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Notebook: Ravens defense found ways to pressure the Chargers

FootballBaltimore RavensSan Diego ChargersNFLJoe FlaccoPittsburgh Steelers

— Ravens defensive end Arthur Jones waited a long time to experience the moment of tackling an NFL quarterback to the ground.

During the 27th game of his NFL career, Jones recorded his first two sacks as he contributed to the Ravens harassing San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

Unlike last year when Rivers seemingly had an eternity to stand in the pocket and shred the defense in a decisive win over Baltimore, the Ravens sacked him six times Sunday afternoon during a dramatic 16-13 overtime victory at Qualcomm Stadium. The six sacks were a season-high for the Ravens.

"It feels great, it feels amazing," said Jones, who started his fourth consecutive game at left defensive end. "My coaches told me to keep trusting my technique and footwork. I did that and look what happened. I thought that first sack would happen.

"I kept saying, 'It's coming,' because I had been getting closer and closer. It's a testament to the defense. Whatever people say about us, calling us dysfunctional or whatever, we stick together and we believe in ourselves."

Although Rivers still passed for 228 yards and registered a 91.0 passer rating, it was nothing like the dominance he displayed during a 34-14 win over the Ravens last season where he only had six incompletions. He completed 23 of 36 passes Sunday with just one touchdown.

The pressure the Ravens created by defeating single-blocking schemes in the front seven paid dividends.

"We knew that would be a big deal against Rivers," said outside linebacker Paul Kruger, who sacked Rivers once and leads the Ravens with 5 1/2 sacks. "He's one of those players who can make something happen if you give him time. Guys came up huge and made big plays."

The Ravens held the Chargers to 280 yards of total offense and 16 first downs, which qualifies as progress for a defense that plummeted to 25th overall heading into Sunday.

Rookie outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the Ravens' top draft pick and a second-round selection from Alabama, also registered his first solo sack for a loss of four yards after sharing a sack earlier this season.

However, the Ravens have improved over the past four games since a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans with wins over the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers and now the Chargers.

"We knew y'all are used to seeing a certain style of defense from us, but with the injuries we've sustained it's been hard," said outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who had his first sack since the Texans game when he returned from a partially torn right Achilles tendon. "It's been hard, but we're not satisfied by any means. We know we're going in the right direction."

Ed Dickson, Dannell Ellerbe injured

Ravens starting tight end Ed Dickson left the game with a sprained knee and didn't return, heading to the locker room for further examination in the second quarter.

The initial diagnosis of the injury didn't reveal any ligament damage but more testing will be conducted, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.

"It's a little concern going forward," Harbaugh said. "It's not a major knee injury. I can characterize it as a sprain with some swelling. We'll just have to see how it goes."

Meanwhile, starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe left the game with a right foot injury and didn't return.

Special-teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo and Josh Bynes divided up the playing time with Ellerbe out of the game.

Although limping after the game in the locker room, Ellerbe said he intends to play next week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He may undergo an X-ray on Monday, but the injury isn't regarded as serious at this point.

"I'm planning on it," said Ellerbe, who sacked Rivers once. "I will do everything in my power to be out there. I got rolled up in a pile and fell on it. It's not that bad."

Rare playing time

Ayanbadejo, a special teams ace, hadn't played regularly on defense since the preseason following a rough game against the St. Louis Rams.

Operating in relief of Ellerbe, he finished with four tackles and a pass deflection.

Inside linebackers coach Don Martindale had predicted weeks ago that Ayanbadejo would play on defense against the Chargers.

"He had an epiphany that this might happen and he stayed on me to make sure I kept my head in the defense," said Ayanbadejo, a native of Santa Cruz, Calif. "I had 20, 30 people at this game, including my mom, my brother [former Ravens fullback Obafemi Ayanbadejo], my sister, friends I grew up with. What better place to get my first time on defense."

McPhee sidelined again

Defensive end Pernell McPhee was scratched for the fourth game in a row with right thigh and knee injuries.

McPhee had expressed hope that he might return this week after returning to practice on a limited basis, but acknowledged he's not 100 percent yet and has been mostly doing individual drills on the field.

Tight end Dennis Pitta experienced concussion symptoms against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but was cleared for contact late last week when he passed his baseline neurological test.

Pitta caught six passes for 42 yards and a touchdown and didn't have a recurrence of his head injuries against the Chargers.

Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata didn't seem to be affected by his right knee and right shoulder injuries and had three tackles.

Flacco sacked five times

Quarterback Joe Flacco wasn't exactly in a comfort zone while leading the Ravens
to a comeback victory.

He was sacked five times for a loss of 39 yards Sunday.

Former Ravens fourth-round outside linebacker Antwan Barnes tormented Flacco for the second year in a row.

After sacking Flacco four times last season while dominating left offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, Barnes sacked Flacco twice on Sunday as he beat left offensive tackle Michael Oher once and rookie right tackle Kelechi Osemele for his other sack.

Barnes has been dealing with hamstring injuries, entering the game with only one sack. 

After his second sack, Barnes celebrated in front of the Ravens' bench area
and was fortunate to not be flagged for taunting.

Flacco was hit six times overall.

End zone

The Ravens deactivated cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (sports hernia surgery) and Chris Johnson (strained hamstring), offensive guards Bobbie Wiliams and Ramon Harewood, kick returner Deonte Thompson and defensive tackle Bryan Hall. ... Fifth-round rookie cornerback Asa Jackson, who played collegiately at Cal-Poly, was active for the first time this season because of injuries in the secondary. He notched his first tackle of his NFL career on special teams.

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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FootballBaltimore RavensSan Diego ChargersNFLJoe FlaccoPittsburgh Steelers
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