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1. The Ravens' defensive stars believe they must carry the team
After early-season debates about the identity of the 2013 Ravens, it's now clear they're a defense-first team.
Eleven games in, the Ravens have reached 30 points just once. They're not the team that won several shootouts in last year's playoffs.
Against the Jets, they seemed to embrace this identity, with the team's top defenders dominating on the field and then speaking with great bravado in the locker room.
"It's our show, and that's how we look at it," safety James Ihedigbo said. "On defense, we know how we have to play to win. We have to dominate and take over the game."
The Jets kept the Ravens defense off-balance early, with constantly shifting backfield formations and a few direct snaps to wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who even completed a pass to quarterback Geno Smith.
But by and large, the Ravens ate them alive. "You can only do that for so long," Ihedigbo said of the Jets' trickery.
The Ravens hounded and overwhelmed Smith into three turnovers, sacked him three times and limited the Jets to 220 yards. They showed once again that, given a vulnerable opponent, they can deliver a crushing performance.
"What can you say about our defense?¿ said coach John Harbaugh. "It was a dominant defensive performance. ¿ All three levels played exceptionally well."
The talk in the post-game locker room was striking, almost akin to Ray Lewis' heyday, when the team's top defenders believed they carried the organization's fortunes on their shoulders.
"Let's try to win a game on our own," cornerback Lardarius Webb said in explaining the defense's mindset.
They will play more threatening opponents than the Jets, of course, so the verdict on this defense has yet to be written. They believe they're worthy of the Ravens' great tradition, however.
November 25, 2013