Secondary Shuts Down Green

The Ravens held the Pro Bowl wide receiver to two catches for 26 yards.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Categories: 2011 Season Gameday, Garrett Downing, Week 17 at Bengals

The first time the Baltimore Ravens played Cincinnati, rookie quarterback Andy Dalton threw for 373 yards, the most passing yards the Ravens have allowed all season.

And that was without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.

The Bengals had Green in the lineup this week, but he made little impact and was held to his lowest production of the season.

“Our coverage in our secondary yesterday was excellent,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said Monday.

Green had just two catches for 26 yards, and Dalton threw 44 passes for 232 yards and no touchdowns. The Bengals lone touchdown came on a 25-yard run by running back Bernard Scott.

Ravens cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams spent much of the afternoon lined up across from Green, and effectively shut down the rookie. Williams played just a week after sustaining a concussion in the win over Cleveland, and he finished the game with six tackles and three passes defended.

“We laid an egg the first game, maybe we might have underestimated them or whatever the case may have been,” Williams said. “This week we wanted to make sure we were mentally ready, we wanted to make sure that our technique was down, and I think that’s what we did. We were mentally prepared and went out there and physically did what we were supposed to do and we gave that guy a hard time.”

The secondary played well, despite dealing with injuries. Rookie cornerback Jimmy Smith and backup safety Tom Zbikowski both had to leave the game with concussions.

Smith primarily comes in on nickel packages, and veteran cornerback Chris Carr stepped up to fill that role.

The secondary kept the Bengals passing attack from beating them, and their longest play from scrimmage was a 31-yard pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham, who led Cincinnati with five catches for 72 yards. Wide receiver Jerome Simpson added 54 yards on five receptions.

“[The cornerbacks] were very patient. Their eyes were in the right spot. They played square. They played with their hands and their feet,” Harbaugh said. “They were very disciplined, very detailed in what they had to do, and that’s what you have to do out there on that island.”

A benefit for the Ravens cornerbacks is that they have the luxury of knowing safety Ed Reed is roaming in the secondary and available to help if they miss an assignment. He has been the leader of the defensive backs for much of his 10-year career, and Harbaugh said that his ability to cover up mistakes on busted coverage is critical for the Ravens.

“That starts with Ed Reed,” Harbaugh said. “Ed covered up a couple of things that happened on some of those play-action downfield routes and covered some of those guys downfield one-on-one. [It’s] a pretty tough task for a safety to do that.”

Strong play by the cornerbacks, combined with the presence of a future Hall-of-Fame safety over the middle, made life tough for Dalton and Green, and was a big reason the Ravens were able to come away with the victory.

“They played very good assignment football 99-percent of the time,” Harbaugh said. “When they didn’t, Ed bailed them out.”

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