Ravens' revamped secondary comes up big against Titans

Ravens defensive back Anthony Levine, right, knocks a pass down that was intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington in the second quarter.
Ravens defensive back Anthony Levine, right, knocks a pass down that was intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver Nate Washington in the second quarter. (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun)

Inside the Ravens' training complex Wednesday, veteran cornerback Lardarius Webb huddled the defensive backs and delivered an emotional speech about their recent declining play.

As the elder statesman of the secondary, Webb reached back to the days of star safety Ed Reed and an old defensive standard the current Ravens haven't lived up to lately.


"Lardarius said, 'We're part of a tradition, Ed Reed and those guys.' He stood up and said, 'Look, we ain't having this no more, I'm not used to this. As Ravens, we're not used to this,'" cornerback Anthony Levine said. "We definitely challenged each other."

It was a message heeded by an overhauled secondary during a 21-7 victory Sunday over the Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium where they started Levine, a converted safety, at cornerback and nickel back Danny Gorrer made his debut after being claimed off waivers last week.


Following a slow start against Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger, the Ravens got the last word as they held him to 179 passing yards and one touchdown and Gorrer intercepted him in the final minutes. The Ravens forced a season-high seven "three-and-outs" with the Titans limited to no more than five plays on nine consecutive possessions after starting the game with 15-play and nine-play drives.

Although it wasn't against an established quarterback, it was a far better performance than when the Ravens allowed 560 combined passing yards during the previous two games. That included allowing six touchdown passes to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger last Sunday.

"It really wasn't animated," Webb said of his talk. "It was just like talking to the boys, friend to friend. I was just letting them know that we just have to start it now. Everybody has tough games. We just have to live and learn."

The Ravens did, albeit against a quarterback who was starting just his second NFL game and was sacked five times Sunday. Some of those sacks were clearly because of coverage as Levine, Gorrer, Webb and safeties Will Hill and Darian Stewart had solid games.

Levine had four tackles and led the defense with two pass deflections.

"I guess we're not going to call him a safety anymore," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Levine. "He deserves to be called a corner. He has played really well throughout the year, but he showed it in this game."

Levine went undrafted out of Tennessee State and has played for the Ravens for three seasons. Primarily a special-teams contributor, Levine had never played significantly on defense before. Levine said he learned Sunday that he would definitely be starting after splitting time with Gorrer during the week with the first-team defense. Webb referred to Levine as 'Lockdown Levine.'

"I've been waiting for this for a long time," Levine said. "To call myself a starting something in the NFL, whether it was safety, corner, I was happy to say that I was a starting corner [Sunday] for the Baltimore Ravens. Actually, I've been a corner since the preseason, but I'm happy to know that [Harbaugh] is calling me a corner now, so I appreciate that."

Gorrer intercepted a sideline pass from Mettenberger intended for tight end Chase Coffman with 2:35 to play, allowing the Ravens to run out the clock and preserve the win.

"We kind of had a feeling on the route concept in the two-minute drill," Gorrer said. "When I saw it, I didn't think about it. I'm just glad I was able to make that play."

Claimed off waivers Tuesday night from the Detroit Lions and given a refresher course on the defensive playbook for his second stint with the Ravens, Gorrer looked comfortable in the nickel package. With Gorrer out there and Hill and Stewart at safety, the Ravens didn't use 2013 first-round safety Matt Elam nearly as much as usual. The Ravens had to shuffle their secondary after losing top cornerback Jimmy Smith to a season-ending left foot injury that required surgery.

The Ravens didn't allow a receiver to eclipse the 100-yard receiving mark Sunday for the first time in four games. The Titans averaged just 4.5 yards per passing attempt as wide receiver Kendall Wright led them with just four receptions for 53 yards.


Mettenberger noted how the Ravens altered their coverage schemes.

"They made an adjustment and started rolling their coverage," Mettenberger said. "The safeties were rolling and they played zone coverage, which we weren't expecting."

Rookie safety Terrence Brooks knocked standout tight end Delanie Walker out of the game with a big hit that caused a concussion. And the Titans converted just 4 of 12 third downs with a long completion of 20 yards.

"We felt that if we didn't give up any deep balls that we would win the game," Webb said. "I was so proud of our guys coming back from last week and making it right."


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