NEW ORLEANS -- The Ravens' secondary was a primary factor against the New Orleans Saints yesterday.
Rookies Dawan Landry and Ronnie Prude each returned an interception for a touchdown, and the unit helped put the Saints in a hole that they could not recover from in the Ravens' 35-22 victory at the Superdome.
The Ravens knocked down 13 of Drew Brees' passes -- including four at the line of scrimmage -- and generally handcuffed a New Orleans passing game that had been ranked fifth in the NFL before yesterday.
"We gave up more big plays than we wanted to. We've got to find a way to clean that up, but the positives are that you get that many interceptions and things like that," defensive coordinator Rex Ryan said. "If we can get that kind of consistency and eliminate some of the bad things, then we'll be awful tough to beat."
The defense's performance was a welcome departure from its outing two weeks ago when the Carolina Panthers torched the Ravens for 414 yards -- 356 of which came through the air -- and two passing touchdowns.
Although Brees did complete 24 of 45 passes for 383 yards and three touchdowns, two of those scores to rookie wide receiver Marques Colston occurred in the fourth quarter when the Ravens had already built a 35-7 cushion.
Brees was also intercepted three times (twice by Landry), and linebacker Adalius Thomas, cornerback Chris McAlister, defensive end Jarret Johnson and safety Gerome Sapp each batted down passes at the line of scrimmage.
Middle linebacker Ray Lewis picked off an errant halfback option by rookie running back Reggie Bush in the end zone in the first quarter, and the Saints went 0-for-3 inside the Ravens' 20-yard line.
"The most telling stat of a game every time around is turnovers and take-away ratio," Brees said. "Obviously, we had five. I could tell you already that your chances are not very good."
A pair of rookies provided the most damage for the Ravens. Prude, an undrafted free agent, notched the first defensive score when Brees' pass struck running back Aaron Stecker in the helmet and Prude raced under the pop-up and sprinted 12 yards into the end zone with 6:09 left in the second quarter.
"The defensive line did a great job of getting to the quarterback and putting pressure in his face," said Prude, who registered three career interceptions at LSU but had never returned one for a touchdown. "I just came down with a great play."
Prude deflected one pass, nearly picked off another pass, and helped out on special teams when he prevented a Sam Koch punt from rolling into the end zone and the football was downed at the New Orleans 2.
On the next play after the punt, linebacker Adalius Thomas appeared to hit Brees' right arm just as he released a pass in Joe Horn's direction, and Landry snatched the football out of the air at the 12 and strolled into the end zone untouched with 8:05 left in the third quarter.
"They stepped up," Thomas said of the young guys. "We've always said that we don't have any more rookies. The responsibility doesn't change because you're a first-year guy. Those guys stepped up and played big."