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Unfamiliar players yield familiar result on defense

Linebacker Josh Bynes breaks up a pass intended for Giants tight end Martellus Bennett during the second half of the Baltimore Ravens' 33-14 win over the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Sunday.
Linebacker Josh Bynes breaks up a pass intended for Giants tight end Martellus Bennett during the second half of the Baltimore Ravens' 33-14 win over the New York Giants at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Sunday. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

BALTIMORE - For at least one day, the chants were back. "Dee-feense, dee- feense." Late in the third quarter with the Baltimore Ravens up by 20 points, Eli Manning went back to back on third down, and on a safety blitz, Omar Brown came around the right side and sacked him.

Just a few moments before, that old cry was heard. It wasn't hard to remember the days when an unfamiliar Ravens player, like Brown, came out of nowhere, like he did, to make a big play.

"It was like a layup, and I just took it," Brown said. "When he started fading away, I was kind of, I was like, 'yeah, I got this one.'"

Until he was reminded of it, Brown didn't realize that playing in just his second NFL game, he'd sacked a two-time Super Bowl champion.

"I really didn't think about it till you said it. I'm just working hard, trying to make it in the NFL," Brown said with a laugh. "There's a lot of knowledge on this team that I just absorb every day in practice. Coaches look for those guys [that] whenever the starters go down, they can put in the backup and not miss a beat."

Brown, a rookie who was on the practice squad until playing a week ago, was following in the team tradition.

"I can't make corrections on them when I'm messing up," Ed Reed said. "It's been tough being a leader, a player/coach when you're out there, not perfect."

Ray Lewis has been reduced to a cheerleader, a guy with a towel around his neck, walking from player to player, exhorting them.

He won't be back next week in Cincinnati. He'll likely dance at least once more in a home playoff game two weeks from now.

Reed has slowed noticeably, and it's now up to Brown, James Ihedigbo and Josh Bynes to carry on. Bynes moved up from the practice squad for the second time in two years after Lewis was hurt in the Oct. 14 loss to Dallas.

For Bynes, it was all about stopping Manning. He threw for just 150 yards, and the Giants ran for just 67.

"Everything falls on [Manning]," Bynes said. "You can't keep him on the field, let him get hot. If you let him get hot, it's going to be a long day for us."

Are these guys good enough to keep the defense moving ahead in what looms as a still meaningful game in Cincinnati next week and a playoff game against either the Colts or Bengals. If Baltimore loses to Cincinnati, the questions that disappeared on Sunday may be back along with the bizarre sight of the Ravens and Bengals meeting in consecutive weeks.

Through three quarters, Baltimore allowed just five first downs, three of them on the New York Giants' touchdown drive in the first quarter. The Giants were just 2-for-10 on third down conversions.

"The game plan was to give them different looks on defense," Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo said. "We kept them on their toes, a couple of times we messed up his communication with his receivers. That's what you want."

In this most challenging stretch, Ravens coach John Harbaugh was able to appreciate the contributions of Brown and Bynes.

"As a coach, that's the number one thing. When you see guys that you work with and you develop and they come in and play well, that's the most satisfying thing ever," Harbaugh said. "That's what being a coach or teacher is all about.

"It also puts us in position where it helps our depth because I would like to think of all the things you go through over the course of a season, if you handle them the right way, if you approach them with a great attitude and take them for what they're worth, and try to build on them, good or bad, positive or negative, then it determines what you come out the other end as. Hopefully what you saw today is what you're going to come out the other end as."

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