You can end this debate now: Ravens' defense rules

49ers brought a better record, but nine sacks later Baltimore has bragging rights

November 25, 2011|Mike Preston

There were comparisons between the defenses of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, but those discussions can end now.

The Ravens turned in their best defensive effort of the season in shutting down one of the NFL's top teams — and they did it without Pro Bowl inside linebacker Ray Lewis.

They tied a franchise record with nine sacks. And of all the great linebackers in this game, including the 49ers' Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, the best one on the field was the Ravens' Terrell Suggs.

Besides the defenses, the other major difference between the two teams was the quarterbacks. Both run similar offenses, but Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has a stronger arm and can throw a variety of passes.

San Francisco's Alex Smith basically relied on the short passing game and once the 49ers fell behind in the third quarter, there wasn't going to be a miraculous comeback, not the way the Ravens defense was playing.

Have to do better at goal line

The Ravens' play calling on the goal line at the end of the second quarter was horrendous.

On a second and goal at the 1-yard line, the Ravens tried to run running back Ray Rice outside to the right. He lost four yards.

Why?

In short-yardage situations, right guard Marshal Yanda has been the Ravens' best blocker all year and right tackle Michael Oher has played well the last three games. Why not just pound the ball straight ahead with a dive to Rice, Ricky Williams or Vonta Leach?

Then on third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Flacco attempted to run a quarterback draw. They got nothing. That's a great matchup. One of the slowest quarterbacks in the league against one of the fastest defenses in the league.

Another head-scratcher

The Ravens made another dumb decision minutes later. After 49ers running back Frank Gore was stopped for no gain on a third and three with 32 seconds left in the second quarter, the Ravens called a timeout.

Why? Why did they do this again? They allowed the 49ers to regroup, and took the pressure off 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to make a quick decision about going for it or attempting a long field goal.

Once play resumed, the Ravens were penalized for having 12 players on the field. It's amazing that a team can be so inept at times.

Quick off the line

For the first time in three weeks, the Ravens defensive line looked fresh and amazingly quick. They kept pressure on Smith for most of the first half and they were quick and strong off the ball.

Point of no returns

You can tell the Ravens lack confidence in their return game. Twice San Francisco was called for offsides on kickoffs. Instead of making the 49ers re-kick, the Ravens accepted the touchbacks and the five-yard penalties, taking possession at their own 25-yard line both times.

Old school running game

Jim Harbaugh loves to stay with the running game and the 49ers ran everything from a full-house backfield to a double tight end set. But he really went old school in the first quarter when he went with a split backfield and pulled both guards on a running play.

The 49ers looked like the old Green Bay Packers of the 1960s.

Filling in for Ray

Since Ravens inside linebacker Ray Lewis didn't come out for pre-game introductions, it would have been cool for Suggs to replace him and be the last out of the locker room.

I wanted to see if Suggs came up with his own dance.

Reed this: Sit him down

If receiver David Reed can't return a kickoff without fumbling and he can't prevent a punt from going in the end zone despite being in perfect position, then what good is he?

As a gunner on the punt team, he is supposed to make those kinds of plays. He didn't in the second quarter.

Fade to Torrey?

Ravens rookie receiver Torrey Smith has had a good rookie season, but I'm not sure of running him on a fade pattern in the end zone from the 8-yard line in the third quarter.

Smith hasn't shown he has the best hands nor is a great leaper. Because of his height and weight, Anquan Bouldin might have been a better choice.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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