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Ravens defensive coordinator takes academic approach to unit

FootballBaltimore RavensDenver BroncosPeyton ManningCleveland BrownsNFL

Instead of stepping out of character by raising his voice to tear into his beleaguered defense, Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees maintained a professorial approach.

Players described Pees as using his usual low-key tone during a defensive meeting following the Ravens' 49-27 season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos. And Pees had little difficulty finding plenty to correct for a defense that surrendered seven touchdown passes to Peyton Manning as he tied an NFL record.

"He's not going to go crazy, coach Pees is himself," cornerback Corey Graham said. "He's going to be a calm guy. He's going to tell you what you did wrong, he's going to correct it and put you in position to do well next time."

Anger wasn't Pees' primary reaction to an overhauled defense now ranked last in the NFL after allowing the Broncos to pile up 510 yards of total offense. It was definitely frustrating, though, for Pees to see so many big plays, singling out at least nine triggered by shoddy tackling and coverage breakdowns.

Although Pees didn't unleash a tirade on his players, the veteran coach vented for over five minutes during his opening response in an impassioned explanation Thursday about what plagued his defense in Denver.

"This has been a hard week because I'm disappointed in the outcome," Pees said in his first comments since the defeat. "I'm disappointed in the statistics, which look terrible. I'm not disappointed in the total defensive effort we gave.

"It isn't one where you just start chastising and ranting and raving and be crazy. You can't sit there and go, 'Well, it's OK because it's not.' .. When you give up 49 points and 500 yards, it's just really, really disappointing. I'm not a stat guy, but I'm not an idiot, either."

Now, Pees is in a hurry to correct the miscues heading into Sunday's home opener against the Cleveland Browns.

With Pees taking an educational approach to the setback, several players praised him for not overreacting to what happened in Denver.

"You can't get too carried away, it's the first week," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "It's a lot of football left. Hollering at guys and getting all animated about a bad outing, it doesn't go a long ways. I thought Dean handled it great and was informative."

Not every offense will be as high-powered as the Broncos. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden was intercepted three times and sacked six times during a 23-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins last week.

However, the defense will need to improve significantly to meet its goals following an offseason of change where middle linebacker Ray Lewis retired, free safety Ed Reed, linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Paul Kruger and cornerback Cary William left via free agency and strong safety Bernard Pollard was cut.

"We want to be a top 10 defense, and we still can be," Pees said. "Is it a technique thing? Is there anything we can do better to coach those guys in the technique? Is it a personnel problem. It's our situation to solve those.

"We didn't play poorly, we played poor plays. There were nine of them, and we've got to correct those nine plays. I still really believe we can be a very, very good defense. The corrections just jumped off the charts because they were so easy."

Pees has been tasked with getting a lot of new personnel to mesh, including four newcomers in Huff, Canty, outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil and inside linebacker Daryl Smith.

He insists the first-game issues aren't attributable to a lack of familiarity triggered by so much change.

"It wasn't chemistry," Pees said. "If you've got a guy in man coverage, you've got to cover that man. It was not rocket science. The communication was there. I think our guys really work well together, and like each other."

Graham was consistently beaten by slot receiver Wes Welker, including a 2-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter attributable to an assignment error with Graham failing to react in time to an outside pass to Welker with cornerback Lardarius Webb retreating inside to cover Demaryius Thomas.

The Ravens also had breakdowns where defensive backs would try to pass off a receiver to the next line of defense thinking a teammate would be there with help arriving too late, or not at all.

"It can be devastating, especially when you're going against a quarterback like Peyton Manning, a guy that knows where he wants to go with the ball and he's capable of making all the throws," Graham said.
"When one guy is off, it can definitely be a problem, but when like two or three [are off], it can be dramatic."

Huff was overmatched during his first game as the replacement for Reed, dominated by tight end Julius Thomas for a pair of touchdown passes.

Despite the rough game, Huff said he's confident it's correctable.

"I think we'll be fine because a lot of our mistakes were us beating ourselves," Huff said. "We know what went wrong on each play. There's no sense in yelling. It was obvious, and we can fix it."

Both cornerback Jimmy Smith and strong safety James Ihedigbo had their share of issues as Manning averaged 9.9 yards per passing attempt.

"Anytime you get beat like that, it's embarrassing," Ihedigbo said. "Our fans deserve more from us."

The Broncos' touchdowns, including a long score of 78 yards to Thomas to cap their scoring, averaged 26.5 yards per score.

One of the puzzlements for the Ravens was not being more successful against Manning despite sacking him three times and hitting him nine times.

"It just wasn't enough," defensive tackle Chris Canty said. "We understand as a defensive front we have to create more pressure and make things a little bit easier for the guys on the back end. It's not a time for us to panic. Big plays in this business will kill you, offenses are too good."

Pees acknowledged that he took the Broncos game to heart, especially as the Ravens' Super Bowl banner will be unveiled Sunday.

"It's real personal," Pees said. "I love this defense, I love these guys. We put a lot of work in this summer and a lot of work into that game plan for Denver. It bothers me because I want us to be a top 10 defense. I think we are a top-tier defense, if we don't do those things.

"I can't disregard those plays and say, 'Well, we're a great defense.' No, we gave up too many yards and too many points. We all take pride in our job, it's our heart and soul. The only thing that's going to take the stink off of it is you know what."

awilson@baltsun.com

twitter.com/RavensInsider

2013 defensive debut vs. 2012 performance

As the Ravens (0-1) try to rebound from a season-opening 49-27 loss to the Denver Broncos, here's a look at how the defense performed compared to how their season-long averages from last year:

Week 1 Points 49 2012 Points 20.23

Week 1 Total yards 510 2012 Total yards 352.5

Week 1 Rushing yards 65 2012 Rushing yards 122.8

Week 1 Passing yards 462 2012 Passing yards 228.1

Current defensive rankings: Total defense (32nd) Rushing defense (8t) Passing defense (32nd)

2012 rankings: Total defense: Total defense (17th) Rushing defense (20th) Passing defense (17th)

-- Aaron Wilson

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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