It seemed inevitable that Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden would end up crashing to the ground as the Ravens' defense relentlessly chased him around the pocket Sunday.
Utilizing an extensive blitz package with two minutes remaining in the first half of the Ravens' 14-6 victory M&T Bank Stadium, at least five defenders had a legitimate shot at sacking Weeden. Inside linebackers Daryl Smith and Arthur Brown wound up splitting the sack after trapping Weeden in the backfield.
"We all came off the ball, and it was like an avalanche," said strong-side outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who recorded one sack and three quarterback hits. "Guys just came from everywhere. I haven't seen it on the film yet, but it happened fast. The pocket collapsed, and he had nowhere to go."
Weeden was under heavy duress throughout the game, sacked five times as the Ravens delivered a dozen quarterback hits. Weeden didn't finish the game, leaving in the fourth quarter with a thumb injury as he was replaced by backup Jason Campbell for the final series.
"That was Baltimore football right there," said defensive lineman Arthur Jones, who sacked Weeden once. "We were a bunch of bullies and took care of business."
Whether it was an accomplished offensive lineman like Browns Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas getting steamrolled by Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs or Dumervil exploiting right tackle Mitch Schwartz, it all spelled trouble for Weeden.
At times, it was practically a personal competition as the defense raced to get to the quarterback.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees devised an aggressive game plan intended to harass Weeden, who was sacked six times by the Miami Dolphins during a season-opening 23-10 defeat.
Suggs had three quarterback hits and added his second sack of the season..
"Yeah, but that's a good thing," Suggs said. "You want guys getting after it and everybody's fighting for it, and I've got to say our defensive coordinator Dean Pees called one hell of a blitz. He mixed it up, just letting the guys get after it up front."
Pees utilized several fire blitzes with inside linebackers Smith, Brown and Josh Bynes shooting through the center-guard gaps. With pressure coming from the inside and outside, Weeden was rarely able to escape.
"Baltimore has a good front four," Weeden said. "They're tough to block. Don't forget they're the Super Bowl champions. We need to prepare ourselves to protect better. I'm sure we'll get it right."
The Browns were overwhelmed at the line of scrimmage with so many bodies firing off the football, creating pathways for linebackers to run through.
"The linemen were getting pressure the whole time and it was collapsing," said Smith, who led the Ravens with 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks. "Josh Bynes set a good pick for me, and I came around and the coverage in the back end was free. So, when everything is working together like that, things happen."
Pees substituted liberally, running a rotation that included defensive end Marcus Spears, backup rush outside linebacker Pernell McPhee and nose tackle Terrence Cody.
"I think that's the benefit of having depth, with the guys we've got up here," Suggs said. "Pernell McPhee, he's just a phenomenal player. I've been speaking of Marcus Spears since we signed the kid. We've got tremendous depth. I'm happy to be on this team."
Nose tackle Haloti Ngata manhandled center Alex Mack for three tackles and two quarterback hits.
"It's really what we wanted to do and really what we focused on in the offseason: getting to the quarterback," Ngata said.
There was a ton of single-blocking and one-on-one opportunities for the Ravens to use their athleticism to full advantage.
"I just kind of came around the edge," Dumervil said. "The inside guys gave a great push. So, Weeden couldn’t go anywhere but where I was at. There was good coverage in the back end, so I was able to make the play.
"It's great. I have all these great guys around me. I’ve got Suggs on the other side, Haloti, [defensive tackle] Chris Canty. When you get three one-on-ones, you have to take advantage of that.”
It was a particularly rewarding game personally for Jones, who missed the first game and a significant amount of practice time with an irregular heartbeat.
"It's a blessing," Jones said. "Two weeks ago, I didn't think I was going to be on this earth and here I am back on the field performing again. You just don't take nothing in life for granted.
"I felt great. My cardio was a little suspect with it being two weeks, but it’s all good. It was definitely special, especially for me after being out two weeks."
Through two games, the Ravens have now registered eight sacks and 23 quarterback hits.
This is what the Ravens had envisioned during the offseason when they signed Dumervil to a five-year, $35 million contract to pair him opposite Suggs. And Suggs appears to have regained his 2011 NFL
Defensive Player of the Year form following an injury-plagued season last year when he dealt with a partially torn Achilles tendon and torn biceps.
"We have a chance to be one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We have to make that happen. .. Pass rush cranked it up pretty good with sacks and with
quite a bit of pressure."
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