OWINGS MILLS - Dannell Ellerbe fired through the line on a delayed blitz, barreling untouched into the Chargers backfield with a full head of steam before aggressively throwing his body into the midsection of San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers and driving Rivers to the ground for a sack.
Rivers was under constant pressure from the Ravens Sunday. Baltimore also limited the Chargers' running game and held a potent San Diego offense to just three points after halftime.
The performance served as a continuation of the progress the Ravens' defense has made during the four games that have followed the team's bye week.
Baltimore is allowing a league-low 14.5 points since Nov. 4.
"We're just playing better football," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Baltimore's defense.
It's been a collective improvement.
The Ravens entered their bye week ranked 26th out of the NFL's 32 teams in total defense. They were among the NFL's worst against both the run (27th) and the pass (23rd) and had struggled to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
They yielded a combined 1,026 passing yards from Week 2 to Week 4, a combined 622 rushing yards from Week 5 to Week 7 and had just 12 sacks through the first seven games of the season.
In the four games since the bye week, however, Baltimore has improved in nearly every phase of its defense.
Since the bye week, the defense has recorded 13 sacks, including 12 in the last three games, it's limited opposing running backs to an average of just 3.5 yards per carry and it's tallied four interceptions while surrendering just three touchdown passes.
The Ravens' defense hasn't allowed a touchdown within the red zone since prior to the bye week, having kept opponents out of the end zone on 10 straight possessions inside Baltimore's red zone.
"We're attacking the line of scrimmage better, we're taking on blocks better, we're tackling much better, our underneath coverage is much more disciplined and the eyes in the back end are getting better and better every week," Harbaugh said.
Against the Chargers Sunday, the Ravens limited San Diego's offense to just 280 yards, including only 111 yards in the second half and overtime.
Baltimore's defense forced three-and-outs on five of the Chargers' seven offensive possessions.
"Our coaches and players have done a great job," Harbaugh said. "I'd start with [defensive coordinator] Dean Pees and the coaches on defense. We're committed to playing fundamental football - that's what we're committed to.
"We have a great scheme package. We do some really, really great things. I think they do a good job of adjusting. We've put some packages together that have put guys in position to do the things they do best. ... [The defense] is just a group of guys - players and coaches - that are working really hard to improve."