Five Things We Learned from the Ravens' 55-20 win over the Oakland Raiders
Baltimore Sun reporter/blogger Matt Vensel looks back at the Ravens' dominant victory.
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4( Baltimore Sun photo by Christopher T. Assaf / November 11, 2012 )
Despite three sacks Sunday, the Baltimore pass rush continues to be a work in progress.
The box score says that the Ravens took a step in the right direction in rediscovering their pass rush in Sunday's 55-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders. They recorded three sacks in a game for the first time since the season opener, with outside linebacker Paul Kruger (pictured) getting credit for two of them. But on this afternoon, the numbers were slightly misleading. The team's first sack came when statuesque Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer got his concrete feet tangled with right guard Mike Brisiel on a 4th-and-1 play in the first quarter (Palmer toppled over and lay on his back, and it took a two-hand touch to finalize the sack). Even with that gift, three sacks in 50 dropbacks rates below the NFL average. But still, after getting stymied Sunday after Sunday, it had to feel good for some of the Ravens pass rushers to touch a quarterback.
The big guys up front got their hands on a lot of passes, too. According to Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens batted down six passes at the line. And Kruger intercepted one of Palmer's passes after he realized he wasn't going to hit home and instead hit the brakes, parking right in Palmer's passing lane. It was a savvy adjustment by the Ravens coaching staff, but it's also telling that defenders are now being coached to try to swat passes when they realize they won't get to the quarterback, as it is a regular occurrence.
The pass rush has been the biggest detriment to the Baltimore defense this season. The Ravens rank near the bottom of the NFL with 16 sacks in nine games, and the lack of consistent pressure has put too much pressure on a talented secondary still reeling from the loss of cornerback Lardarius Webb. The pass coverage hasn't been great, but it hasn't been as bad as the numbers might suggest. For example, Palmer threw for 368 yards Sunday, but it took him 45 attempts to get there and a big chunk of those yards came after the catch -- like when Ed Reed whiffed on Darrius Heyward-Bey's long catch and run. As the Ravens enter a tough stretch of capable quarterbacks, including Ben Roethlisberger and the Manning Brothers, it would be nice if Sunday's sack output was a sign of things to come. But even Harbaugh, who had a lot to grin about during the 35-point win, slammed the breaks on that one afterward, telling me that fixing "big-picture things" like an unproductive pass rush usually takes time.
"I don't think one week predicts the next week so much," Harbaugh said. "When you are trying to improve big-picture things like run defense or underneath pass defense, which we are getting better [at], those are things you look at and say, 'We need to keep building there.' Something like pressure, sometimes those things come and go. We're going to need to continue to get pressure even more than we did today."