Harbaugh gives defensive line high marks

Coach also disputes that he overruled safety Reed's wishes to play

December 29, 2009|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

Under fire for being unable to generate a consistent pass rush, the Ravens' defensive line turned up the heat on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The defensive front recorded 2 1/2 of the unit's four sacks, and although the Ravens wound up dropping a 23-20 decision to their AFC North rivals, members of the defensive line felt positive about their showing Sunday.

"We just knew that as a D-line, we were kind of hurting on the back end with the defensive backs, and we kind of put it on ourselves that we needed to pressure Ben and get to him so that he couldn't magnify our DBs," said defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who had a sack. "So we tried to get to him as fast as we could. We did pretty good today as a front."

The defensive line has recorded 11 of the team's 29 sacks this season, but Sunday was the first time the unit posted more than two sacks in a game. Coach John Harbaugh praised the effort of the defensive front.

"We hurried Ben more than maybe we ever had before, and so he had to throw some balls away, threw a couple balls into the seats and threw a couple balls into the dirt," he said. "We got him on the ground, really, every time we had a chance to get him on the ground, which was huge."

Ngata expressed confidence that the defensive line can repeat that performance next week and possibly beyond.

"It's just different weeks, we're running different schemes," he said. "That's pretty much it. I think [defensive coordinator] Greg [Mattison] did a good job scheming us up and getting us to the quarterback."

A no go
Harbaugh denied reports he had overruled free safety Ed Reed - who has missed the past four games with a strained groin - before the game.

"Ed and I had a conversation," Harbaugh said. "He tried to go. He didn't feel like he could go, and I didn't feel like he could go based on what he said about the workout he had. So no, that's not true."

Harbaugh also said left tackle Jared Gaither, who has not played in the past three weeks and has been wearing a boot on his injured foot and toe to alleviate pressure, is improving.

"He was probably close on Sunday, but he wasn't 100 percent by any stretch and he hadn't practiced," Harbaugh said. "So we thought it was better to bring Tony Moll up and have him be the backup for us."

Smith wants trade?
Just a little more than one year removed from competing for the starter's job, backup quarterback Troy Smith has asked the team to trade him, according to the Twitter account of Ralph Cindrich, Smith's agent.

"Ravens QB Troy Smith, Ohio State alum, native + Heisman winner wants playing time," Cindrich wrote earlier Monday. "Ravens notified. Will seek trade after play offs, SB run."

Harbaugh said he wants to retain Smith, saying: "Troy Smith is a heck of a quarterback, and I know that at some point in time, he wants to be a starter. But Troy Smith is a Raven, and we try to keep Ravens as long as we can."

Smith was selected in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. After Steve McNair retired, Smith competed with Kyle Boller and Joe Flacco for the starting job. But before his first scheduled start in the preseason against the Atlanta Falcons on Aug. 23, 2008, Smith got a severe tonsil infection and missed the first five games of the regular season, paving the way for Flacco to cement himself as the franchise's quarterback.

Efforts to reach Cindrich and Smith were unsuccessful.

Good call
Harbaugh rescinded his questioning of an official's illegal-contact call on cornerback Frank Walker.

Harbaugh initially thought the flag was thrown after Roethlisberger had scrambled out of the pocket, thus negating any contact downfield. But after further review, Harbaugh said the call was correct, which wiped out an interception by Tom Zbikowski that would have given the ball to the offense at Pittsburgh's 42-yard line with 1:41 left in the game.

"I thought it was made later into the play, once he had started to scramble," Harbaugh said.

"It was made on the initial release. Frank had position in a two-deep coverage, and the receiver ran into him and then Frank hooked him, and that's what the call was."

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