Opponents can't pass up throwing long

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Ravens Weekend

December 21, 2007|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN REPORTER

If the Ravens needed a reminder about their weakness on defense, it came in freeze-frame clarity in Miami.

On the game-winning score, Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo took a short pass and outran Ravens defenders for a 64-yard touchdown.

That is one of several big pass plays that have destroyed the Ravens' defense all season.

In fact, the Ravens have already set a franchise record for most passes allowed of over 40 yards (14) and are closing in on team marks for most passes given up of over 20 yards and most passing touchdowns.

It doesn't take an offensive genius to figure out how to attack the Ravens' defense.

With defensive tackles Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg in the middle, the Ravens lead the NFL in fewest yards allowed per carry (2.8). With a banged-up secondary, the Ravens are second-to-last in the league in yards allowed per pass attempt (7.7).

That's why Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and even Cleo Lemon (five passes of over 20 yards) have attacked the Ravens downfield.

The struggles can largely be blamed on injuries to cornerbacks Chris McAlister and Samari Rolle, who have combined to play 13 games and miss 13 games. And the backups have failed to slow down offenses, especially in the three games in which both McAlister and Rolle have been sidelined (Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Miami).

Manning picked on David Pittman. Roethlisberger picked on Derrick Martin. And Lemon picked on Corey Ivy.

Of the 24 passes of over 30 yards given up by the Ravens this season, seven came in the games without McAlister and Rolle. Of the 10 passing touchdowns of over 30 yards, six came without the Ravens' first-string cornerbacks.

When the Ravens don't allow the ball to go over their heads, they usually can stop offenses. The Ravens' red-zone defense is third in the NFL, holding teams to more field goals (23) than touchdowns (19) when they get inside the 20-yard line.

The problem is the Ravens have trouble slowing down other teams' deep passing games.

In contrast with last season, the Ravens are not getting constant pressure on the quarterback, and when they do, they don't always bring him down for the sack. With more time to throw, quarterbacks can wait for the receivers to break on the deep routes and run free of the Ravens' defenders.

Next up for the Ravens is the Seattle Seahawks, who have had to rely on the pass because their running game has faltered.

Once again, it won't take an offensive genius to figure out how the Seahawks will be attacking the Ravens' defense.

jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

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