Ravens secondary unable to hold Packers back

December 08, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

GREEN BAY, Wis. — - If the Ravens harbored any hope of knocking off the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Monday night, they were going to need stellar play from their cornerbacks.

That didn't really happen, as the corners were flagged three times for pass interference and the Packers scored twice through the air to enjoy a 17-0 advantage at halftime.

In the first half, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 66 percent of his passes (16 of 24) for 147 yards and connected with wide receiver Donald Driver and tight end Jermichael Finley on scoring strikes of 8 and 2 yards, respectively.

Both scores in the second quarter were aided by pass-interference penalties. Cornerback Frank Walker was too physical with wide receiver Greg Jennings - a play that cost the defense 25 yards and moved the Packers into Ravens territory at the 48-yard line. Five plays later, Rodgers lobbed a pass that Finley wrestled away from free safety Tom Zbikowski in the left rear corner of the end zone.

On Green Bay's next possession, rookie Lardarius Webb was cited for grabbing onto Driver, which moved the Packers 13 yards to the Ravens' 41. Again, five plays later, Rodgers found Driver, who evaded a tackle by Domonique Foxworth and plowed into the end zone.

Foxworth was also flagged for pass interference in the first quarter, but his transgression was negated when Zbikowski intercepted Rodgers on the next play.

The secondary had appeared to be improving as the season progressed. After surrendering an average of 257.7 passing yards and nine touchdowns and registering seven interceptions in the first six games, the Ravens had limited opponents to an average of 183.8 passing yards and three touchdowns while making five interceptions.

"This unit is still growing and getting better as the season goes along," Foxworth had said last week. "The whole defense is playing better than it has at any point in the season. Hopefully, we keep gaining ground and getting better and better."

Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison agreed, saying, "They just keep working every day to get better, and they have gotten better."

Inactives
In addition to deactivating a pair of Pro Bowl defensive starters in free safety Ed Reed and linebacker Terrell Suggs, the Ravens scratched offensive tackles Tony Moll and Oniel Cousins, tight end L.J. Smith (ankle), defensive tackle Kelly Talavou and fullback Charles Ali. John Beck was the third (emergency) quarterback.

Zbikowski started in place of Reed, while rookie linebacker-defensive end Paul Kruger filled in for Suggs.

The Packers scratched linebacker Jeremy Thompson (spinal cord concussion and spinal stenosis), offensive tackles Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini, cornerback Josh Bell, wide receiver Biren Ealy, safety Matt Giordano, fullback Quinn Johnson and defensive end Michael Montgomery.

Good half
Sam Koch enjoyed one of his better outings through the first half, averaging 47.3 yards on three punts.

His first two punts traveled 51 and 53 yards, and even though his third went just 38 yards, the 47.3-yard average qualified as his third-highest mark this season.

"My whole focus is to just focus on the team and go out there and do what I can for the team to give us the best chance to win," Koch said several weeks ago.

End zone
Linebacker Jarret Johnson corralled the second interception of his career when he caught a pass from Rodgers in the third quarter that bounced off Driver's leg and into his hands. … Running back Willis McGahee scored a rushing touchdown for the second consecutive game after going seven games without a score. The Ravens were 4-0 in the previous four contests in which he had scored on the ground. … Running back Ray Rice'sfumble on the Ravens' first offensive possession of the game was the first of his two-year career. … Defensive end Trevor Pryce'ssack of Rodgers in the second quarter tied him with Johnson for the team lead with six each. … Linebacker Ray Lewis, tight end Todd Heap, strong safety Dawan Landry and Foxworth represented the Ravens for the pre-game coin toss. … Driver's touchdown was the 50th of his career and tied him with James Lofton for fifth in Packers history. … Green Bay free safety Nick Collins registered his third straight game with an interception when he picked off Joe Flacco in the first quarter.

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