Bulldozed by the Kansas City Chiefs' running game in the first half prior to a halftime adjustment that salvaged a 9-6 victory, the Ravens' defense was particularly susceptible to the zone-stretch play.
As star running back Jamaal Charles rumbled for 125 yards in the first half before defensive coordinator Dean Pees shifted the Ravens' defensive alignment to widen out the defensive linemen and walk up the linebackers to press the line of scrimmages, offensive guards Jeff Allen and Jon Asamoah kept getting to the second level to block Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
That's not how the Ravens' defense is supposed to work with Lewis not usually taking on that many hefty blockers. Nose guards Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Terrence Cody are supposed to wall off blockers to allow Lewis to flow freely to the football.
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"We did a couple of other things with some fronts that did not help us, and they really hurt the linebackers," Pees said today at team headquarters. "Sometimes you look out there, and you see a corner, and you think the corner gets beat deep, but it might have been the safety that really should have been over the top making the play, but because the corner is close, you assume it’s the corner, and you blame him.
"It’s the same thing up front. If the offensive line is coming off and getting to the second level on the linebackers, we are not in a good system here. We are not playing good technique then up front. So, a lot of times you can say whatever you want about the linebackers, it isn’t going to matter if the guy is coming off and has him sealed. I don’t care who it is. It could be Dick Butkus, it isn’t going to make a difference. So, that to me was the biggest thing there.
Between Kemoeatu and Cody, they combined for only four tackles while Lewis was being engulfed by blockers and failing to shed them.
"Ray's not getting any help from the guys up front, either Kemoeatu or Cody," former Ravens offensive lineman Wally Williams said. "They are terrible up front. Even in Ray's highest moment, Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa and Kelly Gregg did a lot of dirty work and kept Ray clean. If Ray doesn't stay clean where he's unblocked, he's going to have problems like he did in Kansas City."
With Kemoeatu receiving the majority of the workload on 39 snaps for 55 percent of the defensive plays, Cody played 23 snaps for 32 percent of the defensive plays.
Lewis finished with 10 tackles, but most of them were down the field after solid gains by Charles as he finished with 140 yards, including 15 of those yards on 10 second-half carries.
Cody acknowledged there were fundamental lapses by the defensive line.
"It was a bunch of gap responsibilities," Cody said. "They were doing what they did because of what were doing. It was hard on guys like Ray beause sometimes a zone scheme looks kind of different, how they're coming off.
"We were able to anticipate chop blocks from behind. It was more technique than ability. The nose guards, it's our responsibility to keep the center off of him. We didn't do that good this past game."