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Ravens pass defense finally looks vulnerable

As Tom Brady blow-dried his Bieber bangs in the Patriots' locker room early Sunday evening (at least that's what I assume he was doing at the time), the Ravens were busy blowing hot air, too.

Brady had just torched the Ravens in the second half and overtime as the Patriots overcame a 10-point deficit to win, 23-20. But instead of admitting that they have their work cut out for them to get their formerly top-ranked pass defense to a championship-caliber level, the Ravens explained away the loss.

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"That's just Brady being Brady," Ravens coach John Harbaugh justified.

"I think they got like one or two plays that they drew up on the bye week that actually worked," Terrell Suggs claimed.

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"If we see them in the playoffs, we will be ready again," promised Ray Lewis.

Based on how easily Brady slung the ball around once he figured out the Ravens' scheme, I'm guessing the Patriots would be cool with another playoff rematch, too.

Sitting on a 20-10 lead down the stretch, the Ravens, who too often used a three-man rush, couldn't get close enough to Brady to catch a whiff of his Stetson cologne.

On Brady's fourth-quarter touchdown pass, the Ravens gave him six seconds to casually scan the field before coverage broke down. I swear I saw Brady stop and file his nails before tossing it to Deion Branch.

"You can't expect your secondary to cover that long," Suggs said.

The play of the Ravens' defensive backs has been a pleasant surprise this season. You couldn't ask for more from Fabian Washington and Lardarius Webb, who suffered serious knee injuries a year ago. And Chris Carr and Tom Zbikowski, filling in for the injured Domonique Foxworth and Ed Reed, respectively, have been solid.

But the lack of a pass rush — I'm talking helmet-rattling, fear-inducing quarterback hits — has left the secondary exposed the past two weeks. The Ravens allowed 606 passing yards and three touchdowns combined against Kyle Orton and Brady.

The Ravens need someone other than Suggs and Haloti Ngata to consistently crash the pocket. It's never good when a defensive tackle — even one as dreamy as Ngata — is your leading sack-getter.

The Ravens — who have given up just 175 passing yards per game thanks to favorable early-season matchups against the Jets, the Browns and the Chuck Batch Steelers — have fallen to third in pass defense, a ranking that will continue to drop if adjustments aren't made.

Harbaugh is optimistic that Reed's return, which could happen as early as Sunday, will bolster a pass defense that has been better than expected but also has a lot of ground to cover between now and January.

"I think if you look at the whole thing as a big picture for six games, it was very good," Harbaugh said Monday. "It's only going to get better with Ed Reed back there.

"He's going to add a dynamic where he will be a problem for offenses because you never know where he's at. He covers ground. He sees things other guys don't see."

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The return of the bearded ballhawk will give the Ravens a big boost. A handful of potent passers loom on their second-half schedule — and potentially in the playoffs, too.

Of course, the one the Ravens say they want to see again is Brady.

"[The Patriots] better hope they don't see us again," Suggs foolishly boasted Sunday.

Be careful what you wish for, Sizzle.

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