By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun
9:01 PM EDT, September 18, 2011
Like a bad headache that had returned, running back Ray Rice identified at least part of the Ravens' offensive dilemma Sunday. It was Tennessee's tenacious 4-3 defense.
The problem lies not only in the way the Titans played their defense, but the mere fact that it is not a defense the Ravens see often.
"It's been problematic for us for some time," Rice said after the Ravens' 26-13 defeat. "Cincinnati runs a 4-3. That's one of those things where you have to execute.
"I mean, it's not the structure, it's just how it's run. You have to execute against it. Sometimes against a 4-3 team, you have to nickel and dime" your way down the field.
A week after Rice ran for 107 yards against Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense, he gained just 43 on 13 carries against the Titans for an average of 3.3. His longest gain went for 11 yards.
The Titans were committed to stopping Rice and often brought a safety to the line of scrimmage to do so.
"I think it was just about stopping the run," cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. "It's the biggest thing in the NFL. I keep reiterating that. The defensive line played great today. We were able to stop Ray Rice and he's a big part of them. We saw them having to go to the air, and I really believe in our defensive backs and secondary."
Reed leaves in sling
After an almost injury-free preseason, injuries are starting to catch up with the Ravens. Kick returner/wide receiver David Reed was in a sling and obvious pain with a left shoulder strain after Sunday's game. He's due to get a magnetic resonance imaging test today.
Reed, suspended for last week's game by the NFL, delivered a 77-yard kick return late in the first half to set up a tying, 41-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. He finished with 125 yards on three returns.
The Ravens also lost nose tackle Terrence Cody with a concussion. Cornerback Lardarius Webb left the game briefly in the third quarter after injuring his right shoulder on a tackle, but returned later. He said after the game it wouldn't be a problem.
Both left guard Ben Grubbs and cornerback Chris Carr were inactive for the Ravens. Grubbs' five-year streak of playing in every game for the Ravens ended because of a big toe injury. Grubbs had started 65 consecutive games.
"Ben Grubbs not being in there definitely was a blow for us," Rice said. "But at the same time, we're all professionals. We've got to take what happens today and build off it."
Mark LeVoir started for Grubbs.
Carr missed the first game of his career, as well, with a hamstring injury.
"I'll be back next week," Carr said. "It was close [today]."
The Ravens found small consolation in holding Tennessee's Chris Johnson to 53 rush yards on 24 carries, a modest 2.2 average. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata said the Ravens' gap integrity helped hold down Johnson, but that it also affected the pass rush. "It slows you down a little bit just because you know how dangerous Chris Johnson is," he said. Ngata had six tackles and one pass deflection that turned into a Terrell Suggs interception. … After two games, quarterback Joe Flacco is completing just 52.5 percent of his throws this year, hitting 32 of 61. … In addition to Grubbs and Carr, injury also kept cornerback Jimmy Smith (ankle) out of the game. Other inactives included wide receiver Tandon Doss, linebacker Sergio Kindle, nose tackle Brandon McKinney and cornerback Chykie Brown. Cornerback Danny Gorrer, cut in camp and resigned by the Ravens last week, was active. … Kindle declined to comment on a report that he owes a bank in Tennessee $130,000. … The Titans deactivated two defensive starters, defensive end William Hayes and safety Chris Hope. Dave Ball and Jordan Babineaux were their replacements.
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