There has been a lot of talk about the state of the Ravens defense since last week's 26-21 loss to the Falcons -- especially on this blog. We discussed the possibility that the return of safety Ed Reed has actually had a negative impact on the pass defense. We chatted about college defenders who could be Ravens a year from now. And we had a bunch of thoughtful reader comments when I wondered out loud if the dominant days of the Ravens defense had just about come to a close.
I don't think anyone is saying that the Ravens defense is bad -- it's just not as good as what we're used to seeing. Hey, it's Ray Lewis and the gang's fault for setting the bar so high by finishing in the top six in total defense each season since 2003 (the Ravens are 10th right now and slipping).
When presented with the possibility Wednesday that the Ravens defense isn't as dominant as it once was, Reed, well, got a little defensive. "Yeah, some people don't know anything about football," the safety said. "We were playing good ball, and we're going to continue to play good ball."
But even if you ignore that the Ravens have blown fourth-quarter leads on a few occasions this season, stats show that the defense has played merely average ball over the past five games.
Some point to the fact that right now the Ravens are seventh in scoring defense (18.3 points allowed per game) and 10th in total defense (316.4 yards allowed per game). But the Ravens have slowly been sliding down the rankings after a strong first quarter of the season.
The Ravens allowed 13.8 points per game and 236 total yards per game in the first four weeks. They have allowed 22 points per game and 381 total yards per game since.
That's what people are referring to when they talk about the Ravens defense falling off.
Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has been taking heat for not bringing the heat, but Lewis said Wednesday that the Ravens have been blitzing just as much as they did under Rex Ryan.
"It's a copycat league. Everybody kind of does the same exact things," Lewis said. "I think we do it an equal amount as we did it when Rex was here. ... We have a great way of disguising a lot of different things to make it look like something it's really not."
Lewis is confident the Ravens will get everything figured out on defense. And when that happens, he expects the Ravens to climb back near the top of the defensive rankings -- just like in years past.
"We used to chase [stats], and we still do to a certain extent. But, I think that the biggest thing for our focus is [if] we keep stacking up W's, all of that will come later," he said. "You [can't] get caught up in those numbers, because some of the teams that are higher than us have way worse records than us.
"It can kind of be misconstrued at times, but we just have to keep playing football, and everything is going to roll out the way it's going to roll. Like I said, we went through the roughest time of our schedule that we were going to go through. Now it's time for us to start building on that, and stats will come with that if you're looking for those."