Rex Who?

Ngata, J. Mcclain Return Picks For Tds

Defense Gives Ex-coordinator Ryan Taste Of Own Medicine

August 25, 2009|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,jamison.hensley@baltsun.com

Rex Ryan now understands the pain that the rest of the NFL has been feeling for a decade.

In a rude homecoming for its former assistant coach, the Ravens' defense returned two interceptions for touchdowns and made a last-minute stop on a two-point conversion attempt to deliver a 24-23 preseason victory over the New York Jets before an announced 70,335 at M&T Bank Stadium.

"I don't care if you've coached for us or not, when you play against our defense, it's hard," Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said. "You put a young guy like [Mark] Sanchez in there and you see our defense, it can be difficult. They really threw everything at us - draws and reverses. We just made some great plays."

Before Ryan could even settle in on the opponents' sideline as the Jets' head coach, Haloti Ngata intercepted and ran back the first pass of the game for a touchdown. Ryan, who was the Ravens' defensive coordinator for the previous four years, looked speechless as the 345-pound defensive tackle rumbled 25 yards to the end zone.

Then, in the final minute of the first half, backup linebacker Jameel McClain picked off another pass, returning it 16 yards for a touchdown. That extended the Ravens' lead to 21-7 at halftime and secured bragging rights in a game that rivaled a regular-season contest in intensity.

"We know the defense is tough," Ryan said. "I think that was the difference in the game. We're not there yet, but we're closing in on them."

The emotions were stirred last week, when Ryan criticized the Ravens for giving Michael McCrary's No. 99 to rookie Paul Kruger. He then said it was "BS" that he was passed over for the Ravens' head coaching job in 2008.

Ravens coaches and players didn't exchange verbal barbs, choosing to speak glowingly of their time with Ryan. But after a pre-game tribute to Ryan, no punches were pulled.

Both defenses blitzed heavily, driving quarterbacks into the ground. Former Ravens linebacker Bart Scott hit Joe Flacco so hard he dislodged the quarterback's helmet.

Scott took another shot after the game.

"[Ryan] was the head coach of that football team [the Ravens] last year, whether you guys know it or not," Scott said. "He kept that team together. The defense leads that team over there, and he controls the defense."

Not surprisingly, the story line centered on the Ravens' defense, which finished no lower than No. 6 from 2005 to 2008 under Ryan. Playing only one quarter, the Ravens' first-team defense held the Jets to 52 total yards, one first down and no points.

With new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, the Ravens didn't just make Sanchez look like a rookie quarterback starting his first NFL game. They also made him look out of his league.

On his first pass, Sanchez saw Lewis barreling up the middle and leaned back before getting rid of the ball. The throw sailed to Ngata, who received a block from defensive end Trevor Pryce before scoring untouched.

"I just jumped up and it hit my stomach," said Ngata, who failed to score on a long interception return in the 2006 season opener. "My stomach swallowed it, and I caught the ball."

Sanchez's second pass should have been returned for a touchdown, too. But Lewis dropped the throw with no one between him and the end zone.

"I didn't want that one until the regular season," Lewis said.

When the Ravens' starting defense left at the end of the first quarter, it was firmly in the head of Sanchez. The first-round pick out of Southern California had one completion and two delay-of-game penalties.

"You don't know what you're playing against until you actually play against us," Lewis said. "We confused him a little bit."

The Ravens' offense got a few licks on Ryan in the first quarter as well. Taking advantage of a blitz by New York safety Jim Leonhard, a former Raven, Flacco hit Derrick Mason for a 43-yard completion to the Jets' 3-yard line.

On third-and-goal, Flacco slyly delivered the ball to Rice behind his back for a 3-yard touchdown.

"The little Statue of Liberty play ... I was representing for the New York area," said Rice, a native of New Rochelle, N.Y.

The second quarter provided redemption for McClain. After getting beat for a 19-yard touchdown pass, he negated his mistake by returning an interception for a touchdown. The turnover came when Ngata pressured Kellen Clemens into rushing his throw.

Unable to hold that 21-7 lead, the Ravens watched the Jets close to 24-23. Third-string quarterback Erik Ainge's 1-yard touchdown run on third-and goal came with 22 seconds left.

But the Ravens saved the game when rookie Lardarius Webb broke up a pass on the two-point conversion attempt.

"Man, was that a preseason game?" Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in opening his post-game news conference. "It was very intense. It was as hard-fought as a regular-season game."

Inside

* J. McClain (right) shrugs off an early mistake that led to a Jets touchdown and makes New York pay PG 10

* Rookie Kruger takes his showdown with Ryan's Jets in stride

PG 10

THIRD PRESEASON GAME

Ravens@Panthers, Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11, MASN2

Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM

Ravens 2009 schedule

Preseason

Aug. 13: Ravens 23, Redskins 0

Monday: Ravens 24, Jets 23

Saturday: Ravens at Panthers, 8

Sept. 3: Ravens at Falcons, 7:30

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