Low-pressure situation for opposing QBs

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Ravens Weekend

October 05, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

The Ravens' defense has built its reputation over the years on pressuring the quarterback.

This season, it's the defense that's feeling the pressure.

Through the first quarter of the regular season, the Ravens have six sacks, which is tied for the eighth fewest in the NFL. Sunday's 27-13 road loss to the Cleveland Browns marked the first time since November 2005 that the Ravens have failed to produce a sack, ending a 24-game streak.

The main reason for the Ravens' inability to rough up quarterbacks is they're too banged up themselves.

Without cornerback Samari Rolle, who is out with an undisclosed illness, the Ravens aren't taking the same risks with their blitzes and are playing more defenders in coverage.

And without defensive lineman Trevor Pryce, who likely is out three more games with a broken left wrist, the Ravens have struggled to get pressure with just four defenders going after the quarterback.

So the Ravens need to blitz to get any pressure, but they really can't gamble because their secondary is prone to giving up the big play.

Sunday in Cleveland, the Ravens blitzed only six times on 19 pass plays. In the second half, when they were trying to mount a comeback, they sent an extra defender just twice.

That more conservative style didn't dent the pocket all game. The Ravens hit flat-footed Browns quarterback Derek Anderson once and hurried him two other times.

Sunday's road game against the San Francisco 49ers will be a litmus test for this defense.

The Ravens have gone six quarters without a sack, a streak of 47 passes. But the 49ers have allowed 15 sacks, tied for fourth most in the league, including six Sunday to the Seattle Seahawks.

This is a prime opportunity for the Ravens to break out of their rut, especially the linebacker crew. Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott have no sacks this season after combining for 19 last season.

The most revealing statistic is that cornerback Corey Ivy leads the Ravens with two sacks, which shows that the Ravens have failed to get to the quarterback unless they send a defensive back. That's why the defense is on pace for just 24 sacks, which would be fewer than half of last season's total (a franchise-record 60).

Until the Ravens figure out a way to generate more of a pass rush, offenses will have no fear throwing downfield. Teams have gained 76 percent of their yards against the Ravens through the air (the NFL average is 65 percent).

It's easy to figure out that the hits that the Ravens have been taking on defense are the result of a lack of hits on the quarterback.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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