Ravens defense holds strong vs. Saints

December 19, 2010|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

When the witching hour arrived for the Ravens Sunday, they had 96 yards to defend and one more lead to protect.

Like a demon from Baltimore's past, the New Orleans Saints had the ball on their own 4-yard line, the Super Bowl's most valuable player behind center and 2:51 to create some magic.

Everyone in the crowd of 71,432 at M&T Bank Stadium knew about the Ravens' nine blown fourth-quarter leads; they all wondered if this would be No. 10.

It wasn't. Six days after a meltdown in Houston, the Ravens' defense held its own against MVP quarterback Drew Brees and the Saints' prolific pass game to seal a 30-24 inter-conference victory.

It ended with a tipped pass by Haloti Ngata that became an interception by Cory Redding at the Saints' 18 that became a 27-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. So much for the ghosts of Pittsburgh and Atlanta past.

"Oh, man, that's where we want to be," linebacker Jarret Johnson said of the defensive stand inside the Saints' 10-yard line. "That's the opportunity we want. We've been in that situation a lot this year and given up some long drives. It bothers us. We want to be a team that dominates when you're in that situation. For us to come out big like that and get the win, it's huge."

The Ravens gave up another 90-plus-yard scoring drive on Sunday, but this time it wasn't fatal. Brees got the Saints back in the game just before the half with a 92-yard drive, and he got them within three (27-24) with 11:34 left. But the Ravens wouldn't let him finish the deal.

In a short week of preparation, after the Ravens played 86 snaps on defense in Houston, coach John Harbaugh tried to refresh players for what promised to be another shootout.

"I think our coaches did a great job of getting us ready this week," Ngata said. "Last week we had a tough game, so [the coaches] made sure we were fresh throughout the week. They didn't put too much pressure on us — they rested us a little bit, and we were able to … get a win."

Cornerback Chris Carr was among those who appreciated it the most. He delivered another strong performance after feeling drained in the Monday night game.

"I know me, personally, I felt normal," Carr said. "And last week I did not feel normal."

Carr was ready in the final three minutes when the Ravens were trying to protect their 3-point lead at the Saints' 4.

"I was just thinking about making a play," he said. "And I was like, you know what? We've been stopping them this whole game; this shouldn't be any different right here. It's going to be difficult for them to do anything on us. So that last drive, I had a lot of confidence going into it."

The big play, though, was made by Ngata when he read Brees' eyes on fourth down to make his decisive tip. The ball caromed high in the air and Redding grabbed the first interception of his eight-year career.

"I was supposed to hit the A-gap," Ngata said. "They closed it, so I just spun around, and I just saw [Brees'] eyes looking behind me. So I just kind of jumped up and tipped it. It was perfect."

Redding said he "made sure I got to the highest point so nobody could take the ball from me, and try to get some positive yards with it."

The Ravens held a New Orleans offense that was averaging 386 yards a game to 269 with a bewitching mix of pressures and coverages. Unlike a week ago, they got pressure out of their three-man front. And unlike a week ago, the Saints weren't running free through the secondary.

"We kept them on edge," Johnson said. "[They] didn't know when we were going to bring the house and when we were dropping eight. It was much more our style."

Carr said if the Ravens cleaned up a few mistakes, they could've beaten the Saints by a bigger margin.

"We haven't been discouraged this year," Carr said. "You know, we've overcome a lot. We've had a lot of tough luck … the Pittsburgh loss, the Atlanta loss. People just [bounce] back, have fun and try to get better from that and it shows. That's why we're 10-4 right now. I think if we continue to get better, the sky's the limit for this team because I think the talent we have is second to none."


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