Carroll County Times

Ravens need big game from secondary vs. Bengals

OWINGS MILLS - For the Ravens, beating the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday could come down to what their secondary can do against the Bengals' passing game.
"Our challenge is for guys in the secondary to make plays. Period," safety James Ihedigbo said. "They have great guys, but so do we. ... But If we want to win this game, we've got to make some big plays in the secondary. That's our mindset going into the game."
Baltimore feels its secondary has played at a high level for most of the last two months, and the Ravens did have success against Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton in November, but Dalton has been very good the last three weeks.
Dalton had a bad four-game stretch from Oct. 31 through Dec. 1, which includes the Bengals' first game against the Ravens. He threw nine interceptions and completed less than 54 percent of his passes during those four games.
In the three games since, he has thrown nine touchdowns without an interception, is competing 65 percent of his passes and is throwing for an average of 290 yards per game.
He was 27 of 38 for 366 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings last week.
Excluding the four games from that bad four-game stretch, Dalton has thrown 25 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
For the year, he ranks eighth in the NFL with 4,015 passing yards.
"He's really this year taken his game to another level," Ihedigbo said.
However, a large part of slowing down Dalton will be containing Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green.
Baltimore has had success against Green in the past. Green had just nine total catches in the three games he played against the Ravens prior to this year. But Green had eight catches for 151 yards and a touchdown against Baltimore in November and has been held under 72 yards just once in Cincinnati's last 10 games.
The Bengals also have second-year wide receiver Marvin Jones, who has nine touchdown catches. Another second-year wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu, has 46 catches. And tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert have a combined 88 catches and six touchdowns.
"What makes any scheme go - offense or defense - is your personnel. ... They've got good players," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said.
Ravens cornerbacks Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb and Corey Graham have limited wide receivers like Calvin Johnson and Antonio Brown during the last month or so, and they helped hold New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to just 172 yards last week, but this will be another test for them.
"If you look back at the games that they've won and the games that they've lost, the teams that have beaten [the Bengals] haven't given up big plays," Pees said, later adding, "I'm talking about plays [that are] 30, 40, 50 yards. You can't do that against this team. They score that quick on you.
"That's why they've scored 40 points at home the last four games. So the key for us is to play good, sound football, tackle well ... and don't give up big plays. That's our key."