Thomas cues Ravens' defense

Raiders can't stop do-it-all linebacker from dominating

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 28 Raiders 6

September 18, 2006|By Bill Ordine | Bill Ordine,SUN REPORTER

In the Ravens' complex defensive scheme, versatile linebacker Adalius Thomas can play just about anywhere. But to the Oakland Raiders yesterday, it must have appeared that Thomas was virtually everywhere.

The 6-foot-2, 270-pound defensive hybrid had two sacks, including a safety, an interception and led the Ravens with seven solo tackles in their 28-6 snuffing of the Raiders in yesterday's home opener at M&T Bank Stadium.

"They don't know if [Thomas] is a safety, a defensive tackle, a defensive end or a linebacker," Ravens defensive end Terrell Suggs said, explaining the dilemma that Thomas presents opposing offenses.

"The ability to put him everywhere gives us a lot of defenses we can run, and when the offense doesn't know what they're facing, it makes it pretty easy for the defense."

Thomas helped set the tone for the game when he stonewalled the Raiders on their first offensive play, nailing running back LaMont Jordan for a 1-yard loss.

In no time, Oakland imploded, turning the ball over twice when starting quarterback Aaron Brooks fumbled successive center snaps, and by the end of the first quarter, the Ravens defense smelled blood. For nearly the first 21 minutes, the Raiders failed to get a first down.

About midway through the third quarter with the Ravens ahead by 13 points, Thomas and defensive end Trevor Pryce combined for the safety that all but sealed the game.

"I told Trevor if he beat his man inside, I was going to route off him," Thomas said. "So when he did, they grabbed him and held him, so that gave me a chance to come free."

By that stage of the game, Pryce, who had his own sack earlier, was drawing much of the Raiders' attention. He beat his man, and as the Raiders clawed at him, Thomas had the lane he needed.

"I told him, `If you come around, you'll get the sack,' " Pryce said.

As the game wound down, it was clear that the Ravens were getting substantial pressure on backup Raiders quarterback Andrew Walter with just a four-man rush. The Ravens heat kept coming even though Oakland resorted to maximum blocking protection, often with two tight ends.

So when Walter began to desperately attack through the air, there was Thomas again but this time in pass coverage.

On a throw deep down the left side early in the fourth period, the Raiders quarterback tried to hit wide receiver Alvis Whitted with defensive back Evan Oglesby close by. The ball wound up in Thomas' hands.

"I had flat responsibility, and Evan did a great job. He tipped it and I was going to the ball," Thomas said. "It was being in the right place at the right time."

The Raiders consistently had to call timeouts, apparently perplexed by the Ravens' defensive looks. Thomas said he thought there was another factor.

"I don't know if it was because of our looks or because of our fans, the crowd," Thomas said. "[Raiders quarterback Walter] was trying to check and they couldn't hear. It was like, `What?' So I think both contributed."

After shutting out Tampa Bay in the opener, the Ravens (2-0) figured to be a daunting challenge for the Raiders (0-2), who were blanked by San Diego to start the season. "Any time your quarterback drops back in a four-man rush and he's constantly under pressure, that's a problem," said Jordan, a Maryland alumnus. "That's a big problem."

Pryce said that when an offense goes to maximum protection -- especially against just a four-man rush -- it's a badge of honor.

"The easiest thing for people to do is just keep a lot of people in and block," said Pryce, a former Bronco who signed with the Ravens in the off-season. "That's what folks did against us when I was in Denver, and that's what people do against us here. And that's always a sign of a great defense."

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