A pair of imposing rookie running backs has dominated the Ravens defense in the past two games.
The Green Bay Packers' Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards on 23 carries during the Ravens’ 19-17 loss two weeks ago. And Pittsburgh Steelers second-rounder Le'Veon Bell gained a career-high 93 rushing yards on 19 carries during the Ravens’ 19-16 defeat Sunday at Heinz Field.
It was a slow burn for the Ravens against Bell, who bided his time effectively to take advantage of cutback lanes on a series of draw plays. He also ran the Wildcat offense four times.
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“The problem was we got off blocks too fast,” Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Tuesday. “We’re a little too impatient, and Bell is a patient runner. He ended up cutting it all the way back on us right into a blitz.
“Everything was good until we jumped off the block, and then he found the crease. That happened to us about three or four times that we got off blocks actually too quick. He’s taking his time back there, and he’s got good vision. So, we’ve got to be a lot more patient.”
The Steelers rushed for 141 yards on 29 carries, making the total 281 rushing yards allowed by the Ravens in the past two games. Although his longest run was only 11 yards, Bell repeatedly ran for steady gains to create third-and-short situations.
Against the Packers, Lacy had a 37-yard run early in the first quarter.
"The week before was big plays to me," Pees said. "Pittsburgh wasn't as much big plays as kind of bleeding us, 6, 7, 8 yards, which really created a second problem, and that's third down, which we've been very good at. It's hard to be good on third down when it's third-and-1 and third-and-2.
"The two games were probably our worst on third downs. There weren't similarities. It was totally two different types of things. The yardage is the same, which isn’t good, which we’ve got to get corrected. If we’re going to be a good defense, we can’t let anybody run the ball on us. And we will.”
Middle linebacker Daryl Smith led the Ravens with nine tackles Sunday, but his timing in pursuit was off the mark and he was caught off-guard by Bell orchestrating the Wildcat.
“No question, they bled us to death,” Smith said. “He was just so patient. The line knew he was being patient and would wall off. We had to play better and we didn't. I’m pretty sure we’ll see that again.
"Definitely too much. We'll use this week and revamp and make all the adjustments we need. We’re not hitting no panic button, but it’s definitely a sense of urgency that we definitely got to have."
The Ravens have gone from tied for seventh in run defense entering Sunday to ranking 15th overall, allowing 104.3 rushing yards per game.
As far as defensive lineman Chris Canty is concerned, the Ravens' defenders need to have faith in each other and not try to be a hero and attempt to make the play singlehandedly.
“They were slow-developing plays, which forces the defense to be more patient," Canty said. "We need to be more gap-disciplined and trust our teammates will fill in the gaps they’re supposed to. That's the biggest thing. Nobody should try to do too much. We need to play true assignment football."
The Ravens are allowing 328.7 yards per game defensively and have 25 sacks, with the pass rush -- led by Terrell Suggs' eight sacks -- representing the strength of the defense.
"We understand how good we have the potential to be," Canty said. "We’ve seen flashes of it this year, but we haven’t been consistent at all. That's one of the toughest things for us. We have to remain disciplined.
"We’re a real prideful group. We have the confidence because we've demonstrated it on the football field. It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow, but we're going to take a long, hard look at it, accept it for what it is and understand that's what we are and try to build on our successes and learn from our mistakes."