Ravens defense no longer imposing its will

Ravens' front has been pushed around by opposing offenses, their secondary picked apart

November 21, 2011|Mike Preston

It has gotten lost on the radar screen because of the euphoria surrounding the win against Cincinnati Sunday, but there has to be some concern about the Ravens' defense.

In the past two weeks, the front seven has gotten pushed around. A week ago, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch ran for more than 100 yards and the Ravens allowed the Seahawks to finish them off with a drive that started at their own 10 and lasted nearly six minutes.

And Sunday, the Bengals physically pounded the Ravens on the way to gaining 119 yards rushing and 373 yards passing. Again, the Ravens couldn't get off the field in the fourth quarter as Cincinnati had scoring drives of 80 and 71 yards, and the Bengals were on the Ravens' 17 as the game ended.

"We've got to get better," Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain said. "It's not a matter of how we really feel because you don't get any time to feel any way because our next game is on Thursday."

The Ravens' defensive line has had little presence, and was physically knocked off the ball by the Bengals. Both tackle Haloti Ngata and outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, mentioned as possible defensive player of the year candidates earlier this season, haven't had any major impact plays.

And the secondary?

Oh, they got a bunch of problems. Safeties Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard have played well, but cornerbacks Lardarius Webb, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams and Chris Carr have given up several big plays.

It doesn't matter who has been in the lineup. They've all gotten beat. Against Cincinnati, the Ravens had tight coverage and were in great shape to make plays, but didn't turn around to locate the ball.

It's basically about technique and communication, at least in the secondary.

"There were some communication issues, not communicating as well, and we gave them some plays," said Webb of the Cincinnati game. "But they're a great team. [Bengals quarterback Andy] Dalton made some great passes, and he was better than we expected. We knew he was good, but not that good. We're going to have to see him again. We just have to get on the same page in the backfield."

"It's easily correctable," said Webb. "When you have Ed Reed and Bernard Pollard, they're just going to go in and say, 'You be here next time.' They're our safeties and they know what they're doing. We have a short week coming up, so we really need to get it corrected tomorrow. But with those guys, it'll be easy."

If it were that easy, how come the changes weren't made after the Seattle game?

New nuisance for Ravens

Dalton is only a rookie, but he scares me.

He had some jitters in the first half, but once he calmed down, he had great accuracy in the second. He looked comfortable in the pocket and handling pressure, and made several big plays by avoiding the rush and throwing on the run.

He could be a headache for the Ravens for many, many years.

"He's a rookie, but he's a very good football player," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "He's a good quarterback, and he proved it. He's very accurate, obviously. He does a nice job. He's a guy we are going to have to learn to deal with."

Watch the hop

The Ravens have had only three coaches in their brief history, and the beginning of the end for the first two came when they switched quarterbacks.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh, the younger brother of John Harbaugh, brings his 49ers to Baltimore Thursday. When Jim Harbaugh came here in 1998 to replace strong-armed Vinny Testarverde, it was the beginning of the demise of former Ravens head coach Ted Marchibroda, who thought he needed a tougher quarterback.

Jim Harbaugh was nearly finished and the arm was gone when he played here. After his first practice, I joked with receiver Michael Jackson about how Jim Harbaugh had short-armed a lot of passes, which made Jackson look more like Cal Ripken Jr. than a receiver.

Jackson just laughed out loud and nodded in agreement. After that practice, Marchibroda told me Jim Harbaugh performed so poorly because he had lifted weights before practice.

The Ravens finished 6-10 that year, and both Marchibroda and Jim Harbaugh were let go at the end of the season. Those weights must have been really heavy because Harbaugh threw like that for the entire year.

On the side stage

Sometimes, it's more entertaining watching the relationship between quarterback Joe Flacco and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on the sidelines than the game itself.

After Flacco threw that very poor interception right before the half against Cincinnati, he walked to the sideline and right past Cameron. Cameron looked like he wanted to blow up, but Flacco kept walking toward the water bucket.

If looks could kill …

Time to heal

The Ravens didn't have any time to enjoy the victory over the Bengals. Because they play San Francisco on Thursday night, Ravens coaches began breaking down film of the 49ers Sunday night after the game.

There won't be much physical preparation this week.

"The challenge is going to be being healthy," Reed said. "Short week; guys got banged up. I got banged up. We've got to make sure we're taking the time and being smart with it. You've got to be very smart with what you're doing. We'll be ready. This game was on the schedule a long time ago, and guys will be ready."


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