Ravens defense limiting big plays after rocky start against the Denver Broncos

Dean Pees didn’t hide his disappointment two weeks ago as he stood in front of reporters and discussed a Ravens defense that had allowed seven touchdowns and 510 total yards against the Denver Broncos.

It was quite the contrast Thursday as the Ravens defensive coordinator beamed about how his defense performed on Sunday against the Houston Texans, calling it one of the most gratifying wins of his career.

It wasn’t that the Ravens had beaten a talented Texans team that scored 43 points against them a season ago. And it wasn’t that the Ravens had kept their opponents out of the end zone for a second straight week. What pleased Pees most was that the Ravens eliminated the kind of big plays that plagued them in the 49-27 season opening loss to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.

“It was great. I told this team that it was one of the most gratifying wins in my career and not necessarily because it was Houston,” Pees said. “I can’t recall the last time that I played a game and didn’t give up one big play.”

The Ravens define big plays as a pass over 20 yards or a run over 15. The Texans had two receptions for 18 yards and the longest rushes for Texans running backs Arian Foster and Ben Tate went 10 yards. The Ravens tackled well, allowing just 46 yards after the catch on 25 completions, according to Pro Football Focus.

“That’s phenomenal,” Pees said of the lack of yards after the catch. “Basically, if they caught the ball they were tackled right away. And to me, if you go back to the Denver game, they break one out on us for [about] 40 [yards]. They break another one on the sideline for [44]. They break a screen pass for [78]. It was really gratifying to see that.”

Against the Broncos, the Ravens allowed nine completions of 20 or more yards. Against the Browns, they cut the number down to three. And the Ravens have yet to allow a run longer than 10 yards this season.

Middle linebacker Daryl Smith said that the difference was as simple as individuals playing with better technique and the defense “just focusing on the smaller things.”

“In this league it’s hard to get the ball as an offense and drive the ball 80 yards every time without a penalty or a big play,” Smith said. “So we know that and we just have to take it into the game every week. These last two games, we’ve been able to do that.”

After a rocky start to the season in Denver, Pees has been much more pleasant these past couple of weeks. He said the defense, which has generated just one turnover, needs to get better in that area. But the Ravens are limiting the big plays, getting off the field on third down and not letting their opponents punch it into the end zone.

“We played the game like it’s supposed to be played on defense,” Pees said.

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