The talent level on defense isn't great and isn't going to get any better during the season, so it's up to defensive coordinator Dean Pees to patch up his busted defense. Ravens fans could relate to defensive coordinator Dean Pees when he said Thursday that the play of his defense in October made him sick. Three days later, during a 43-13 loss to the Houston Texans, the defense probably made them all want to chug a few bottles of Pepto Bismol again. The Ravens allowed more than 400 total yards again (420 to be exact), but at least they didn't allow more than 200 rushing yards for a third straight game (those slackers from Houston could only muster 181). For the first time since Week 3, the Ravens didn't force a turnover. The Texans picked up first downs on eight of their 15 third-down conversions and scored touchdowns on three of five trips inside the red zone. As linebacker Terrell Suggs put it, "When you step into the shower, you're going to get wet -- and it rained tonight." I'm not 100 percent sure about that analogy, but there is no doubt the Texans poured it on Sunday. "I was like, 'Damn, 40 points,' but this is going to happen," Suggs, who played well, said after the game. "We went down to San Diego last year and it was raining touchdowns. ... We've been here before, but after seven games, and you think of everything this team has been through to come out 5-2 going into the bye, we'll take that. We'll take that every day. We're going to go to work tomorrow. We're going to go to work during this bye, and we're going to come back. You all know what we do down the stretch." Sorry, Sizzle, but this is not the same Baltimore defense. Linebacker Ray Lewis, who is likely out for the year with a torn triceps, and safety Ed Reed have looked like guys who are in their mid-30s. Reliable run defenders in Jarret Johnson and Cory Redding are playing elsewhere. And by focusing on overhauling their offense in recent drafts -- 24 of their 38 picks from 2007 to 2011 went to the offense -- they appear to have left the cupboard bare defensively. They have only spent one first-round draft pick (cornerback Jimmy Smith) on defense since 2006, and three of their second-round picks have disappointed. Nose tackle Terrence Cody and outside linebacker Paul Kruger haven't secured starting spots, and outside linebacker Sergio Kindle, who was cut Saturday to make room for Suggs, was unfortunately unable to come remotely close to reaching his potential after fracturing his skull before his first training camp. On Thursday, Pees was adamant that he has enough talent for the defense to succeed, even with the loss of both Lewis and standout cornerback Lardarius Webb. And safety Bernard Pollard defended Pees passionately, interrupting a reporter at the podium to say that the players, not the coaches, are to blame for the collapse of the defense. They are the ones blowing assignments. They are the ones missing tackles. And they are the ones getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage. But it's up to the coordinator to put the talent he has in a position to succeed, and Pees hasn't done that. Some of it is correctable, and Pees and his staff will get two weeks to build this defense back up with the bricks and mortar that were given to him. There are calls from the vocal, over-reactionary sector of the fan base that would like to see Pees shipped out of Baltimore for good -- maybe to Ann Arbor, Mich. to spend some time with Greg Mattison? -- but the Ravens organization isn't the type to panic. They believed in him enough to hire him after his divorce from the New England Patriots and they had enough faith in him, and in how his players would respond to him, to promote him to defensive coordinator when Chuck Pagano left to become the coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The Ravens have been rocked by injuries, but Pees isn't going to back down from the challenge of fixing this flawed Baltimore defense. But until he actually does it, you might want to keep the Pepto Bismol within arm's reach on game day.
Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston