Bledsoe] sit back there."

The most movement could come if the Ravens sack Bledsoe.

Suggs, who has a team-high five sacks and 12 quarterback hits, has made a routine of dancing after reaching the quarterback.

He said he picks up his moves from movies, using some steps from You Got Served after sacking Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell. And with each sack comes a different dance.

"Everybody keeps getting on me about my dances," Suggs said. "I don't do the same one. I'm 22 years old and I have a lot of experience and years watching movies."

While Suggs has youth, Bledsoe has the experience.

In 12 seasons, he has thrown for more than 300 yards 34 times and has produced 23 games with three touchdowns or more. He has yet to reach such numbers this season, cracking 200 yards passing just twice.

But the Ravens know what Bledsoe is capable of if they can't get to him.

"Either we get burned," Lewis said, "or he gets hit a lot."

Blitzing Bledsoe

In his three seasons with the Bills, quarterback Drew Bledsoe has ranked last or next-to-last in getting sacked. A year-by-year look:

Season....Sacks....Yds lost....Rank




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