During their Super Bowl season in 2012, the Ravens at times defied doubters, logic and historical precedent.
One trend they bucked, something that is starting to get a little attention in these dog days before training camp, is how the Ravens became the first NFL team in more than a decade to win the Super Bowl despite finishing the season with a negative sack differential. The New England Patriots were the last to do it in 2001.
Sacks aren’t always the best indicator of overall pressure, but when a pass rusher does hit home, it usually results in a big loss and sometimes a big change in momentum. That’s why it isn’t surprising that the 10 Super Bowl winners before the Ravens were ones that got after enemy quarterbacks while also protecting their own.
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The 2012 Ravens did it their way, though. They recorded 37 sacks last season, 15th in the league and their lowest total since 2010, when they had 27. On the flip side, they allowed their quarterbacks to be sacked 38 times, which ranked 20th.
Interestingly, the Ravens had a negative sack differential in both of their championship seasons (the first was 2000, of course).
With a minus-one sack differential in 2012, they were one of five teams to make the playoffs with a negative differential. One of the other teams was the San Francisco 49ers, which means it was the first meeting in the Super Bowl between teams with a negative sack differential in at least the past 11 years.
Still, the previous 10 Super Bowl winners had an average sack differential of plus-12.6. Of those teams, the 2007 New York Giants had the best differential, plus-25, with Steve Spagnuolo, who is now a Ravens assistant, as their defensive coordinator.
The Ravens should have a better pass rush this season. Having Spagnuolo around can’t hurt, but more significant are the addition of Elvis Dumervil and a return to health for Terrell Suggs. With those two chasing after quarterbacks, along with guys like Chris Canty and Haloti Ngata, the Ravens should experience a bump back towards where they were in 2011.
And if the Ravens can protect Flacco as well as they did last season -- I'm just talking regular season -- you have to figure they will get back to having a positive sack differential in 2013, which recent history shows is a nice thing to have going for you.