We were treated to some Harbaughian hyperbole Sunday night after the Baltimore defense established a new franchise record with three defensive touchdowns in a 34-17 win over the New York Jets. The Ravens, who pressured Mark Sanchez into four turnovers, scored on two fumble returns and an interception return.
“It was the best defensive performance I thought I’d ever seen, and the most amazing defensive performance I thought I’d seen was the Pittsburgh game with the seven turnovers against that offense,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Sunday, referencing the team’s 35-7 win over the Steelers in Week 1. “But, this topped it. To have three returns for touchdowns off of turnovers by your defense, has it ever been done before?”
It has. The Seahawks returned four interceptions for touchdowns in a 45-0 win over the Chiefs back in 1984, and a handful of other teams have scored at least three defensive touchdowns in a single game.
However, it was an impressive feat that the vaunted 2000 and 2006 Baltimore defenses -- which were both name-dropped by Jets coach and former Ravens coordinator Rex Ryan on Sunday -- never accomplished.
"I've been around football a long time and I've never seen anything like that," Ryan said after the Ravens hit his quarterback 10 times in a prime-time beat down. "The performance by their defense was spectacular. They were coming after us. That's a Ravens defense. It reminded me of the 2000 and 2006 defenses."
Get ready for more comparisons now that Ryan, who was on the Ravens staff from 1999 to 2008, has put that out there. The numbers are mostly comparable across the board, but the current installment of the Baltimore defense has forced 14 turnovers through four games, which is more than the 2000 and 2006 units, which had 10 and 12, respectively. The 2000 defense finished with 49 regular-season turnovers.
“The Ravens have had great defenses ever since Ray Lewis got here,” Harbaugh said (Lewis, of course, has been here as long as the Ravens have been here, but you get Harbaugh’s point). “There’s been a host of defensive coordinators, and I think every one of them would tell you that obviously the common thread is Ray Lewis. Then, you add on Ed Reed and there’s a bunch of players before that. Then, you talk about [Terrell] Suggs and Haloti [Ngata] and now the young guys stepping up. So, to me it’s the players.”
Added Harbaugh: “I do sense something special with this defense and with this team. I think there’s a spirit in this team that’s hard to describe and I wish I could put it in words for you. … We’ll see where it takes us.”
Through four games, it has looked as if the defense could do most of the heavy lifting on the way to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. The Ravens are third in the NFL in yards allowed, second in scoring defense, tied for eighth with 11 sacks, and are first with those 14 takeaways (edging out four teams that have 11 each).
“Hopefully, we can continue to get better as a unit and create more pressure and make more plays,” Ngata said.
And if you’re an opposing quarterback watching film of what the Ravens did to Sanchez, that’s a scary thought.