Five Things We Learned in the Ravens' 34-17 win over the Jets

October 03, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg

1. If you have issues with your offensive line, or your quarterback likes to hang in there against the pass rush, the Ravens defense will eat you alive.

With the Ravens sporting a 3-1 record going into the bye week, there is a lot to be impressed with at the moment. But one thing that's stood out for me through four games is just how many hits the Ravens are getting on quarterbacks this season, and how effective it has been covering for some obvious holes in their secondary.

Greg Mattison isn't here to defend himself, so let's not dwell too much on what he didn't do in the past, and why it was ineffective at times. But I do think it's important to point out one reason why Chuck Pagano's blitz-happy scheme just feels like a better fit for this team. A quarterback has to be really brave to stand tall and take hits against the Ravens, because even when you get the ball out quickly, if you're getting blasted by one of the Ravens front seven, it's going to get in your head.

If you're looking for a common thread in the Ravens' three victories in 2011, it's that they absolutely mauled the quarterback. They went after Ben Roethlisberger, Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez like the Visigothic army spilling over the gates of Rome. And even on plays where they didn't drive the quarterback into the turf for a sack, they smacked him around as he was releasing the ball. That either makes it harder to throw an accurate ball, or at the very least it leaves behind a reminder that you'd better rush your throw next time or you might not be so lucky.

I don't really believe intimidation plays a big role in professional football, but I will say that it has to hurt like hell to get blasted by Haloti Ngata or Terrell Suggs. There just haven't been too many guys in the history of the NFL with the combination of that much size and speed. And that's why it's so important for the Ravens to create havoc up front. Quarterbacks remember that sting. When you're constantly worrying about blocking Ngata up the middle and Suggs on the edge -- which the Jets obviously were Sunday night -- that creates plenty of opportunities for a play-maker like Ed Reed to create a turnover.

John Harbaugh said at the end of 2010 that one of the reasons the Ravens didn't blitz as much under Mattison is because he just didn't feel comfortable leaving the Ravens corners alone in single coverage. That's understandable, but sometimes it makes sense to take risks, even if you get burned, because of the physical and mental wear and tear it puts on a quarterback. At one point in the fourth quarter, Sanchez actually tried to duck as he was throwing the football he was so weary of getting hit. That's how in his head the rush was.

It will be interesting to see how Baltimore looks against Houston in two weeks, especially if they have Jimmy Smith back, because Matt Schaub can handle pressure and the Texans have a good offensive line. I'd still blitz like hell if I were Pagano. (Especially if Andre Johnson's hamstring isn't 100 percent.) Schaub might burn you a few times, but he'll be woozy by the 4th quarter. When Sanchez threw the interception that Lardarius Webb turned into a 74-yard touchdown, he was trying to throw a short pass in the flat with a three-step drop. The Jets stopped calling patterns with five- and seven-step drops because he was getting hammered. That's the kind of wear and tear the Ravens can put on a quarterback.

After the game, Harbaugh called it the greatest defensive performance he'd ever seen. I don't know that I'd go that far, but I think the Ravens are now grasping that it's always better to be aggressive instead of passive.

2. Every time the Ravens line Ray Rice up at receiver or put him in motion, I feel like good things happen.

The Ravens offense obviously wasn't great on Sunday, especially after the first quarter. I think it felt so good to press the ball down the field last week against the Rams, Flacco and Cam Cameron tried to do that a bit too much in this game. It seemed like Flacco had little interest in finding guys coming open underneath, and despite the fact that the Jets run defense has been soft this year, the Ravens sure did call a lot of passes in the second and third quarter.

But one thing I continue to enjoy watching this year is seeing the Ravens line up Rice in a number of different spots. Teams can try to key on him and shut him down, but they have to find him first.

Rice is just too smart and too difficult to handle when he's matched up on a linebacker, and if you put a cornerback on him and Rice catches it, a corner is typically going to have a hard time tackling him. Rice even works well as a decoy too. The Ravens called a play in the first quarter where Rice was split out wide and the Jets sent a defensive back with him. Flacco looked Rice's way, then zipped the ball over the middle to Ed Dickson for a first down.

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