By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun
6:04 PM EST, January 14, 2012
In a span of three games, the Ravens' ability to collect sacks has gone from a deluge to a trickle.
The defense recorded just three sacks in the team's final three games of the regular season after posting 45 in the first 13 contests.
Only the Green Bay Packers and Oakland Raiders had a worse showing over the same span with each defense compiling just two sacks.
Opposing offenses have negated the Ravens' pass rush by adding a tight end or back to assist the offensive tackle against outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who set a career high with 14 sacks during the regular season. In his last three games, Suggs had just one sack.
Opponents have also lined up in maximum-protection formations and called for quick three- or five-step drops by the quarterbacks to avoid the rush.
But those tactics are nothing new.
"We're used to that," outside linebacker Jarret Johnson said. "We're used to a lot of quick stuff, getting to the huddle, running it out before we can get lined up in our stuff. Some teams delay, run the clock all the way down, go max-protect. But the big thing for us is teams that are able to run the ball and then [take] shots over our head. That's what we preach constantly, is stopping the run and preventing the shot."
The Ravens have also seen a decline in the number of hits they have laid on quarterbacks. After racking up 81 quarterback hits in the first 13 contests, the defense has managed just six in the last three games.
They may not count as sacks, but the cumulative effect of those hits can be just as rewarding for a defense.
Getting to Houston rookie quarterback T.J. Yates in Sunday's divisional playoff game could prove critical. Not only could pressure prevent the fifth-round pick from finding the dangerous duo of wide receiver Andre Johnson and tight end Owen Daniels, but Yates struggled when the pocket collapsed in the Texans' 31-10 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals last week.
Yates was sacked twice and completed just two passes on the eight plays Cincinnati brought pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.
Yates, however, is protected by an offensive line — anchored by tackles Duane Brown and Eric Winston — that finished the regular season tied for 12th in the NFL in fewest sacks allowed (33). According to Pro Football Focus, Brown did not surrender a sack all season.
"They're really good tackles," Suggs said. "They play good together, they're very strong. So they're pretty good tackles. Like I tell you, [when] you ask me about tackles in the league, there are some better than others and then there are some that just play really well with their quarterback, with their offense and the things that they're doing. So this is not a week off. This is the NFL."
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