Defense needs help in game of field position

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Ravens Weekend

November 30, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

It will be difficult for the Ravens' defense to contain the high-scoring New England Patriots on Monday.

It will be impossible if the Ravens' defense doesn't get any help.

Through 11 games, the defense has given up 20 touchdowns, which is nearly as many as it allowed all of last season (21).

But the increased scoring can't be chalked up to injuries (cornerbacks Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister as well as Trevor Pryce have missed significant time) or busted coverage alone.

Field position has been the biggest problem for the Ravens' defense this season. Whether it's a turnover on offense or a big return allowed by special teams, opponents have been getting an edge by getting set up on a short field.

Of the 20 touchdowns allowed by the Ravens' defense this season, 13 have come when opponents have started at their 40-yard line or closer. In fact, nine touchdowns have been scored when a team has started in Ravens territory.

The frustrating trend has lasted the entire season.

The first touchdown given up this season was the result of quarterback Steve McNair fumbling at the Ravens' 39-yard line just 6 minutes, 22 seconds into the season opener. On the next play, the Ravens gave up a touchdown on a deep pass to Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson.

It was the same way in Pittsburgh when the Steelers scored five touchdowns without having to drive more than 50 yards on any possession.

And it was the same way last Sunday in San Diego, when the Chargers scored 22 points in the second quarter. San Diego's worst starting field position that quarter was its 40-yard line.

This isn't to say that the Ravens' 2007 defense is playing close to the level of the 2006 one, which finished atop the NFL in fewest yards (264.1) and points allowed (12.6). This season's defense has given up the fourth-fewest yards (291.4) and is tied for 17th in fewest points allowed (22.0).

The biggest difference between the two defenses is their ability to change games.

Last season's defense made an impact by forcing turnovers and delivering sacks. During the Ravens' current five-game losing streak, this defense has caused four turnovers and managed 10 sacks.

This season's defense is still solid because few teams have been able to consistently get into the end zone against the Ravens. The defense has give up more than two touchdowns in a game three times this season.

It likely will take the defense's best effort of the season to slow the Patriots.

All the Ravens' defense is asking for is a little help from its offense and special teams.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Keeping score

A look at where the Ravens' defense has ranked in scoring and the number of touchdowns it has allowed over the past five seasons:

..................Def. scoring .............. TDs

Year ..............rank ................... allowed

2003 ................6th ......................25

2004 ................ 6th ..................... 23

2005 .............. 10th .................... 26

2006 ................. 1st .................... 21

2007* ............. T17th .................. 20

*-through 11 games

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