Defense rises to challenge

After shaky 1st half, Ravens buckle down to hold foes scoreless

October 02, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun Reporter

Samari Rolle wouldn't say that the Ravens were shocked to be trailing the San Diego Chargers 13-7 at halftime yesterday. But the cornerback acknowledged that the atmosphere inside the locker room was startling.

"We came in here and it almost seemed like we were down by 16 instead of six points," Rolle said. "I think that everybody realized that they weren't better than us, and we just raised our intensity."

Whether it was heart, a recognition of San Diego's offensive schemes or the Chargers' decision to be conservative on offense, the Ravens' defense prevented San Diego from scoring in the second half, which played a significant role in the 16-13 comeback victory at M&T Bank Stadium.

The first half of yesterday's contest was bewildering for the Ravens. They surrendered 166 yards, allowed first-year starting quarterback Philip Rivers to complete nine of 14 passes for 95 yards, and allowed a 31-yard touchdown pass to Malcolm Floyd on the opening possession. At times Baltimore appeared in disarray when San Diego went to the no-huddle offense.

The second half, however, was a different story. The Chargers gained 118 yards, were forced to finish four series in their own territory, and - after watching a missed field goal and a botched field-goal attempt - had to rely on Rivers on the final drive.

San Diego seemed to be in protective mode with a seven-point lead, taking the ball out of Rivers' hands to avoid mistakes. They started depending on running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner, who combined to carry the football 34 times for 144 yards, and leaving it to the defense to maintain the advantage.

"They probably just called the game according to how they had been playing all along," Rolle said of the Chargers' defense, which had allowed just 45 yards in the first half. "We really hadn't threatened them to score or anything. So I think they just played the odds to their defense."

Added linebacker Terrell Suggs: "They couldn't have relied on [Rivers, who threw just eight passes in the second half] to throw the ball to beat us because not too many quarterbacks can do that in this league. Now there are some that can, but he's a young quarterback, and I'm sure they knew that we were going to take advantage of that and give him different looks and blitz him from everywhere."

The Ravens' defense also began to catch onto San Diego's tendencies. Defensive end Trevor Pryce said the unit began to anticipate the Chargers' no-huddle and even an alignment in which an offensive lineman went in motion did not surprise the Ravens.

"Our coaches went back years to watch film. They did stuff they haven't shown in five years that our coaches watched," Pryce said. "I mean, motioning offensive linemen? What is this? And it's all brand new. And the no-huddle ... causes a lot of confusion, but we always say, `They've got 11, and we've got 11. Figure it out.'"

After the game, Tomlinson seemed to acknowledge that the Ravens' defense simply outplayed San Diego in the second half.

"At the end, they just turned it up a notch," he said. "And we stayed the same. When you're playing good teams, you've got to match their intensity. You've got to match their aggressiveness. We didn't do it."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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