Ravens rush defense tested by Giants' backs

Donte' Stallworth gets first crack at punt returns

August 28, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

For a significant portion of the first quarter, the Ravens run defense must have felt as if it were stuck in a time warp with the needle squarely on Nov. 16, 2008.

That's when the New York Giants ran for 207 yards — the third-most in Ravens history — and running back Ahmad Bradshaw led the way with 96 yards and Brandon Jacobs compiled 73 yards.

That scenario eerily played out on the Giants' second possession of Saturday night's preseason contest against the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.

Bradshaw began the drive with a five-yard gain and then avoided a tackle by linebacker Jarret Johnson in the backfield and ran for 12 more. After Bradshaw converted third down-and-2 with a 5-yard rush, Jacobs churned out 29 yards to carry the offense to the Ravens' 24.

But needing just 1 yard for what would have been the fifth first down of the series, Bradshaw was stuffed for no gain on three consecutive attempts, turning the ball over on downs to the Ravens offense.

While the stops were timely, coach John Harbaugh wasn't entirely pleased with the showing. "The Giants ran on us early, and we have to tackle better," he said.

The defense was well aware of New York's ground attack before the game.

Added defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: "We need to tackle better, wrap up better, keep the edge better, and run to the ball batter. But we do love the way our guys got after them in the first half."

By halftime, New York had rushed for 58 yards, which was 23 more than what the Washington Redskins had managed on the ground Aug. 21.

Paired with the 142 rushing yards the Carolina Panthers had recorded in the first preseason game, the Ravens run defense could be in need of some fine-tuning. But middle linebacker Ray Lewis did not seem troubled by the defense's performance in the preseason, pointing out that the first defense had still not surrendered a touchdown.

"Honestly, I think we're right where we need to be," he said Tuesday. "And that is, a few mistakes here and there, correct them and then just get ready, bottom line. When you turn on our defensive film, one thing that you do like is [that] we haven't given up a touchdown all preseason. That's a bottom line fact, no matter what big plays or what happened. The bottom line is you bend, but don't break."

Stallworth gets first crack at punt returns

After getting shut out in the first two preseason contests, Donte' Stallworth fielded the team's first three punts of the first half.

His first return went for 2 yards, but his second was a nifty 10-yarder that put the offense at the more-comfortable 23-yard line in the second quarter.

His third return was somewhat more adventurous as the ball bounded off his hands. But after corralling the loose ball at the Ravens' 24, he made up 18 yards to the 42.

Stallworth hasn't returned a punt in a regular-season game since 2005.

Webb deactivated despite warming up

Lardarius Webb was activated off the team's physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list on Monday, but the cornerback did not play against New York.

Webb returned after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Dec. 20 and participated in pre-game warmups, but the second-year player was still scratched. That allowed Fabian Washington and Chris Carr, who had been bothered by a left hamstring injury last week, to start.

The team also deactivated offensive tackles Jared Gaither (disk in back) and Oniel Cousins (concussion), paving the way for Tony Moll to make his second consecutive start at right tackle.

The Ravens scratched safeties Ed Reed (offseason hip surgery — PUP list) and Marcus Paschal (right leg), wide receivers Demetrius Williams (sprained right ankle) and Eron Riley (strained back), guards David Hale (bruised tailbone) and Daniel Sanders (left arm/shoulder), rookie nose tackle Terrence Cody (swelling in left knee), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (offseason quad surgery — PUP) and running back Matt Lawrence (knee — PUP).

Tom Zbikowski made his third straight start at free safety for Reed.

Injury concerns

Mark Clayton left the game in the second quarter after getting drilled by Giants safety Antrel Rolle.

On third down-and-11 from New York's 26, a Joe Flacco pass slipped through Clayton's hands. But after the play, Rolle decked Clayton and drew a flag for a personal foul. The Ravens took advantage on the very next play as Flacco connected with tight end Todd Heap for a 13-yard touchdown, but Clayton left the game and did not return.

Lewis was pulled from the second quarter, and he had ice on his right knee. There was no update on the condition of the knee at halftime.

End zone

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