Several players contributing to Ravens’ stellar defense
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens are playing team defense so well, it’s almost impossible to pick the best of the bunch.
Eight different players had a least one of Baltimore’s team-record 11 sacks on Sunday in Tennessee. Za’Darius Smith had three, Patrick Onwuasor rang up his first two of the season and Terrell Suggs , the team career leader in sacks, was among a half-dozen Ravens to take down Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota once.
“We bring a lot of pressure. We bring different people from different places,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “Everybody can blitz on our defense. When you do that, a lot of times you’re going to have all the rush lanes filled up, and it just kind of ends up being who gets there. Sometimes, the guy with the best rush doesn’t get the sack.”
And sometimes, an opposing quarterback may have no option but to hit the turf when none of his receivers are open. That was the situation Mariota faced quite often in Baltimore’s 21-0 victory.
After looking at film of the game, Harbaugh said, “We had really good coverage. There are a lot of times you’d stop the tape and say, ‘If you were the quarterback, where would you go with the ball?’ Really, most of the time there was nowhere to go.”
Suggs, safety Eric Weddle and middle linebacker C.J. Mosley have more than a dozen Pro Bowl appearances between them. This Baltimore defense is getting consistent contributions from several players — and the results have been impressive.
Baltimore (4-2) is allowing an NFL-low 12.8 points per game and has yielded a total of 15 points after halftime (including three in overtime). The Ravens are the only team in the NFL that has not given up a touchdown in the second half.
“It’s definitely something that they’re aware of, but not talking about,” Harbaugh said of his defense.
Much of the credit goes to first-year defensive coordinator Don Martindale, formerly the team’s linebackers coach. Martindale loves to bring the pressure, which is easy to do if the backfield takes care of business.
That is precisely how it played out on a soggy afternoon in Tennessee.
“We were just a step ahead of them with what they were doing,” Weddle said. “Early on we felt like our pass rush was getting home, and if we could cover on the back end it would really make things cloudy and not clear for Mariota.”
The shutout marked the end of a three-game road trip that began with a victory in Pittsburgh and an overtime loss in Cleveland. Now, with four of the next five at home, Baltimore is in position to make a move, beginning Sunday against the New Orleans Saints (4-1).
“In the NFL, you need to stack wins. You need to find a way to get on a roll,” Harbaugh said. “If we can stack a win on top of (Sunday’s in Tennessee), then it really starts to mean something. But it’s a huge challenge, whether you’re on the road or at home, playing against the Saints.”
The last time the Ravens were 4-2 was 2014, which is also the last time they reached the playoffs.
“We’re in a good place,” Harbaugh said. “Not as good as we could be, but you can’t look back and lament that. We’re happy to be where we’re at. We’ve got to make the most of it.”
Offensive lineman Alex Lewis, who was carted off the field in the fourth quarter and taken to a hospital with an apparent neck injury, appears to have recovered.
“It looks good,” Harbaugh said. “There’s no serious kind of injury there in terms of neuro-type issues. He’s possible for this week as far as I know right now. We’ll have to see as the week progresses and see how he comes along. That could change.”