Uptick in big plays in Sunday’s loss is new concern for Ravens defense

Big plays are the objective for every offense and the bane for every defense. And they are now a concern for the Ravens’ defense.

In Sunday’s 26-9 loss to the Steelers, the defense surrendered 15 plays of 10 yards or more and 12 plays of at least 15 yards — both of which are season highs. Twelve of the plays that gained 10-plus yards occurred as Pittsburgh built a 19-0 advantage by halftime.

Four of the big gains came via the run with starter Le’Veon Bell producing rushes of 21, 17 and 16 yards and backup James Connerone for 23 yards. Ravens coach John Harbaugh pointed to those runs as the biggest culprits in the defense’s problems.

“They did a good job scheming up a certain type of gap scheme,” he said. “It was counter-gap scheme that they ran, and they were bouncing it outside. We’ve just got to fix that on our defense. Give them all the credit in the world.

“Sometimes you can overcome it when they scheme you up and fix it a little quicker. We stopped it a number of times, but even at the end, they bled some yards on us, too. It was one scheme this past week that hurt us more than anything.”

After giving up 24 combined plays of 10 yards or more in wins against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns, the defense has allowed 29 such plays in losses to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Steelers.

Allowing big plays is bound to happen in games, but defenses can reduce the risk by forcing opposing offenses into three-and-outs. The Ravens forced Pittsburgh into only one three-and-out in the first three quarters and just three for the game.

Middle linebacker C.J. Mosley said the defense must be more aggressive in influencing opponents into making poor decisions that can lead to those three-and-outs.

“If you get three-and-outs, there won’t be a lot of plays, no matter how many times we’re out there,” he said Sunday. “And like I said, the plays that they did break, we got the edge short, or we just made some plays where guys got out of position. We’ve just got to correct that.”

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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