Defense smarting after loss

Ravens notebook

`Shut-down' unit allows 10 late points to Broncos

October 11, 2006|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,Sun reporter

One game does not sound the alarm for a Ravens defense that has been ranked near the top of the NFL.

Yet, linebacker Bart Scott expressed concern after the unit surrendered 10 second-half points - all in the final 8:03 - in the 13-3 loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday night. The Ravens had allowed just three second-half points in their first four games.

"We just have to be better," Scott said. "We pride ourselves on being a shut-down defense. We took a blow today, and it is going to be a test - when we come back - of the character on this team."

Several Denver players on offense took it one step further, implying that the Ravens' defense is overrated.

"We built them up and gave them the respect, but they haven't played anyone yet," said Broncos running back Tatum Bell, alluding to the Ravens' wins against three offenses -Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Oakland - that are ranked 26th or lower. "We play against the best defense every day."

Added Denver wide receiver Javon Walker: "We've all heard about Baltimore's defense. Well, I've been going against our defense since training camp. I feel like I'm going against the best in the league every day."

While that argument may never be settled, the Ravens still have compiled sparkling numbers on defense. The unit is second in the NFL in total defense, allowing 219.6 yards a game, and has surrendered 9.2 points per game, fourth lowest in the league.

Coach Brian Billick, who gave the players yesterday off after the team returned from Denver early yesterday morning, did not seem worried about the defense and complimented Denver's attack.

"That's a very good offense," he said. "They ran the ball a little better than we had let them run before, and you've got to give them great credit for that. They had the one really nice drive that changed the course of the game."

Slip and slide

Billick said he was trying to get the attention of the sideline official when he nearly took out the official midway through the second quarter of Monday night's game.

After the refereeing crew had missed what Billick believed should have been a pass interference call on a pass from quarterback Steve McNair to tight end Todd Heap on third -and-one from the Ravens' 30-yard line, Billick raced 15 yards down the sideline, slipped and slid for another 5 before nearly plowing into the official.

"I thought it was an inappropriate call, and I wanted to make sure he understood that was my perspective," Billick said. "Purely accidental of course, and he knew that. But he knew that I was coming, too. He was bracing himself."

Red-zone woes

After being tied for third in the NFL in red-zone efficiency after Week 1, the Ravens have fallen to 28th in that category, reaching the end zone on 37.5 percent of its trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

The offense, which scored two touchdowns in three trips inside Tampa Bay's 20 on Sept. 10, went 0-for-2 against Denver and has just six touchdowns in 16 red-zone possessions.

"We're trying to manufacture certain things in the red zone. In order to be good in the red zone, you've got to run the ball well," said Billick, explaining that today's defenses offer few opportunities to complete a touchdown pass in the end zone. "Most of your red zone-efficient teams are ones that catch the ball underneath and can get it in because of the passive nature of the zones behind it, or you're good enough physically to pound it in."

Loss doesn't linger

While Billick at times bemoaned the short week of preparation facing the Ravens before the Carolina Panthers visit M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday, he did note one benefit from the quick turnaround.

There wasn't much time to dwell on the loss to Denver.

"In that sense, it's a godsend because you really haven't had time to feel sorry for yourself and cry in your own beer because it is a dead sprint right now," he said. "I'd be surprised if this team doesn't refocus real quickly against a very good opponent at home."edward.lee@baltsun.com

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