While there’s no definitive answer on how the Ravens defense will fare for the remainder of the season without top cornerback Lardarius Webb, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in Sunday’s 31-29 win against the Dallas Cowboys, there is some history when the unit has been forced to play an extended period of time without 13-time Pro Bowler Ray Lewis, who tore his right triceps in the same contest.
When the inside linebacker missed 11 games in 2002 because of a partially dislocated left shoulder, opposing offenses averaged 22.6 points, 330.5 yards and 115.3 rushing yards. Twelve of their 26 touchdowns against the Ravens – who won just five games during Lewis’ absence and finished 7-9 – were scored on the ground.
Three years later, Lewis sat out 10 contests due to a strained right hamstring, and the results were fairly similar. The defense surrendered an average of 19.9 points, 303.9 yards and 99.8 rushing yards. The Ravens won just four of those games and finished 6-10.
Most recently, the team won all four contests last season when Lewis was sidelined by a turf toe injury. Opponents averaged just 12.5 points, 15 first downs and 75.5 rushing yards. The defense surrendered just two touchdowns on the ground.
Last year, Jameel McClain either led or tied for the team lead in tackles in each of those four games, collecting 31 tackles. Dannell Ellerbe, who made three of those starts, posted a combined 11 tackles, and Albert McClellan, who started in the team’s 16-6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Thanksgiving night, made four tackles. Brendon Ayanbadejo compiled nine tackles in three games.
The Ravens are hopeful that the most recent trend is the one that continues Sunday against the Houston Texans.