Ravens Defense Returns To Dominance

Baltimore held St. Louis to just 81 total yards in the first half and got five sacks.

Posted by Ryan Mink on Sunday, September 25th, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Categories: Ryan Mink, Week 3 at Rams

The Ravens’ defense has a lot of pride, accrued over more than a decade of dominating its opponents.

So when the Tennessee Titans’ Matt Hasselbeck threw for 358 yards against the Ravens last Sunday, Baltimore’s unit took it personally, but didn’t freak out.

They just went back to their fundamentals.

And thus, the defense’s dominance was restored Sunday in a 37-7 thumping of St. Louis.

Of the Rams’ 12 possessions, eight ended in punts, two in turnovers, one on downs and one with a touchdown – the only thing standing in the way of a shutout.

The Ravens held quarterback Sam Bradford and the Rams to 81 total yards in the first half, including just three passing yards. Yes, that’s a single digit.

“We’ve been battling for a long time. We have a veteran defense. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” linebacker Ray Lewis said.

“I really think what we did today was a step moving forward.”

For Baltimore, it was a complete reversal from a week ago.

After struggling to get the Titans off the field on third down, the Ravens held the Rams to just 1 of 8 on third down in the first half, before Baltimore went into a softer scheme to prevent quick scores in the second half.

After recording just one turnover on a tipped pass in Tennessee, cornerback Lardarius Webb picked off Bradford once near the end zone and Ray Lewis forced a fumble that Haloti Ngata recovered and returned 22 yards for a touchdown.

After not sacking Hasselbeck at all, Baltimore smacked Bradford around all night and sacked him five times with five different players: Lewis, Jameel McClain, Terrell Suggs, Pernell McPhee and Cory Redding.

Asked what the difference was this week, Redding simply said the Ravens got back to “doing what we do.”

“We got a big old bag,” he explained. “We threw our fundamentals in there, we threw our technique in there, we threw our training camp in there. We just went back to the basics and everybody just did their job, stayed in their gap and was accountable to man next to them.”

Head Coach John Harbaugh praised the pass rush, which was aggressive from start to finish under first-year Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano.

But Harbaugh also pointed to its success with better coverage in the secondary, which welcomed back Chris Carr but was without Domonique Foxworth (knee) and Jimmy Smith (ankle) and saw safety Haruki Nakamura leave with a knee injury in the first half.

Last week, quick passes by Hasselbeck negated the rush and exploited the Ravens’ secondary. This week, Pagano and Baltimore threw the Rams’ passing offense out of sync.

They also never allowed St. Louis to get into enough of a rhythm to break out its no-huddle offense. The Rams punted on their first five drives and got just two first downs.

Cornerback Cary Williams said it was a case of mixing coverages. He said the Ravens were aggressive early, jamming wide receivers to throw off their routes, then worked in different schemes throughout the game.

Webb, who picked off Bradford in the second quarter on a deep pass near the end zone, said there was more focus this week, at least for him.

“It was just a little different knowing how the game went last week,” Webb said. “Everything had to be technique. We had to play Raven ball this week and we came out and played a great game.”

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