The Ravens defense, coming off a game where it allowed 486 yards of total offense to Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles despite forcing four turnovers, has been bombarded the past two days with questions about what is wrong with the proud unit -- never good heading into a game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots -- because we aren’t used to seeing the Ravens with a double-digit ranking in total defense.
But playing at M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday night might just be what the defense needs to get back on track.
In their past 10 games at home, including playoffs, the Ravens have allowed 14.6 points per game -- nearly five points less than they have in their past 10 road games, in which they allowed 19.4 points per game. And they haven't allowed more than 30 points in a game since Oct. 24, 2010, a 37-34 win over the Buffalo Bills.
It’s not exactly breaking news that teams are better at home. But much more interesting is the kind of chaos the Ravens create at M&T Bank Stadium. Since the 2011 opener, they have recorded nearly twice as many sacks (33 at home, 18 on the road), interceptions (14 and six) and forced fumbles (17 and eight) at home during the span. They also scored three defensive touchdowns at The Bank compared to just one road TD.
So why is the Ravens defense that much better at home? Brendon Ayanbadejo said the reason is simple: It’s the 12th man.
“You just have to look to the crowd,” the linebacker said. “Offenses can’t communicate and do their checks and offenses aren’t as efficient when they’re on the road. We’re at home and there is all of that noise. It’s the 12th man. You have to give it up to the crowd at M&T Bank Stadium. It’s really a difference-maker.”
The Ravens have faced Brady and the Patriots four times since 2008 -- twice in the regular season and twice during the playoffs -- but each of those games was played up at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Now the Ravens must defend their home turf. It’s a primetime game and the defense will be introduced before the game. Ray Lewis will do a dance. So running back Ray Rice predicts the fans “will be rocking and rolling" on Sunday night.
“After playing the Patriots on their home turf every game since I’ve been here, we finally get to have them at home and kind of have those same feelings and emotions of a Sunday night game,” said Ayanbadejo, who joined the Ravens in 2008.